Monday, September 26, 2005

The Romance of Solitary Travel

The Romance of Solitary Travel

Paul Theroux writes in The Old Patagonian Express on his preference to travel alone:
It is hard to see clearly or to think straight in the company of other people. ...What is required is the lucidity of loneliness to capture that vision which, however banal, seems in my private mood to be special and worthy of interest. There is something in feeling abject that quickens my mind and makes it intensely receptive to fugitive impressions. ...Travel is not a vacation, and it is often the opposite of a rest. ...I craved a little risk, some danger, an untoward event, a vivid discomfort, an experience of my own company, and in a modest way the romance of solitude.
I suppose I also share Theroux's view. Even though I enjoy the company of friends and colleagues on my travels, somehow I find that I'm a lot more perceptive whenever I'm travelling alone. I get to see and observe more; I can simply loiter aimlessly if I choose to and I get a chance to read or write in my journal. I'm also lucky that I've never been bothered by loneliness on the road because there's always something about a place that interests me--whether it's the people, culture or history. There's so much to learn and explore.

Solitary travel may sound very anti-social but my experience is actually the opposite: When you are travelling with a group of friends, you'll never bother to talk to strangers because you are constantly occupied with your own conversations. But when you are on your own, everyone you meet in the streets is a potential friend--someone who can enlighten you with a glimpse of his or her world. You are open to so much more possibilities, you are more outward focussed.

Perhaps different people seek different things when they go on a trip. Some people look for things to do--diving, golfing, shopping or bungee-jumping; some enjoy sight-seeing and eating. I simply enjoy observing ordinary people leading ordinary lives: What do they normally eat for lunch? Where do they live? What time do they wake up and go to bed at night? How do they furnish their homes? What do they do on weekends?

Travel is definitely not a vacation. Well, there's nothing wrong in going for a vacation--everyone needs one once in a while. But if you really want to enjoy the true romance of travel, try travelling alone. You'll learn more about the world and yourself.

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