‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness’
When I tell people I’m travelling, usually on my own, the stock response is ‘Aren’t you brave’? I first travelled on my own, to Germany, on the train, when I was 15, so you might say I’m used to it. But, weeks before I make a trip, even now, I’m usually in a total funk, wondering what on earth I’m doing going to remote lands no-one here has ever heard of, on the other side of the world, alone. I get so anxious I pack all the wrong things and a result my bag is always overstuffed and cumbersome.
But when I’m exploring it’s fantastic. Each day brings a new wonder or experience and there are always more stunning sights to see. Strange fauna, extraordinary landscapes, diverse customs, colourful festivals, amazing places to relax in.
Sure, sometimes it’s a little lonely. But I’ve learned that I don’t need to share an experience to understand that this planet is a wonderful place. I’m the one in charge, so I can do what I want, when I want. I don’t need to feel guilty if I don’t wish to visit a museum (I would rather stay outdoors) or listen to a guide (they often talk too much when I just want to look and I have the Internet for information, which is often more accurate anyway) or motor round a city when I’m not that inspired, or stay longer (or return) when I am. I don’t have to conform to anyone else’s notion of what it means to travel, where I should stay or how long for.
At times I have to summon up my courage and initiate a conversation. There are always fascinating people to meet and talk to and then move on. Train dining cars are good. Sometimes, we stay in touch and swap travel stories, or even take a trip together. If I’m not in the mood for talk I put on my headphones and take a book. They’re a good back up for quiet (or bustling) dining rooms. If terrain or organisation looks challenging I might get a tour custom made or I might join a group tour for a short while, on one leg of a longer trip. Enjoyment of a group tour, I’ve discovered, is so dependent on the quality of the leader/guide. And more often than not I come away thinking ‘I could easily have done that on my own after all’. Though regulations don’t always allow that.