by Michaela Johnston
Photography by Aren Rosholt, Sabrina Knap and Dini Hajjarahmah
Sabrina Knap (CGS ’19), spent last summer studying abroad in London. The self-described “foodie” went on a food tour in Derry, Ireland and indulged in fine wine in Venice during her time off from classes.
Knap flew to Venice a few days before meeting up with friends. After walking in circles for 3.5 hours, she found Wi-Fi at a hostel and texted her boyfriend who instructed her to download an app called MapsWithMe; the online tool lets travelers download maps on Wi-Fi to later use when Internet access is limited.
When Knap finally made it to her hotel, called Romeo and Juliet, she encountered a few surprises. “When I came home, there was a bottle of Prosecco in my room,” she said. “I tried to plug my phone in to charge it and I got electrocuted. Then, all of the lights turned off on the whole floor.”
With the concierge closed and no phone number to call, Knap had to get ready for bed in the dark and hope for the best. Eventually, the lights came back on.
Despite some travel mishaps, Knap is eager to travel solo once again. “I’m traveling to Madrid through BU and then going to South Africa for 3 weeks by myself,” she said. “It’s nice to be with people but there’s definitely benefits to going alone. You push yourself to do your own thing and meet people and I think that’s the best part about traveling.”
What is your favorite thing about solo travel?
My favorite part about traveling alone is that you can do your own thing at your own pace. Also, it’s easier to meet people. When you’re alone, you feel more inclined to start talking to people. I met a lot of people that way.
Aren Rosholt, student at Seattle Central College, began his solo adventures at 16 years old. He left his home in Minnesota, traveled to Denver for the 2015 MLS All-Star Game and then to Seattle to look for an apartment to move into. He currently lives alone in Washington and has been on numerous solo trips. He biked from Seattle to Port Townsend, Washington and back; took trips to Vancouver, British Columbia and Portland; and backpacked throughout Morocco, Europe and Iceland.
“I feel at home on busses where people are speaking a language I don’t understand,” he said. “And I’m absolutely in love with experiencing new things, cultures and places. To travel is to learn.”
Aren recalled meeting 64-year-old Bjørn on a train leaving Hamburg, Germany. The man’s wife had died three years prior and he decided to “do something that he had never done in life” which was to leave Denmark. For three years, he had backpacked across Europe without returning home. Aren happened to meet Bjørn on the day he was returning home.
“The train from Hamburg to Copenhagen physically drives onto a ferry to cross part of the Baltic Sea,” he said. “So, there on the ferry, he sat alone, quietly and contemplatively, literally crossing the water home for the first time in forever.”
Aren loves soccer and plays whenever or wherever he goes. “I seek out everything from professional games to little pickup games that I can join in when I travel,” he said. “Soccer is truly a universal language. So, even if I don’t understand the language or culture of the place I am in, and they don’t understand mine, I can still connect with people through soccer.”
What did you learn while traveling solo?
One big I personally learned while solo traveling was to be by myself and listen to my own thoughts. This helped me when I moved into my own apartment. Another big thing I learned was how to communicate better. Not only in a general social way or language, but cross-culturally as well. Not everyone thinks the same way I do; it is important to learn how to communicate through those differences.
Dini Hajjarahmah, a second-year SHA graduate student, participated in a student exchange program in 2011. Hajjarahmah was one of nineteen students—nine from Indonesia and nine from Canada—that had the opportunity to live with a host family, work and explore a new region of the world.
The students spent the first three months living in Canada and the last three in Hajjarahmah’s home country of Indonesia. While in Halifax, Canada, Hajjarahmah worked at a Community Residential Facility for women called the Nehiley House. In Indonesia, all of the students participated in a waste management program, training the women in a rural village to create goods from plastic wrappers.
Hajjarahmah made life-long friendships through the program and enjoys returning to Canada to visit them. She has solo-traveled throughout Vancouver, Calgary, Quebec and Halifax. Beyond North America, she has traveled to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.
One of Hajjarahmah’s most memorable times abroad was meeting her Airbnb host in Thailand, whom she remains friends with today.
“He hitchhiked from Russia to Thailand for 6 months,” she said. “He said on the road he met a lot of people who helped him…and he say this is the way he is giving back to the people. When I got back to Indonesia I started to host people from couch surfing and [was] kind of inspired by what he did and opened my room, just inviting people to come over.”
What did you learn while traveling solo?
I learned that it is not actually the destination that you want to see, but the people that you meet on the road and the journey teaches you. I used to travel so I could see this place [and that] place. Now, I learned it’s not actually the destination that teaches me more but it’s more the people.