I like to travel alone.
I enjoy the freedom of it. I enjoy the new and unpredictable experiences you have by venturing into the world by yourself. I enjoy meeting people along the way.
People who travel alone are rarely ever on their own of course. You make fast and firm friends when travelling; it’s normal after chatting for a mere two minutes to ask someone to dinner. Real world rules don’t apply here.
Occasionally though, I do feel lonely when travelling. It usually happens right after I’ve made some excellent travelling friends. Maybe we spent a week on a Thai island or a few days on a Vietnam beach together.
But then people go their own way and that sudden aloneness again is always jarring. It usually only lasts an afternoon or so but still, it’s a readjustment of sorts.
It happened to me when leaving Koh Lanta, off Thailand’s Andaman coast. I had spent six days on the island, with a loose collection of solo travellers who all hit it off.
We walked ten steps from the hostel to the beach and back again; less to get to the Reggae Bar. I went three full days without needing to put on shoes. There was always someone around if you wanted to go for a coffee or have a beer or to just sit around and make up dialogues for the terrible Thai soaps on TV.
When we all separated on a slightly cloudy Wednesday, amidst hugs and facebook friend requests, I was leaving for the mainland where I had booked a private room in a hotel for two nights. I couldn’t afford luxury but I was looking forward to just a little privacy; not sharing a bedroom with at least four others and some decent wifi so I could do a yoga video and then watch a Christmas movie and eat cake (Don’t tell me I don’t know how to have a good time!).
But the ferry there took two hours longer than it should have. I say ferry, but I actually mean the ferry, two small boats and two cars. Then the hotel, of course, turned out to be a bit shit. Shoddy fittings, poor wifi, no satellite tv as promised. All things that could have been laughed off with company but I was on my own, had been looking forward to being on my own but suddenly I was teary and felt very, very far away from everything and everyone familiar.
Because travelling isn’t all cocktail by the pool pictures on Instagram. Of course, the good outweighs the bad- that’s why we do it. But it has it’s own stresses; the constant moving around, the endless small hassles and annoyances. Long term travelling isn’t quite as easy going as being on holiday for two weeks; there’s more planning and budgeting and just general bullshit involved, to be honest.
So after two and a half months on the road, I had already been wearing a little thin and this set me off. I decided to venture out for food, planning to pick up a sizable amount of chocolate on my way back and curl up (or attempt to on the piss poor mattress) with a reassuringly familiar chic-lit book.
A 5 minute tuk tuk ride deposited me beachside and timing being on my side, the sunset was due to start. I spotted a Western style café with a west-facing deck, ordered a cappuccino and settled in.
And then nature did it’s magic. Thailand isn’t my favourite kind of scenery; it’s a little too picture perfect for my taste. I like rugged, wild landscapes and the south of Thailand, while undeniably stunning, doesn’t fit that description.
But even amidst the picture perfect niceness that for some reason grates on me a little, there was the most amazing sunset. The pictures with this post are not filtered. All that beautiful, wonderful, orange, pink light and colour was created by some glorious combination of the sun, sea and clouds
Before the sunset began, my bad mood well and truly set in, I was mentally scoffing at people setting up camera equipment on the beach below me. But ten minutes later, I was as snap happy as the rest of them! The scene was truly stunning.
I sipped my coffee and watched the world and John Lennon sang Imagine. It may not have been the same as a reassuring hug from a friend but it did feel as though the universe was doing its best to make me feel better! The beautiful pink colour reminded me of summer nights at home in the West of Ireland and my dad telling me,
Red sky at night,
Red sky in the morning,
Silly and sentimental but reassuring all the same.
The sky may have been more pink than red but I needed the comfort and so I practiced my yogi breathing, reminded myself how lucky I am to be in this world and went back to my crappy hotel.