no matter where you go, there you are

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

if you are alone you belong entirely to yourself... - leonardo davinci

A person needs at intervals to separate from family and companions and go to new places. One must go without familiars in order to be open to influences, to change. – Katharine Butler Hathaway

There are both pros and cons to traveling alone. Pros include: 1) choosing your own destinations as your not trying to please friends, family etc. 2) at each place you can take as much time as you want as no one is waiting, or holding you up 3) housing is easier to find with less people; you only need one bed. Cons include: 1) never having anyone besides yourself to say "ohmigosh that is beautiful" 2) never having anyone to take your picture with, or take a picture of you 3) no one to sit down and eat with.

All the cons I listed above are certainly cons to traveling alone, but they're not the be all end all. You can work around them, and some of them have cons themselves, therefore making them a pro? Though it would be fun to admire the Colosseum with my mother or act out "The Sound of Music" scenes with my best friend in Salzburg,
solo trekking around Europe didn't lessen any of its beauty. Mumbling repeatedly to myself how amazingly spectacular everything was was just as cathartic as jumping up and down and squeeing to a travel companion. This goes along with eating too. It can be done alone, even if it's not as much fun. You might save money too cause the incentive to eat in a restaurant is lessened significantly when you're alone. Or at least it was for me...

Con #2 is easily solved if you're a perfectionist about pictures as I am. I don't take pictures as a hobby, but I know what I like in terms of framing and I like things in focus so if either of those 2 are off, I tend to redo and delete later. I took 3500 pictures in Europe; I kept 1900. And since only I know how I want the picture framed, even if it's just a picture of me and a landmark, I've learned I don't like other people (foreign, tourist or sibling) taking the picture. Also, when you're traveling alone you learn quickly how to get your head and the landmark in the picture while minimizing the number of takes you have to do. Though a little embarassing, I found it easier to do it myself than have someone do it and the picture ends up being crappy. I wonder what the people thought of me who volunteered to take a picture for me yet I turned away politely. Anyway, by not having a buddy you lose out on getting full body with the landmark pictures, but even alone there is still the option to ask someone to snap the photo for you.

Like I said above, physical loneliness has both pros and cons, but they can be dealt with. And as Katherine Butler Hathaway said, "one must go without familiars in order to be open to influences, to change." What is much harder to get past is the emotional loneliness. When your heartstrings are being tugged so hard you'd give anything to be surrounded by people you love, people who you can reflect on the day's travels with and share in this wonderful opportunity together.

I found it really, really interesting that while surrounded by 1000s of people I didn't know and couldn't communicate with I never felt lonely. Yet, talking for only 10 minutes with 1 or 2 people at my various hostels, I felt more alone than ever just wishing someone could have made the journey with me. Overhearing an English-speaking family on the train, or in the streets of Siena, made me nostalgic for family vacas and wishing my entire family were with me seeing all these wonderful things. Nothing else I ran into or found myself surrounded by affected me in this way except using and/or hearing well spoken English. It really hit me. When you can't understand the language you're able to tune everything out; but the second you understand, it's like a dog hearing a high pitched whistle. You perk up and can't concentrate on anything else. Just how you wish you had someone to communicate with, to experience with.

The emotional loneliness was an issue I didn't encounter often, therefore I never got a chance to figure out a way around it. Unlike all the other cons of being alone where a solution was possible, there was never a moment when I heard English and didn't want someone to be there next to me. But I wouldn't give up my 3 weeks of travel for anything. It was an opportunity not to be missed and I saw and learned so much. It was an eye-opening experience and maybe it would have been better with a buddy. But travel companions bring decision making, which means an increase chance of a dispute... So in the words of my good friend Lumiere, "then again, maybe not."

No comments:

Post a Comment