When tensions started mounting between my CSing host in Germany, I decided to get away for the day, by seeing Heidelberg by myself. Even though I could say hello to the Korean tourists and randomly chat up passing Americans, I think I’m starting to grow out of solo travel.
In Japan, all I did was travel by myself. Other people slowed me down, inconvenienced me, and distracted me from learning and seeing the country. When I told my students about all the weekend trips I was taking, I rarely mentioned I was making these journeys alone. Meeting people on the road was always nice, but I did well for myself.
Now, I’m not so sure.
This trip is a true vacation. No work. No obligations waiting for me. Just catching up with friends and seeing the world at my own pace. Hence, I’ve spent the last two days in Bangkok doing little more than sleeping in, going on runs, watching SVU with my host, and walking a bit around the city. Even confronted with countries and ways of life I had never encountered before, I wasn’t as much of a fish out of water in Europe as I had been in Japan in 2006.
I think that’s where my desire to experience travel with others is originating.
My first years abroad, everything was new and exciting; it didn’t require other foreigners to make it real for me. If anything, the presence of those closer to home took away from the experience. I wanted to grow using my own eyes, learning what I could as I made my way on foot across islands.
Now, having seen a great deal (but obviously not all) of the world, I often find myself jaded. Everything is just one more tourist attraction, one more picture to take, one more knick-knack to buy, and one more thing I have to see or do.
With friends as travel companions, things are just better for me. Sometimes they slow me down, but they offer their own unique perspectives on travel… things I just can’t imagine asking myself. My time in the Canadian countryside wouldn’t have been complete without my friends from Korea showing me around the Scottish games. Dijon would have been just another small French village if Jessica hadn’t taken me on a hike through the vineyards past an old lady willing to sell us her bread, as all the bakeries were closed (French holiday month, and all).
Can I say for certain I’ll stay on this path of non-solo travel? Of course not. But if my perception of travel and the world keeps evolving the way it has, I don’t see how I can go back to walking the road alone.