Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Travels: Party of one

I spent some time during this Spain and Portugal trip travelling alone. The evening I ventured out on my own, I had my friend walk me to the entrance of the metro station. It was not for fear of my safety walking a block to the metro but I wanted a little companionship up until the very end. I was rather nervous, to tell you the truth.

When I came back to Århus, my friends asked me about this trip. One remarked that I seemed ... different after this one than the others. Perhaps it's true that I am somewhat different than I was before but I think this is a change that more likely happened over the last five months rather than a two week trip. I think I gave such an impression because I gushed about the trip to them. But my sudden effusiveness wasn't a manifestation of some newfound daring but precisely because I didn't have anyone to share these comments with while I was in Portugal. 

Travelling alone has its conveniences, certainly. There's no negotiating of what to do and what to skip. Importantly, I can take as many photos as I want! 

But after a couple days I wanted someone with whom I could share my delights and frustrations. While I have taken my journal on every trip I've taken, I am a noticeably more prolific writer on the days when I'm alone. On the one hand this is simply because during the evening I don't generally go out by myself so journaling is a way to pass the time. But it's also because I needed some outlet to thoughts that had come to me that day.

Luckily I met another traveler like myself, an American college students studying abroad in Europe for a semester. Before this I didn't really believe it when people said that it was easy to meet other travelers because it always seemed to me that the people staying at my hostel were already travelling in groups or for whatever reason we just never wanted to do the same thing. But this time we hit it off very well. It turns out that we would be in the same city for a couple days later on so we met up again. 

During one of our trips together, she remarked that it was nice to have a travel companion. I wholeheartedly agree. I didn't write in my journal when we were together because I actually had another human being to talk to. It also felt a lot better that we could check up on each other.

She told me a scary anecdote that made me realize the importance of keeping someone informed about your whereabouts, even if they're not travelling with you. On one of the many flights of her month-long travels, her plane was hit by lightning. No tragedies occurred but for a few terrifying moments she thought the worst. Her parents didn't know that she was on this flight. After that close call, she decided that in the future she would keep them informed of her flights though not of the hostels she was staying in.

For the most part traveling alone wasn't that bad... except when my return flight from Portugal got cancelled. My lowest point on the whole trip was the day I found out my flight was cancelled. I was left stranded in Faro, a small town in the Algarve but I was ready to get on that plane back to Denmark. I had to stand in line at the airport to rebook my ticket because, of course, the Ryanair website wasn't working and it seemed that everyone else stranded was at least stranded with their friends, spouses, or relatives. But I was all alone.  I wanted some companionship because I was bewildered by what to do. Should I try to find an alternate flight home from Lisbon, Porto or Seville? If I waited until my rebooked flight four days later, maybe the ash will still be in Faro or maybe even in Denmark! Even though having travel companions wouldn't have been able to make the ash disappear, I could have used some reassurance.

Now that I've been traveling a lot, alone and with friends, I realized that I like best a mix between travel alone and traveling with a few other people but not too many.

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