I’m 10 weeks into solo travelling now and I can feel it.
Physically, I ache more, my eyes are heavy, getting up early in the morning is increasingly more difficult, I’ve lost muscle, I’ve gained fat, I don’t feel particularly healthy.
Mentally, I’m more fragile than I’ve ever been when I think of friends and family, my mind enjoys more spells of nothingness, I feel lonelier.
It’s perhaps unsurprising I feel the way I do. In those 10 weeks, I’ve visited five countries and endured 32 long distance (three hours or more) journeys. That’s around 225 hours on either a bus, boat, plane or taxi. Who knows how many people I’ve met, how many hands I’ve shaken. I’m a little drained.
Of course, travelling boasts a myriad of wonderful experiences and delivers highs that outweigh lows. However, it isn’t as happy, fun, exciting and straightforward as it might come across. It has it’s challenges – challenges that Instagram and the like just can’t capture.
Lugging your backpack around, introducing yourself to someone every five minutes, being on guard for yourself and possessions every second, battling the energy sapping heat and humidity, sleepless nights in unfamiliar beds and non-AC rooms, fighting the night to stay awake and speak with loved ones, finding out what there is to do in today’s town, spending hours on your feet exploring, enduring conversations in broken English and local lingo… It takes a lot out of you.
Travelling solo doesn’t mean you’re alone all the time. Far from it. I meet people every single day. The thing is, most people are one-minute-mates that you trade pleasantries with before going your separate ways. Even when you do find a temporary travel buddy or group, ultimately you go off to do your own things. That means reverting back to tables for one and the realisation that, for whoever you meet, nothing will beat a homely hug or friendly face. Also, I’ve learned not to get too attached because it prevents gut-wrenching goodbyes. The problem with that, though, is you can’t quite reach the level with people whereby you know them and they know you. And that in itself is a reminder that you’re thousands of miles from people who do.
It’s hard work
How do I get there, what is there to do here, how can I order this, what was their name… Researching, remembering, re-re-re-re-re-introducing yourself takes it’s toll. Not only can it be tiresome, but it also requires a lot of energy. Energy that’s hard to find if you’re on your third consecutive day of broken sleep, just spent eight hours tensed up on a packed-like-sardines bus, lugged your backpack around the backstreets to find your hidden hostel in 35 degree heat and 90% humidity and endured painfully confusing conversations just to get to whether you need to turn left or right.
With all that said, I wouldn’t change the past 10 weeks. Travelling is a test that is making me a stronger, smarter, more streetwise person.
And before you ask, I’m doing just fine.