“A faithful friend is a strong defense; And he that hath found him hath found a treasure.”
Louisa M Alcott
So my final week in the UK before I embark on eight months of travel has arrived and I am feeling pretty weird about it.
I haven’t packed yet. I have a pile of clothes stashed in the spare room and a very patient Mum who will help me parcel-up said stash (with the aid of a bottle of vino). I just can’t seem to be able to pack up my life in a 55 litre backpack. I really didn’t think I would find it difficult – I like to think I am relatively low-maintenance – but it’s a lot harder than I first thought! I’m also feeling a bit emosh.
I’ve just come out of a party-coma after an amazing weekend spent with great friends and family. Not only was it my very dear friend’s 30th birthday celebrations, but my lovely parents organised a big send-off party complete with food, booze and New Zealand flag banners that I had to wear round my neck.
In typical Emma fashion, I got hideously drunk, danced and laughed a lot (there is so much video and photographic evidence its cringeworthy). And I suppose it gets you thinking, stuff like that, about all the people you leave behind when you go somewhere else. I know it’s not forever – I am not being dramatic – but life goes on back home, doesn’t it? People get married, have babies, get engaged, and go through break-ups, traumas, family stuff, younger siblings and relatives get older.
When I think back to how momentous 2014 was for the people I love (not so much for myself) then I worry about what I will be missing and how I can’t be there if something happens. I also picked a destination that could not be further away from all the people I love. After the party, everyone left at the same time and I was left in the house on my own and I had a small panic – this is what it will be like. This is how I will feel. Lonely.
But that’s the price of solo travel, the fear of being lonely, and I’m hoping all the other benefits – the confidence gained, the experiences, the new friends – cancel out that fear. And a bit of fear is no bad thing. What’s the alternative?
“When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert
I’ve never really done anything “for me,” since I moved to university at the age of 18. In ten years, I think all the decisions I have made have been based on other people’s plans, or at least their opinions, company and expectations. This is a fault with myself, not others. This trip is the first one I have taken solo and the first thing I have planned for myself, by myself. To me, that’s a pretty big deal and achievement. I like to be with people. I especially like to be with people I know. I have been a single woman for over three years now and think that during this time I have gained the confidence to take myself out my comfort zone.
And if, like me, you’re about to head out on your own for the first time, there’s a host of excellent tips, stories and groups that you can join online. These resources are brilliant: you can ask questions, rate accommodation, meet likeminded travellers and find travel buddies, or just share your stories with others.
Here’s a few I’ve been checking out recently:
Travelletes – check out their Facebook group for excellent information and advice. If you’re stuck, ask a question. Its guaranteed that someone else has been there before. Similarly, try Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum but I prefer Travelettes as the advice is always positive and helpful.
So wish me luck, everyone.
I’d better get packing.
How do you cope with being away from your friends and family? Do you solo travel and have any excellent tips for banishing loneliness? Is loneliness a good thing and should we all experience it at some point during our lives? Should we all travel solo?