Days turn into weeks. On this trip, I constantly astonish myself when I see the calendar – how is it the start of a new month already? When I was a child every hour of the day passed with absolute clarity and I felt every hour – afternoons were long and lazy; a month felt like forever. Now, time seems to pass in blocks of days and weeks, chunks of time vanishing before I realise it. I seem to be always chasing the clock.
“You’re travelling alone? Don’t you get lonely?” is the question I get often on this trip, whenever I muster the willpower to socialise. Never, actually. When you travel with an end-point in mind – I have to be back for two weddings and hopefully a job – you’re relishing the luxury of being able to do whatever you want. You know at some point you can go back to gossiping over flat whites with friends and your mum’s cooking. Plus my personality is built for solo travel – in a new social setting I enjoy watching and listening more than I do talking. I’m happy to never see most people I meet ever again (they may feel the same way about me and it’s ok). I’m not a party animal, and even back home I liked catching movies in my own and dine alone sometimes too. I don’t find being alone frightening, embarrassing, or sad.
And company (that doesn’t irritate the hell out of me) almost always turns up. Joining group tours for day trips to see remote ruins guarantees company – and I love it when I sometimes luck out with local tourists who also speak English; it’s a great way of getting to know a country’s people. Recently I unexpectedly met a Singaporean ex-journo in a hostel – the first Singaporean I met on my trip. There was the friendly seat mate on a bus who was watching movies on his laptop and shared his earphones with me for much of the 12-hour ride. My nice homestay guide in Bolivia invited me to join her friends for drinks. Occasional encounters like this are the bonuses of travelling alone, because when you travel in a group, you might be less likely to engage in conversation with others.
The downside of travelling alone is that you keep time yourself. There is no one to remind you that your next travel day is coming up and you better start booking hostels or figuring bus departure times. When you are sick, your day is a blur of headaches, puke, diarrhoea, and mealtimes fade away until you realise too late you’re hungry and there’s no one to fix you something.
But these moments pass and I forget them quickly (but not entirely because I have managed to conjure them up in writing this post). And I’m not alone in a way. On this trip, I’ve met a surprising number of solo travellers – young, old, male, female. Either I’m part of a group that appreciates the loveliness of travelling alone, or secretly they hate it and can’t wait to go home. I’m going with the former.
Photo by Naira Sandoval