24 April | Travel
"Never more alone or more alive"
Shasta, Matt Kearney
The concept of time baffles me. I cannot explain how seven years can feel like seven minutes and how three weeks feels more like three months have passed. I’m currently travelling around Japan by myself, a concept that baffles some people that I meet. The ask “Just you?”, wonder “Where are your friends?”, and want to know “Is your husband joining us?”. I don’t travel alone to make a point out of it. I simply want to have adventures and experiences that I cannot have at home, and at the moment that means doing it solo.
The inevitable highs and low of travel are amplified when you have no one to share them with. When you are travelling alone you get these intense moments of personal pride. Like navigating a complex subway system with no WiFi, and ordering a meal in a foreign language using hand gestures. It’s a chance to celebrate the things you did all on your own.
A cool guy I met in a calligraphy class in Tokyo said “You can’t just arrive and be in it” which I appreciate more than he will ever know. Your first day in a new place can be tough, especially when you’re hungry, tired, bewildered, and can’t quite work out how to use the shower. His words will forever remind me to take it easy when you arrive, take a moment to do something to make yourself feel better, and get some rest. Now the adventure can begin.
When you are in the flow of travel, travel is the best. But when you are out of sync, wherever you are feels like the loneliest place in the world. You have to eat alone a lot. I like to take a book, write in my notebook, and look around. I find a seat at the bar is best so you can watch the kitchen or a seat at the window to watch the street. In Chicago, I sat at the counter next to a chef who was training to print 3D food. We ended up sharing our dinner and dessert so we could try everything.
Somewhere in the first week, the blissful feeling of solitude kicks in. You start to feel like you’re travelling with your best friend and your lover, but it’s just you. I like how Cheryl Strayed explains being alone as “a room where I could retreat to be who I really was” when she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. In a subtle way, you start to feel more open and alive as you notice how you are flourishing being completely alone.