Posted by: GeekHiker | July 15, 2011

The Journal: February, 2010

I must admit, first and foremost, that very little has been accomplished, short of starting a list of “dream” destinations.  Then again, doesn’t every venture start with a dream?

Mostly this is due to my planning (and, as with any trip, stressing over) my upcoming Vancouver trip. With the exception of being a fifth wheel amongst my friends, I’m looking forward to the trip immensely.

Still, I can’t seem to quite shake that “solo” aspect of the trip.  It plagues my thoughts as well in regards to the “round the world trip.”  (Note to self: come up with a catchier title.)  [(Another note to self: seriously, dude, it’s been over a year, you really need to come up with a catchy title already.)]

How appropriate, then, that I write this on February 14th.

I can’t help myself, it seems: I can’t shake the feeling that I don’t want to do this trip alone.  This even though I’ve more-or-less accepted that I will be doing it alone.

Every time I read a travelogue it seems, the authors go out of their way to say how kind and helpful the people of the world are.  Blakspring, for example, has said as much in her blog.

Perhaps I’ve been in L.A. too long, a town that guns their car engines in impatience at the septuagenarian crossing the sidewalk, to believe it.  Perhaps I’ve become jaded.

I’m not sure quite where my uncomfortablility comes from.  As I write this, I’m sitting in an open meadow, well off the beaten track.  I feel no fear, though for all I know a mountain lion could be stalking me right at this very moment.

(Yes, I did just look over my shoulder, thanks for asking.)

Here, I feel no fear, but nature is simple.  Human nature is not.  Nature is about fulfilling needs, and if one of those needs is food and you look appetizing, well that’s it.

But bears won’t try to pickpocket you.  Mountain lions would try to fleece all of your money away.  Coyotes don’t try to take grandmothers savings through deceptive telephone scams. Racoons may steal your food, but they won’t try to kill you just because your religion is different.

“Eat, Pray, Love”, which I haven’t read, is about a woman traveling alone.  This entails certain gender-specific risks, to be certain, and I won’t dismiss those.  Still, so much of maleness, in any culture, is about macho-ism, I’m willing to bet she never got into a pissing contest with a cop or a bar fight with a guy who thought she looked at his girl funny.

Honeymoon with my Brother[recommended reading by my financial adviser] is appealing in concept, and not because they had, compared to me, gobs of cash, but because he traveled with his brother.

[I should probably point out here that when I say “my financial adviser”, I’m being a little facetious.  She’s actually my Dad’s financial adviser, and has been nice enough to coach me along as the years have gone by.  I’m by no means rich, which is why I really had Gilbert’s book advance to help me out with this whole thing.

And I don’t want y’all to think I’m bragging when I use the term.  It’s not my way. 🙂 ]

Alas, I have no brother to travel with.  No sister.  No friends who could quit their jobs or stop their studies for six months.  And, of course, no girlfriend.

It’s occurred to me, of course, that perhaps I NEED to take this trip alone.  I certainly wouldn’t be the first nor the last to do so.

The thing is: it’s not as though I don’t have experience traveling alone.  I spent the vast majority of my twenties doing so, though admittedly not so far reaching as the trip currently proposed.

But I’ve also driven solo everywhere.  Taken tours and visited museums solo.  Froze my ass off in an empty Forest Service campground on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim solo. Camped alone, hiked alone, fixed flats alone, broken my leg alone.

I’m sick of being alone.  That’s the short-and-simple of it.

[As terrible as this may sound, I blame my parents.  Not for anything conscious they did, but that they’re still happily married after forty years, and they still travel together.  That’s how I grew up.  Even though I’m twenty years into adulthood, I haven’t shaken (and may never shake) the feeling that was engrained into me as a child: that traveling is done with someone else.]

* * *

The Co-Worker, ten years ago now, changed everything.

We took two short trips in our brief time together.  One a camping trip, the other a city tour.

It was the first time I had really traveled with another as an adult.  We complemented each other well as travelers; indulging in each others interests, learning from each other, being passionate together.  They were, and remain, unique and singular experiences in my 36 years.  They are the happiest “couple” memories in a lifetime that has had too few.

This sound dramatic (perhaps overly so) I know, but take this factor into account: in the nearly five years I spent with The Ex, no trip was as enjoyable, no memories so strong.

