I’ll be honest, Indianapolis is not a city I gave much thought to, growing up in Texas. But it has been strangely relevant in my world recently. Hosted the Super Bowl. Home of YA rockstar John Green. And the last place I visited on my own.

A lot of people don’t like to travel alone, but I do. There’s a freedom in going places by yourself, not having to take anyone else into account, not knowing exactly what’s on your agenda or what to expect. When I set out for Indianapolis, it was a cool but sunny autumn morning. I drove with music blaring, my window showcasing endless green fields spotted with cows. This wasn’t going to be a grand adventure like my summer in Spain, but still, it was mine.

When I arrived at the hotel I had booked, I learned that I would be staying in a separate guest house, not the main inn. The building was small, old, and charming; the room basic but clean. The door required an actual key instead of a plastic card. It was like stepping back into another time, and I almost wished for no television or internet, too. But later, when I realized I was the ONLY person staying there, I would feel grateful for the bright screens keeping me company in the cricket-filled dark.

There were plenty of restaurants nearby. First I visited a small Vietnamese noodle shop, owned and run by a brother-sister duo who had been separated as children in Saigon and reunited 20 years later in the States. Their story was as satisfying as their soup. Over the next couple days, I bought peach tea and Hershey’s bars to keep me going through the long nights. I tried a mediocre Korean restaurant, and an awful but earnest bakery. I soaked up the sun and syrup at a new café down the street from my guest house.

Though my goal was to finish my first draft, I think part of me always knew it was a longshot. Plus, it’s hard to sit still and stare at a screen for so many hours on end. So I gave myself permission to take breaks. To take advantage of the beautiful state park around me. My room came with free admission, so I took my camera on a tour of the woods. We shared the trails with hikers, bicyclists, families, and their dogs. I snapped pictures, scribbled thoughts, just sat and watched the sun play through the leaves. Like I said, there’s freedom in going places by yourself.

And sometimes there’s magic in that freedom.

8 responses to “Last thoughts on Indy (and traveling alone)”

  1. Sherrie Petersen Avatar

    I haven’t traveled alone in a long time, but last time I did, I got a LOT of writing done. I get a lot of writing done when my husband travels, too :)

    Indy is a cool city. We went there for the Indy 500 one year. It was a fun place to visit.

  2. Meghan Ward Avatar

    I found that while on my writer’s retreat (I was also alone), after getting a good night’s sleep the night before (a rare experience for me), I felt so calm sitting there by myself all day. The quiet and the lack of distractions seemed to open up my brain to let the words flow out. I wish I could do it every month!

  3. Shari Avatar

    I’ve never traveled alone – I like the quiet when I’m home, but prefer company when away – but you make it sound like such a great experience. It seems invigorating and peaceful at the same time. Glad your trip to Indy was both productive and rejuvenating!!

  4. Sonje Avatar

    I’ve traveled alone a couple of times, but I don’t much care for it. Then again, I don’t really like traveling much at all.

  5. Ingrid Avatar

    “an awful but earnest bakery”
    Put that line in a book, please– I love it!

    I also love traveling alone, but haven’t done it much lately. Although writing fiction is sort of like traveling alone, in a way. Great post, Kristan!

  6. Juliann Avatar

    Sounds heavenly!!!

  7. Meghan Ward Avatar

    By the way, I came across this post and it reminded me of you: http://www.alanasaltz.com/the-2012-tour-de-nerdfighting

  8. Kristan Avatar

    Andy wants to see an Indy 500 someday. I’m not sure I am all that interested, but I’ve heard it’s fun even if you’re not into racing…?

    Yeah, haha, I’d love to be able to do it every month… Once a year seems more likely.

    And YES, nerdfighting! Totally agree with that post.

    Should I make it part of the November Project? ;)