As much as I have been enjoying my life in Le Havre, some time away was in order.
Since college life hasn’t permitted me much time for introspective contemplation, I decided to travel alone for fall break. In fact I went 3 days without a conversation. To fill this silence and thereby prevent my absolute dissociation from the world, I listened to a handful of songs on repeat which I will include here so as to immerse you in my state of mind.
“Don’t Come Home Today” by Good Morning
After barely making my train, most of my first day of travel was spent reading Murakami and trying to figure out what the hell I’d be doing for the next 4 days. Arriving in Brussels, I realised that this was my first time truly alone, a feeling that was just as much empowering as it was nerve-racking.
Exhausted from a day in transit, I only briefly walked around the city to get my bearings for the next day.
“Hiding Tonight” by Alex Turner
This morning set my week-long habit of getting breakfast at quiet, cozy cafes and taking an hour or two to savor my coffee over a book, a real juxtaposition to my usual routine of scarfing down my morning oatmeal before 8 a.m. French.
After, I headed to the Musée Old Masters, and spent a while wandering through its ornate galleries before sitting down to gape at the Wes Anderson-esque grandeur of the building itself.
Then after sitting in a park to contemplate life’s questions over a cigarette, as one should, and visiting the Musical Instrument Museum, I ended up in a tearoom for my final moments in Brussels before getting on a train to Amsterdam.
“It’s Alright” by Horsebeach
Perhaps to assuage my anxiety over the fact that I was on my train without a ticket (damn you, non-mobile tickets), I listened to the song above in an attempt to convince myself that “it’s alright, you won’t get kicked off the train into the darkness of the Belgian countryside”. Thankfully, I made it to Amsterdam in one piece, tracked down my beloved falafel for dinner, and passed out on my hostel bed.
“Lights Out, Words Gone” by Bombay Bicycle Club
On this day I was blessed by a free sinfonietta concert featuring works by Debussy and Satie at the Concertgebouw, followed by an incredible visit to the Stedelijk Museum of modern and contemporary art, just across the road. Though it was my first time in Amsterdam, I couldn’t help but feel at home strolling through the art museum, as I had often spent my weekends doing the same when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area.
After an arts-filled morning, the rest of the day was spent getting lost in Amsterdam’s iconic canals, indulging in street food and paying visits to the city’s euphemistically-named “coffeeshops”.
“The Noose of Jah City” by King Krule
Greeted by a foggy and slightly chilly morning, I made my way to Hortus Botanicus, one of the world’s oldest botanical gardens dating back to 1638. Though still in the city center, I felt refreshed being surrounded by such lush greenery, something that our beloved Le Havre could do with a bit more for my liking.
After a filling lunch over several chapters of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, I spent my final hours in Amsterdam going to, you guessed it, another museum. On this afternoon I went to Foam, a museum dedicated to photography, and after, grabbed a pint with someone from my hostel before my lovely 7 hour overnight bus ride back to Paris.
Back in Le Havre
“Home at Last” by Homeshake
In retrospect, my days away were just what I needed. Besides serving as a break from a hectic first semester of university, it was a time of reflection and self-examination, something I think we can all reap the benefits of in this developmental and ever-changing period of our young lives.
With that, I leave you with two reasons why you should solo-travel:
it’s truly an experience of self-discovery and acknowledgement
you are completely independent as you make every decision. In other words, I got to eat stroopwafel three times in one day without hearing anyone complain.
“Checkin’ Out” by Sales
Leesa Ko is a first year American student enrolled in the Sciences Po Paris, Campus du Havre and Columbia dual degree.
Edited by Paxia Ksatryo and Pailey Wang.