State 1: Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)

June 23, 2018

Well, my weekend in Philly turned into just a day trip – but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This would be the first trip in this experiment I did completely solo. I’ve traveled on my own extensively but it always feels like it was to go meet up with people later. Going to school in England – obviously you’re going to make friends and find your way. I haven’t done the type of travel where you go somewhere on your own and just come back a week later. I was a bit nervous for this aspect of the trip, as I didn’t really have much of a plan for what to do in Philly. I have friends that do this frequently and always wondered if I could be that type of person too. There’s only one way to find out right?

I took an early morning Bolt Bus from down by the Javitz Center (better than trying to rush to Port Authority after work, in my opinion). Two hours later, I was dropped off at Dartmouth in University City, Philadelphia. I found a Starbucks near UPenn for breakfast, finished up my DC write up and reminisced about how I spent a week here with the Girl Scouts when I was about 12. We stayed in the dorms at UPenn and I made a couple good friends I’m still in touch with to this day.

Afterwards, I made the long trek to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. It was supposed to rain, but hadn’t yet, so I figured I could stretch my legs a bit. The Magic Gardens was the main point of going to Philadelphia to be honest. I had seen this post from Atlas Obscura that was the real inspiration behind it. Atlas Obscura is one of my favorite travel blogs – they never seem to steer me wrong.

The Magic Gardens were absolutely stunning. I would recommend booking ahead, especially on a summer weekend day. There was a bit of a line but I was able to get in fairly quickly as I was just 1 person. Clearly, one of the benefits of solo travel! I’ve never seen a place quite like it before. The whole place is covered in mosaics and you can get completely lost in every inch of the place. It’s impressive when viewed as a whole, but when you start to examine the mosaic, you notice how intricate and how many random objects are used. It’s a true work of art- and it’s different from the street art you normally see. Hands down, it is one of my favorite places now. I spent a solid half hour just getting lost in all the intricacies of every surface. While I was there, someone actually proposed to their girlfriend – it’s truly magical.

After the Magic Gardens, I decided to head to the hostel I had booked. While it was clear across town, it still wasn’t raining yet. Part of the nice part of walking, is that you get to notice things you wouldn’t otherwise. You can lose yourself in just wandering and following your interests in such a pure and simple way.

On my walk, I stumbled across Potter’s Field and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the Revolutionary War. I was hit with the significance and stood there for a bit carefully reading each sign. My grandmother is a Daughter of the Revolution. I don’t know much about that chapter of my family history, but I definitely walked around feeling a connection to the history of my country. When I’ve visited similar historical sites in other countries, it doesn’t quite strike or impact me the same way. As I turned a corner, I saw Independence Hall, While I ultimately didn’t go in, it’s still an impressive site when you view it from the large manicured lawn out front. Philadelphia is such a patriotic and historic city – it’s definitely a history lover’s dream.

The hostel ended up being behind the US Mint, which was pretty cool. I arrived a bit early for check in, so I headed off again in search of Geno’s Cheesesteak – again back towards the Magic Gardens. That neighborhood has no shortage of cheesesteak spots. There was quite literally 4 cheesesteak spots on each corner. A word of advice though, bring cash- not a single place accepts debit or credit, unfortunately for me. As I started to walk back it started to hit me just how much walking I had done and how tired I was getting. I kept thinking about how nice sleeping in my own bed would be. So I adjusted my plans and came back to New York. It’s just a 2 hour bus ride and there was no cancellation fee for the hostel, so in my mind, it was the better decision.

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I enjoyed my time in Philly. It was a bit of a weird start to the solo adventure side of this project. I know I’ll probably have to do quite a bit of this on my own. While I can try to plan and organize to see various friends across the country, a lot of this is just going to be me. But this project is just for me – so that’s appropriate. I’d like to give Philly another go – there’s definitely a lot to do. I think I was in a really weird mental state and couldn’t fully enjoy it by myself. I’m trying to remember everything takes practice – even solo travel, spending time by yourself and keeping up with writing/this project. I’m glad I went and got back out of my comfort zone a bit.

 

Lessons Learned:

4. Bring cash always