WHEN living abroad making friends is always something of a mission. It is often tricky to form that first bond. This shouldn’t matter much unless you want to travel. Your new home is dotted with a myriad of new treats and exciting adventures. But, as you struggle to make those initial friends, you may find yourself faced with the question ‘do I simply go alone?’
These situations arise for any multitude of reasons; cancellation perhaps, no one is available or the thirst for adventure.
Crossing the bridge to lone travelling is a daunting prospect, but not one to be missed.
I ventured solo from Jerez to Ronda. Having suffered a last minute cancellation, I was faced with the possibility of losing the experience (and cash), or holing up in the casa for a long weekend.
I decided to take the plunge, and go it alone.
One of the first things that happened, was an immediate emotional retreat. The people that you share the bus, hotel or experience with are unknowns. They aren’t friends, just people that occupy the same space as you for a while, before your lives are inevitably cleaved apart.
It becomes a shock whenever someone tries to make conversation. Add a language barrier on top of this, and you are truly subsumed in your own thoughts.
This experience is purely yours.
Travelling within the ‘mind palace’, when you lose yourself in the intricate web of your own thoughts, is certainly a very freeing experience. The regular arguments about the order of sites and which restaurant to visit are absent. You choose the sites, you choose the restaurants, you choose the adventure.
For me, I used this space to draw some of Ronda’s exquisite monuments. Something that I certainly would never attempt around friends for fear of their audible boredom or embarrassment.
Lone wandering can also lead to Epiphany’s, although not as boob related as Homer Simpson’s. An Outback wanderer (Australian) told me about how travelling alone changed his life.
A second year law student, he had decided to take a year out to travel. A dream which took him to the Peruvian Amazon.
Catching a bus-cum-van through the jungle he was exposed to the raw vibrancy of a truly foreign culture. Crammed in among others, he was surrounded by people lugging bags full of chickens, pottery and staring eyes. He was one of the very few westerners that visited the area.
“It was a life changing experience. I thought to myself this is where the real world is. These people are real.”
“I want to do something that matters.”
Following this, he quit university to become a traveller in order to soak up the world and get the most out of life.
Your experience of travelling alone may not be that life changing.
For some, becoming lost in the mind palace is not such a good idea. Their emotional defences are battered by a constant feeling of loneliness, betrayed by photographs. I can see it in my own. My face coloured in a unique expression that I have only ever seen once.
Additionally, you must also surmount the nerve-wrecking moment of dining alone. A feat that anyone should be congratulated for. In order to steer successfully through this experience, it is probably a good idea to take some material with you. A book is not a bad shout.
The inability to share the experience or get excited is also upsetting. I quite like to gabble and jump up and down, pulling my companion from exciting feature to exciting feature. Alone I just couldn’t do this.
The combination of stresses and pleasures whilst travelling solo, certainly make it a complex decision. You may find yourself butted by loneliness and emotional grief on the one hand, or ‘finding yourself’ and ‘your purpose’ on the other. Everyone’s experience will be unique.
One thing is for sure though, you have to give it a shot.