Travelling Alone Is The Loneliest Experience.. But You Have To Do It

Travelling Alone Is The Loneliest Experience, But You Have To Do It
by Kristina-Marie Ross

I wanted to live in London. It was and sometimes still feels like the perfect city for me, at this time in my life. London is a place for me, far away that I can start a new life however close enough that if an emergency ever happened at home- I can be on a flight in a couple of hours. London has a collection of people who didn’t grow up in the same street, probably speak separate languages but more or less all drink coffee. I never wanted to live in the middle zone one, but I at least wanted to be somewhere real. 
So that morning, I sat there calculating my finances for the move. In roughly six minutes, I was on my feet and expressing a very spontaneous idea to my mother “what if I went to Asia for five months instead?” One month later, I’d taken the money for London and booked my flight to Manila.

As wonderful as London, any city, is- there’s a feeling of settle that comes with it. Perhaps I’d only be there a couple of years, perhaps I’d be there a couple of decades. Regardless, I was nineteen. I couldn’t face a living situation which restricted me to a quartet of rent, bills, commuting and perhaps one affordable social event per month. The Philippines, however. 
Here I had this epiphany, a life away for part of 2013 alone. A shaping experience, something to do. Money I could use relatively recklessly without major consequences because of the time in my life I was at. I had no rent, no serious job, no relationship. And as great as all lacking attributes made me feel, I was determined to go somewhere alone. 
You might be wondering why I went alone. Sadly, I’m not some mysterious enigma who’s unafraid of the world and all it’s glory. The truth is, I’ve planned trips with people before. Not holidays. Real travels. And sadly, through the fault of nothing but life, plans fall through. The things you may gear yourself up for (road-tripping Route 66, Australia for a year, moving to Madagascar for a bit) more or less never happen. Why? Financial reasons, life commitments, boyfriends. There’s no better feeling than being sat down by said travel partner and being eased into the “I’m sorry, but I’ve actually been offered a job/I’m moving somewhere else/I’m getting married” followed by “but you can visit anytime” And as great as it would be to visit you in your new, flourishing life without my companionship - nope.

And so I gave up on people. I decided to be as logical as I could be about the trip I was going on. I didn’t hate the idea of going alone, in fact I adore travelling alone. You don’t have to worry about anyone else’s luggage or who gets the window seat. Everything is simple and you only need to worry about yourself. So how did I organise myself logically? I picked a country I could live in and get by on relatively easy. The Philippines being chosen country as I’m part Filipino and I had contacts there for accommodation. I had never been before and I wanted to pick up more of the language I sadly never learned. So there, that was my choice and every penny I’d saved for London was now in the hands of Emirates.

I suppose everything so far sounds good to you. Fortunately, I don’t have any particular distressing or life threatening stories to tell that would deter you from travelling. With a title such as “Travelling is the loneliest experience - but you have to do it” what exactly is the aim of this article? 
I suppose honesty is in order here. I got lonely. Not all the time, and maybe not most of the time. But there were days, weeks and maybe one month out of the whole thing where I felt really lonely. Why was I lonely? Because I was having a great time. Really. 
I was seeing some of the most beautiful sights I had or may ever truly see but I was seeing them alone. Perhaps not physically alone, I was with people sometimes. They just weren’t my people. The people I really, truly wanted to be with in life. You can put the most independent person in front of the most incredible sunrise the world has ever seen, but if there isn’t a loved one there to share it with- well, it sort of sucks.

We’re living in a world where feminism and independence among women is celebrated at the forefront constantly. Am I politically wrong for admitting there were situations where I would have rather been with a person and not on my own? I don’t think so. I think it takes strength to admit that sometimes, beneath the liked social media updates, it’s not easy. When you find yourself alone in an apartment with a cockroach bigger than your cat and nobody there to help you, it’s pretty horrible. Sure, it’s a menial problem. Maybe the cockroach wouldn’t have killed me (It could have carried a gun) but there wasn’t anyone who understood me to turn to. Those are the moments where you realise, you are really alone. And that is the reason why anyone who has the opportunity, should go travelling.

Wait, what? Horrible experiences mean you should go travelling? 
Here’s the thing. People say they want to travel for many reasons, but when people physically travel alone without direct purpose it’s to fulfil some kind of search. Whether they want to meet someone or low and behold, ‘find themselves’; there’s some kind of fulfilment that needs carried out. But when you live alone, somewhere foreign and only experience the happy bubbles of selfies with tiger cubs and pina coladas, there really isn’t much to shape. I’m certain it exudes you in a positive way, punches your personality to temporary new heights and gives you a really cool profile picture. But then you come home. You remember the grey blanket of cloud that serendipitously covers Great Britain on your arrival and you spend the next few weeks of your life wishing you were back in the tropics with the nordic best friends you made in the space of twenty days. It’s a very slow and completely sobering comedown. 
And then there are those of us who didn’t have such a luxurious time. Wandered through polluted cities without air-con, endured thug roaches and suffered the most demeaning level of travellers diarrhoea one could possibly reach. So when we come home, to the place we were ever so desperate to leave, there is actually a sense of improvement.

Yes, we have perhaps been shaped in a few ways, we now know how to climb a tree and determine when a pineapple is ripe for harvest. However the key element to the entirety of our experience abroad is the return. We appreciate things we didn’t before. It’s that simple. The slump of depression we may have fallen into before we ventured away to the other side of the world on a pugnacious act of spontaneity has brought us into a small sense of contentment. We appreciate the fact we can walk wherever we like and not be stared at for having white skin, that sarcasm can be reciprocated in our own culture and lets all take a moment of silence to appreciate the first world toilet. Words such as “We didn’t have this kind of juice in Benguet”, “Do you know how expensive it is to find cream cheese in a place like Bantayan?” or “This one time, in South East Asia…” enter into our conversations with the people we speak to daily. They probably get sick of our constant referrals to our time abroad, and may dislike the reminder of the fact they may have yet to do something nomadic.
And it is at that point that you start to realise, your regular referrals and perhaps negative stories about imported mangoes are actually a subliminal indication of the fact that- maybe travelling wasn’t so bad after all.

Kristina RossComment