I love travelling solo. You have so much freedom….
You get to wonder the streets without a plan or schedule, following your gut, which inevitably leads you to some delicious pastry or coffee shop.
You don’t have to pretend you want to go to some cultural museum when you would rather be spending the entrance fee shopping the local market. Again.
Sure you have to pay full price on your hotel room but then whose to stop you skimping (okay sometimes skipping) meals so you can buy extra gifts (for yourself.) Hey, you’re worth it just as much as that Loreal girl.
But, as they say, with freedom comes responsibility, and boy are you responsible for absolutely everything about your travel experience. Good and bad.
Every decision is yours alone. And you alone get to face the consequences head on. There’s no secretly blaming your travel partner for every wrong turn or bad decision.
You are the one who decided to skip that small town because it seemed like too much effort, only to hear some hip traveller describe it as “the best experience in the whole of Asia.”
You are the one who chose the more expensive bus/hotel/restaurant, the very same person who also refused to be guided by a travel book only to discover that there were limestone outcrops just 30 minutes outside the town you spent a week cycling around. In circles apparently. Pity you are hearing about this on a 7hr bus ride south.
So it really sucks when you feel like you got it really wrong because, in addition to being chief navigator, supreme organiser and head accountant, you are also the sole group motivator. You have to keep your team healthy, energetic and motivated. And then punish yourself when you do a bad job.
All of this you can usually keep at bay with a general “swings and roundabouts” attitude. That is until you have that “oh fuck” moment, the one where you recognise you have sown the seed of your own undoing.
I had this gut wrenching moment today when I did some quick calculations and desperate recalculations, only to come up a few passport pages short of my entire travel plan.
What this means in practice, is that I don’t have enough pages in my passport to go to Thailand and Cambodia before I head to the states (and so definitely no plans for Mexico then).
What happens next is that you panic. Which means you look around for someone to blame. And here’s the rub, you are, once again, the only person on your travel team, so you end up turning on yourself with all the insightful (who knows you better than you right?) vengeance of a wounded animal trapped by the inherent weakness of its species. Unwise or not, you plan to bite the hand that feeds you (and wipes your ass).
You start by questioning every decision you have ever made on the trip (and maybe even life). Should I have left Vietnam 2 weeks shy of my visa extension? Why did I come to Laos instead of just go straight to Cambodia? Why did I not just go North? Who goes South in Laos? It’s not like you were in Luang Prabang just the other day. It was 1998. Even the Rolling Stones have toured Laos since then. And besides, I just paid $12 for a room that smells like Munster cheese and has mould growing in the bathroom.
The food is more expensive, transport is more difficult and the WiFi poor to absent. Even the street noodle soup costs $3. I wouldn’t pay $3 for noodle soup at home! The narrative continues along this course, bar a few deviations (it all started when you lost your cellphone. You’re just not responsible) and silly side bars (its because I promised I would go back for lunch at that restaurant and didn’t ).
At some point its becomes such an emotional midfield that you even want to ask yourself “do you have your period?” (usually you would crack a smile at the accurate reference to a “mindfield” in the most bombed country in the world, but no. Nothing).
The problem is that no one is going to defend or support you. You are not travelling on your own, you are just alone. And you feel it.
No one understands you. You can’t comfort yourself with treats you came to love (oh for a café Saigon!) And you are probably in a major withdrawal to boot (oh for a café Saigon!)
So you are just a plain old miserable cold turkey.
And you know it will end badly if you don’t take the reigns and start being your own head cheerleader again, captain of your own industrious nature, leader of your own cult following.
And dang nabbit if you aren’t the person who can appreciate the shadows for the beautiful forms and features they highlight.
So you tell yourself to sunscreen up, rent a bicycle and go out there and narrate your own personal GoPro tour.
This is your trip. You get to say when and where and how to edit the rest out later.
You are the curator of your own life. So start exhibiting some enthusiasm dammit.
Visually, my day went kind of like this…
The day started off pretty dark and dank. and the bathroom was pretty gross too.
until i decided to get on my bike and change my outlook (the nice restaurant helped)
which is when i found me a sweet little colonial digs with a sweeping verandah
and learnt that things aren’t falling apart on the outside, they’re just more focused on the inside
which was kind of a big zen moment for me.
filled with lots of silver lining moments
and then things got pretty golden from there on out… but that could be because the sun was setting. But i’ll take it.
Musing on…. lone a lone l one ly (there’s a one in there somewhere)