No longer looked down upon as the past-time of the friend-less, but praised as an indicator of courage, chutzpah and curiosity, travelling alone is bang on-trend. You can hardly scroll through Twitter these days without being peddled 10 reasons ‘Why solo-travel is the best thing you’ll ever do’ and it’s increasingly framed as a necessary rite of passage. Yet I’m still approaching my 18 day inter-railing trip through Europe with a certain degree of anxiety. What if I am horribly lonely? What if I end up sitting in an apartment reading a book rather than going out to dinner because of the crippling fear I’ll be judged and won’t know how to sit through a meal without fidgeting? So why go? What is the allure of spending just over a fortnight with only my irrational thoughts and insecurities for company?
The freedom of travelling alone is that you only have your time to fill and yourself to please.
The anxious woman’s cocaine. Control is that which I cling onto to cement my sense of self. Call me anal. (Or not, because that’s rude), but I like it and I’ll exert it if I want to. Also, you should know that spontaneity is a myth. Up there with Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy and the notion that losing your virginity is going to be special, (I am going to be a terrible mother), spontaneity is a frilly, frivolous myth espoused by Jack Kerouac and clan, but with very little relevance in real life.
If you tried to jump on a train, plane or automobile in this day and age without any forethought you’d be rejected because everything’s already been booked, or expected to pay astronomical prices. I like organisation. Organisation is a budget’s best friend. You can find out what afternoons the museums are ‘pay what you want’ or there are free concerts in the city’s plazas. It’ll save you schlepping from one side of a city to the next because it’s your last day and this is the only time you have to do both of those things you hadn’t thought to do yet.
Planning itineraries almost gives me as much joy as travel itself and the freedom of travelling alone is that you only have your time to fill and yourself to please. A.K.A DO WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WANT. Whether that means getting up at 4am to catch a sunrise on Charles Bridge or rolling in at 4am after a revelling at a sweaty techno club. Negotiation and compromise can well and truly go out the window and you can frolic boundlessly in a field of selfishness and self-gratification. No more resting at a coffee shop because someone else’s feet are aching, or mooching around shops you have no care to be in. I like to cram in the sights and plan every hour of the day to facilitate said cramming. Flow is not something I like to go with. It’s much more my style to shack up with scheduling and know exactly when I’m going to do something.
I’ve been selling this trip to myself, and to others, as a way to spend some time reconnecting with my writerly self. WAIT. DON’T GO. I’m not a pretentious wanker. I’m only a little bit of a pretentious wanker. Writing is hard. It requires discipline and time and motivation and sometimes when you’re working a full-time job and trying to fit in exercise and a social life, it goes out the window. I have a rather ridiculous amount of ongoing creative projects. I’ve gathered them all together in a folder on my Mac, labelled ‘Ongoing Creative Projects’ to make it seem like, however untouched they sit, it’s part of the process and I’ll get there eventually. They’re not stagnant. I swear. They’re diamonds in the rough. And this is my chance to polish them. I have no illusion that I’ll come back with them all done. But hopefully with a couple of 6 hour train journeys and some lazy evenings with a bottle of wine, I’ll be able to carve out some time to devote solely to writing.
Also, what better than a bit of travel to serve up some inspiration. I often find it’s harder to put thought to prose when you desperately want to. It’s when you find yourself crouched over a Mac, hands poised above the keyboard that your creative juices evaporate. When you allow your mind to wander and to divert from it’s routine, the best ideas come to the fore.
You can decide wholly for yourself what statues or sights were worth seeing and as a result, come away with a greater sense of who you are.
London is a great place to live. A cultural capital, choc-a-bloc with exhibitions, cinemas, craft-themed nights, performance art, gigs, galleries and all sorts of activities to satiate your artistic cravings. Yet since living here; whether due to expense, laziness or lack of time, I haven’t quite soaked up as much as I’d intended. So I’m sacking it in altogether and off to find culture elsewhere. One of the best things about going on holiday is having an abundance of free time to explore. My adventurous spirit can once again emerge from the deeply repressed recesses of my psyche and I can finally return my walking pace to a wander or stroll, rather than the perpetual march I’ve adopted since taking on the role of city slicker.
I like a pool holiday with a library’s worth of reading material as much as the next gal, but considering my alabaster skin tone, high freckle count and general aversion to the heat, air-conditioned art galleries are much more within my comfort zone. I also think that if you really want to see and experience a place, at least for the first time, it’s best to do it alone. It’s nice revisiting cafes and courtyards with company in tow because you can relive it through them and act as a bit of a tour guide, but when you’re arriving without any expectation it’s best to shed that company to allow yourself to form an opinion unburdened by input. Your view of a place won’t be tainted by your friend’s grumpiness about the service in a restaurant or your boyfriend’s reluctance to climb the steps of a cathedral. You can decide wholly for yourself what statues or sights were worth seeing and as a result, come away with a greater sense of who you are.
I already know myself pretty well. I’m stubborn, controlling and very inflexible. (The penny’s dropped, hasn’t it? The solo nature of this trip is not a choice, but rather enforced because I’ve exhausted my roster of companionship). And that’s why I think I’ll get along fine. I can work to my own schedule, fulfil my own desires and not feel like I’m the bane of anyone’s existence because our booking for a train is in 20 minutes, and if we don’t leave soon, shit will hit the fan.