Travelling alone is something everyone is encouraged to do – at least once in our lives. We are constantly bombarded by motivational Pinterest quotes or Tumblr posts to “wake up in cities you don’t know and have conversations in languages you cannot entirely understand” but travelling alone is fraught with challenges, some that I feel we are reluctant to address on account of us being concerned about giving the impression that our solitary adventures were all completely substantial and enriching. Not to mention we’re so eager to seize these formative, international experiences for all they’re worth that we’re filled with a striking anxiety that the whole time we’ve been wasting our time at the wrong places, doing the wrong things, with no one.
I like understanding things. And understanding is more challenging in new environments. The difficulty is only highlighted when one travels alone because we are forced to work things out on our own. Basic things, that are usually automatic back at home, like knowing what food you’ve ordered or getting around on public transport, suddenly become complicated and fraught with error.  I had a brief heart attack when 20min after leaving a bar I realised I had walked out and not paid for any of my drinks, and almost crawled up into a ball when I ordered food from the deli and had no idea when or where I was supposed to pay for it.
Loneliness is also more pervasive as connectivity to your usual circles is dependent on wifi availability, and any stranger who talks to you is viewed cautiously, either out for something, or keen to prattle endlessly at you about some vague understanding they have of your “foreign” culture. I’m often keen to call up a friend to come meet me at a place where a great band is playing or invite my sisters out to try this amazing French toast I discovered, but they are all sadly unavailable to traverse the globe at my instant behest to check out a cool gig or try a well-seasoned breakfast.
(Please don’t get the impression I’m lamenting my privilege of having the time and financial freedom to take an indulgent vacation. I’m merely examining what it is to do it alone and perhaps realign expectation with – at least, my – reality.)
My partner and I often discuss the validity of experiences and memories that aren’t shared with anyone else, or people we will probably never see again. Sometimes tiny moments dissolve and are quickly buried in the trifling detritus of everyday life. This makes me worried that the memories are lost forever; evaporated in the ether, transparent and essentially worthless. But my boyfriend insists they are somehow silently etched into your identity, informing your character and being every bit as essential to enriching your future self as the fondness of an unforgettable memory.
Almost ten years ago, in a hostel in Hiroshima, my friends and I traded some cheap vodka for internet usage from a young, French backpacker. Next month, one of my friends is marrying that backpacker.
So sometimes those moments we thought were meaningless, turn out to be the ones to shape our lives forever.


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