I’ve been a little uncomfortable with the attention I’ve received over the last little while as a solo traveller.
Because, actually, I don’t really like solo travel. And I’m kinda really shitty at doing it.
There’s been a big shift in the travel blog scene lately encouraging people (especially women) to travel solo. And that’s awesome; I’m totally into that. I won’t NOT travel because I’m afraid to go somewhere alone, but… I just kinda hate it. I prefer my memories with other people. I like having a sidekick. I swear I’m not needy; I only need to hear “you’re pretty” a few times per day.
I don’t think I would have travelled at all if I didn’t have to opportunity to study abroad with a small group of people in 2007. I didn’t know any of them when I started out. I’ve alluded to my travel anxieties before, how sometimes I refuse to leave my accommodations because I’m so damned nervous about the chaos and clamor around me.
Travelling with a group eased me into it.
I graduated high school with 19 classmates. I started my first years of university in Corner Brook, a small town with a campus of about 2000 people. I found the experience terrifying. I had actually opted for this campus because I found the idea of moving to the grand metropolis of St. John’s even more overwhelming. St. John’s is hardly a city, by the way… it’s a big town. But now you see where I’m coming from.
So when I went to London on a weekend trip with a group of girls, boarding the London Underground was probably the scariest thing I had done in life up until that point. I’m not kidding. You city folks take that shit for granted — the seas of people, the assertiveness with which you have to make it onto the train, the sketchy characters you meet along the way. This wasn’t long after the London bombings, and at one point we were forced to evacuate the train due to a “suspicious” package. I was suffering from a seizure disorder at that point (still am, we’ll save that for later), and I was so terrified, I started having small seizures almost immediately. I remember a man leaning out the window between two train cars, eyes closed, visibly dripping sweat onto the tracks. My mind immediately went to, “OH my god, he’s on drugs and he’s gonna KILL ME!”
Thank heavens mercy that those girls were with me to calm me down, despite hardly knowing me at all.
I travel more on my own, now, after having that kind of aid to show me the ropes. Around Canada, which is easy. And Ireland, which is probably equally easy. I usually find connections quickly in a place, so I have someone. But I Couchsurfed with strangers in Galway and biked around the Aran Islands all on my lonesome, and I felt proud about it.
I’m not an extrovert. I don’t think I’m an introvert. I crave company and alone-time, equally. Where’s the balance for ambiverts? WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE AMBIVERTS?
When I look back on my Ireland experience, my best memories happened once my friend Julia showed up. We were hardly friends at the time, united only because her ex-boyfriend had been a roommate of mine. Now we’re like, totally BFFS4LYFE.
I was more adventurous with her around. More eager to pop into bars, more eager to talk to men, more willing to make an ass of myself when I had a counterpart in tow. People were also more drawn to us… which probably doesn’t say a great deal about me. But when you’ve got a tall, leggy blonde by your side, suddenly everyone notices. She gets angry when I talk about how everyone fell in love with her, but it’s true.
My favourite memory: hanging out with some new friends at a nightclub in Sligo, I overheard a girl referring to me and Julia as “Heidi Klum and her friend over there.” It was too hilarious to be offensive.
The thing is, there’s no right way to travel. You just do whatever the hell you want to do, as long as you’re doing it. And I know the advocates for solo travel aren’t promoting the kind of opinion that you HAVE to travel solo, but I just wanted to say once and for all.
I hate solo travel.
And you’re allowed to, too.