There’s no guarantee, of course, that any travel partner I ever have in the future will match as well.  That’s not the point.

The point is that I learned that sharing the experience with someone else broadens that experience exponentially.  That an extra pair of eyes adds so much more.

Not having that hasn’t stopped me from traveling since.  [You’ll recall the broken leg at the Secret Spot…]

What it has done has made traveling solo feel incomplete, like a partial experience where I know I’m missing what the other pair of eyes would see, but I’ll never know what that is.

Now that I’ve seen the depth on the other side, solo travel hasn’t been as fun.

[They say the grass is always greener and, I suppose that if you’re traveling with someone who’s not compatible, then solo traveling has its appeal.  Still, I’m talking here solely about my life and my experiences.  Within that narrow range of experience, traveling with someone else and sharing new experiences with them is better and more enjoyable.]

* * *

This, I think, may be the biggest challenge of the whole trip.

Not the dreaming up of destinations, nor the planning of travel.  Not the activity planning nor the lodging.  Not the language barrier or the monetary hassles.  Not even the costs.

No, I think the biggest challenge may very well be the wrapping my head around the idea of doing the journey alone.  Of somehow accepting it or even, God-help-me, liking it.

At the moment, though, I see no answer to that problem.

[Well, as I prepare to go, how am I feeling now?  I dunno… pretty neutral, I suppose.  Do I still wish I had a girl or a friend to share the journey with?  Sure.  But, now that the leaping off point is fast approaching, I’m accepting things for what they are.  More or less.  Maybe that’s why I’m doing a road trip, it’s my bridge (or my crutch, whichever you prefer): the truck is my version of a horse from 100 years ago, my companion taking off into the wild unknowns…]

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Responses

  1. I think there are upsides and downsides to both scenarios: solo and partner traveling. I’ve had some of my most amazing experiences when I’ve been alone walking around a foreign city. And I always enjoy going to airports alone – sitting in the hustle and bustle just reading a magazine. That said, I also greatly enjoy traveling with Mr. W. You’re very right – if you’re compatible with the person, it makes all the difference. And I suppose there are ways to still get solo experiences even when you’re with someone (especially if they get the flu like Mr. W did in Dublin).

    It’s scary to go to new places – even when you have a companion. But the alternative – missing out on those places – is worse, I think. If you’re smart and you keep your eyes open and your mouth shut, you’ll be just fine. And I believe that you can find companionship along the way. Not sure if you’ve ever clicked over to Janice’s blog from mine (http://aftertheartistsway.blogspot.com/) but she quit her advertising job and has been traveling Europe alone since January. And she met someone. And now she’s staying with him. See – you never know what will happen when you venture out. I think you just have to trust in the Universe. Know that it has taken care of you before – kept you safe from those mountain lions on every hiking trip you’ve taken. Know that it will keep you safe in the city, too.

    One of my favorite quotes is this:
    “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” — Anaïs Nin

    Enjoy your expansion, GH. You’re never going to be the same after this.

  2. This reminded me of this http://vespa-vagabond.blogspot.com/

    Road trip!

  3. Hey Geekhiker,

    When I moved to LA from the east coast a few years ago, I took a month and a half to get there and traveled around a bit solo. I discovered that traveling was an art form in itself. I remember that my vehicle was actually a hindrance the first week of the trip. It was actually preventing me from having meaningful contact with other people, a comfort zone if you will. I was driving out of my comfort zone, but was still in my comfort zone at the same time, and I was not happy about it.

    I think it’s a great idea that you will be visiting people along the way. I was able to spend a week with my sister in Texas and it completely changed the nature of the road trip for the positive. I was then able to be on the lookout for opportunities to not only connect with others, but also make the trip more interesting and satisfying. I won’t lie, I did have some achingly lonely moments during the trip, but also had some incredible conversations, met some amazing people, and had some soul enriching moments where I was completely alone in nature. One strategy a friend of mine uses when traveling is “never declining an invitation.” I think that can be hard to do sometimes, but overall, leads to an exciting trip with plenty of good stories to tell!

  4. oh dear. Where to begin?

    Traveling alone is liberating…and very lonely. It’s difficult to explain a sunset, and much easier to turn to someone and say “Wow, look at that!” But the sunset will still be as beautiful no matter how many people look at it.


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