Friday, October 2, 2009

It's hard to know what's right

At the beginning of this trip, I wrote an entry on travelling alone. It was ultimately scrapped. What did I know about the topic after a mere four days? Those first days were euphoric; I was so happy to engage with everything I saw alone and on my own terms. I'd never travelled alone and held the sneaking suspicion that a partner places too much of an imprint on your experience of a place.

Over the years, my travelling companions have ranged from family to old friends to boyfriends to huge student groups. It seems there's no rule as to whom works out best. There have been awful family affairs as well as lovely ones. I've gotten into shouting matches with a boyfriend in a a sunlit European square, a place where we should have engaged in lewd PDA, and then the next day toured the city with no trace of yesterday's blow out. I've spent a night gallivanting until dawn with friends in Berlin and then hidden myself away for the remainder of the trip. I've played my part in destroying some trips, but I can put my finger on a fair few people who have felled my own. This time around, if things went south, I only wanted to blame myself.

Midway through this trip, my euphoria lessened and then took a steep a nose dive. I was plagued by disgusting hostels or the uncertainty of where I was going to sleep next. I felt, at turns, bogged down with indecisiveness, that I was asking too much of friends, that I should just get on with my life, my "career," whatever that is, and stop this travelling business. It all started to wear on me. I whiled away a few days in Vancouver's Finch Cafe, writing page after page, trying to get a handle on how I was feeling. Finally, I pulled myself out of the funk and headed to the Gulf and Vancouver Islands. From there, it was only a short jaunt to Saskatoon and I resolved to stay positive to the end. It worked better that way; bracing yourself for the worst is exhausting. I'm glad I waited before I tried to summarize my thoughts on travelling alone. And so, to end this blog, a list of the good and the bad, of why I'm in love with travelling alone and why I may never do it again.

The Good
  • You can plan your whole day down to the minute and then change everything at moment's notice.
  • People find a lone traveller more approachable, therefore you will meet more people. (This can have negative repercussions. See under "The Bad" below.)
  • You can be in a sour mood and there's no pressure to make happy cause you're "ruining" someone else's trip.
  • You write more than you ever have in your entire life. Without someone to tell each minute observation to, every thought has a gravitas you never felt before. Notebook after notebook is filled with frenzied chicken scratch. Suddenly, a book seems within reach.
  • When something works out well or poorly, there's no need to make the ultimately inane remark of "well, this is nice/shitty." You don't have to comment at all. You either bask in it or fix it.
  • Never compromising on anything. You can blow as much cash as you like or cheap out on supermarket samosas. You can spend far too long photographing a cliched broken window, take a really long shower or walk for hours. The trip is all yours.
The Bad
  • The French are right. Eating every meal alone is novel at first, then it gets lonely.
  • While people find you more approachable alone, you don't necessarily want to talk to them. Many travellers know how to make fast friends, but not all have the keen social sense of knowing when someone wants be alone. Have an excuse ready to give them the quick slip.
  • There's no half-sies on anything, so food, transportation and board are all more expensive.
  • There's no one to double check your planning. So, if you happened to mix up your 24-hour clock and the train left five hours earlier than you expected, then too bad. (This never happened to me, but I had nightmares.)
  • Finding that special something that would delight a faraway friend of yours. You try to remember every detail to tell them later, knowing full well it will never be the same without them beside you.

If you've enjoyed the blog, please let me know! I'll be starting a new blog on Halloween costumes very soon, where I'll interview people on their best (and worst) get ups. Keep an eye out for it.


  1. Enjoyed it!!

    One of my friends says, "I need an "inappropriate" costume idea for Halloween. If you get some on your blog she would appreciate it. I will send her your link.

  2. I loved that you were so candid about your travels. Better than sugarcoating it. Keep at it, Laura!

  3. Thanks dude! I'm on a mission to de-romanticize travelling, even though I love it!

    And Faye - what kind of inappropriate are we talking here? Slutty inappropriate or tasteless inappropriate? Pass your pal my way - I'll see what I can scrounge up.

  4. Hey Laura,

    I've been typing out your postcards for the This Magazine blog as they show up in our mailbox. It's been really fun. Thanks for the glimpse at a part of the country I have yet to see, and people I have yet to me.