Posted by: GeekHiker | July 16, 2011

The Journal: March, 2010

I am on the train, having just left Seattle, Vancouver, the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, and my friends behind.

All that, of course, is for the blog.  Sufficient to say that it was grand, and over all too quick.

* * *

I won’t deny that I was very depressed last night, a feeling that has crossed over into today.  Part of it, without doubt, is the end of a vacation, a feeling we have all experienced. Given that it was my first trip in years, doubly-so.

Of course, it’s more than that.  I’m traveling back to a city I dislike, a job I hate, an empty apartment and a cold, lonely bed.

Is that over-dramatic?  I suppose so.  But last night & today, it’s exactly how I feel.

[Reading it now, it is damned over-dramatic.  But whether we admit to it or not, I highly suspect that we all have these over-dramatic feelings sometimes.  Or maybe I’m just messed up in the head.  I’ll let you decide.]

It’s difficult, I think, to take a solo train journey after having spent two weeks in the company of friends.  I’m reminded of my solo status, reminded that I have no one to share this journey with, just as I will have no one to share memories of the Olympics with.

At the same time there is, much as I am loathe to say it, relief, for the loneliness wasn’t absent either in the previous two weeks.

It was “one of those things.”  It happened in moments.  Like on the SkyTrain, when The Best Friend and her boyfriend were sitting together, as was Just A Girl and her new husband. Each couple, side-by-side, lost in their own conversations, as couples tend to do.

Those were the moments when I felt most isolated.  Watching them together, lost in their own little worlds, while I stood or sat next to some stranger, only my own thoughts for company.

It was in those moments that I bottomed out.  That I felt terribly alone.

And wondering how it is that I should travel the world if that’s how I feel, locked in my own head?

[The hard part about posting this is knowing that both The Best Friend and Just A Girl may read it, and not wanting them to feel bad.  Because the important point here is that they did absolutely nothing wrong.  They did what all couples do, what I would do in their place, even.  It is, like so many things in life, all in my head…]

* * *

It’s been two weeks since that train trip and I find myself thinking that, perhaps, that trip was not the best place to judge whether or not I should travel alone.

That isn’t to say that the question is no longer valid; it most certainly is.  Facts must be faced, though: the odds were stacked against me.  I was in the more-expensive sleeping car on a weekday.  It was a trip I’d long dreamed of, but I think I had always envisioned it as a romantic vacation for two, not a solo trip where I would be lumped in with the elderly couples at dinner.

[Train dining cars are a shared-dining experience.  It’s fine when you’re two couples at a table, or a bunch of single strangers.  A single guy facing off against a couple that’s been married 30, 40, 50 years?  Oy.]

So, yes, I’d put myself in a situation which I suspected in advance would make me feel bad.  I made the best of it: I read, wrote, stared out the window.  I bought a (very expensive) beer and made late night conversation.

Despite all that, I know that if I ever do find someone, I must do the trip again.

[Or with friends.  Taking over the train with a bunch of friends might be a helluv’a lot of fun.]

What didn’t help were two factors on my return: a feeling of isolation (compounded by my inability to get my friends to join me for a drink), and a message from the girl I dated in high school, telling me all about how she is now happily married.

[Timing on that last one = awesome.  Seriously, how does the universe do it?]

I wonder if these are signs of the obvious: I need to get my arse out of L.A.

The solo traveling issue, of course, still raises its ugly head.  I still don’t know that I have any choice in the matter.

Despite that, as I recover from Vancouver, my focus is starting to shift.  I’m thinking more of places I might want to go, times of year, that sort of thing.

And that, I suppose, is a step in the right direction.

[Reading this now, I’m starting to realize how everything is both separate and tied together.  It’s not that any individual element of things felt bad at the time, be it the job or L.A. or being single or whatever.  It’s all of them together, I think, that makes the difference.  I mean, would L.A. seem so bad if I went every day to a job I loved?  Would a bad job seem more tolerable if I came home to a warm, non-empty household?  Here’s the funny thing, though: I can pose the questions, but I don’t pretend to know the answers.]

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Responses

  1. While everyone’s experience is unique, I can say from my perspective that the bad things in life definitely become more tolerable when other things are good. A year ago, when I started my own (short-lived, but now revived) blog about the single journey, my singleness seemed so unbearable and at the forefront of my life because there were other things (having a way too long vacation, living in a crappy apartment in the bad part of my city, friends being away) that were not going my way. Now that I’m back at work doing something I love, my friends are around and available, and I’ve moved into an apartment that I also love, the singleness seems to be such a small part of my life.

    Having traveled as a single person many, many times, I understand the moments of profound loneliness and bitterness. For me the worst was being in Venice, where the streets are narrow and crowded, so it’s impossible to avoid physically bumping into all the happy couples (and even the families/friends traveling together). The lowest moment came while I was happily snapping pictures from the Rialto Bridge, when suddenly I overheard the man next to me propose to his girlfriend. Really universe, did I need that?

    But, having said that, I wouldn’t give up my travel experiences, even if they aren’t exactly what they could be. I’ve seen a lot of incredible places, and by traveling alone I’ve gotten to do things that I can’t imagine any travel companion wanting to do with me (like wandering through an 18th century geology museum or taking photos in a 17th century obstetrics museum). One of my strategies for combating my loneliness while traveling has been to buy a phone card. It allows me to touch base with people I love back home and to share my experiences with them – even if it’s not quite as good as sharing my experiences with a live, in-person travel companion.

    Anyway…long reply….but it was a post I could definitely relate to!

  2. Irvin Yalom once wrote about how we search all over for meaning in life except in the one place we can find it: in ourselves. Travel, experience new things, new people and be open to possibilities. You deserve some fun. 🙂 Just take plenty of protection just in case. And I think you know what I’m talking about. Extra socks. Dry feet are healthy feet. 🙂

  3. I think it does make a difference if you have good things to balance out the bad. Loving your job would help balance out the apartment. Or a girl you were crazy about would help balance out the job. Speaking of crazy, I don’t think you are at all for feeling the way you did when you came home. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried after vacation. Even when I had spent the vacation with a person I loved, I’d still come home feeling lonely and sad. It’s the bitter and the sweet, I think. The necessary balance to make us appreciate the good times.

    I love Miss McCracken’s comment, btw.

  4. Thank you! 🙂


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