Thugs get lonely, too.
I’ve always been a big old loud bitch about the joys of solo travel. My solo undertakings have stirred so much inside me: a fighting self-reliance, an appreciation of misadventure and an undying hatred of landlords in every country of Zorp’s green earth.
Solo travel also roused something else within me, something I don’t discuss for fear of being a traitor to my solo female traveller cult. Ahem, guild. Ahem, faction. Ahem, community.
My first solo trip brought a longing I hadn’t experienced before. It set in quickly, before I even landed at my destination.
Unlike many transient moments in my life, I remember this one with a foggy clarity. As if the haziness of the moment – the lack of sleep, the dimly lit cabin, the turd-coloured tequila I sampled heavily in Duty Free – only heightened the impression it made on me.
I was embarking on an international campaign trail to become one of the new junior ministers in The Illuminati. I was travelling from Australia to Asia, leaving behind my long-distance lover (Don’t do it, kids. The long-distance part, not the leaving part.) to start a series of work contracts in Asia. Sounds cool, right? WRONG! Actually no, it was pretty cool.
I sat alone, the entire aisle to myself. Relieved to be free from those pesky toilet lovers who disrupt the entire row to piss seven times in-flight – like being hydrated on a plane is humanly p o s s i b l e – I put in my headphones and looked ahead.
In front of me sat a young couple. They were older than me, quieter, more exhausted. Yet their simmering excitement for the trip ahead, their tenderness towards each other in the sleepiest of moments was obvious. The way the cabin light outlined their heads resting gently on each other made me not want to look away.
It was the vulnerability of my situation that did it for me. I was leaving behind my friends and family to live abroad, I was travelling alone on a long overnight flight. I wasn’t scared, I just felt lost. Even five years later I remember this feeling of utter displacement so deeply.
I wanted to be tethered to something tangible, and this couple in front of me had the in-person connection I lacked.
Looking at them, I thought about my trip if I were sharing it with someone dear. How there would be someone there during the crises abroad. Someone to chat with during the dull moments in transit. Someone to enjoy that buzz with, the kind that swells when you reach the airport, rapt about the adventure ahead. The person to cackle with about those absurd moments no one else is around for.
This flight was obviously a strange time for me. I was simultaneously sad, envious and in awe of them. Most of all, I was being a total voyeur just staring at this peaceful couple for the whole trip. I’m sure during my description earlier you were waiting for me to reach under my floor-length trench-coat and unzip my corduroy pants, cam-cording them as I jerked it, but this fixation continued well past the flight. The only throbbing part of this perve was… her heart. 😭 Or as I now fondly regard it: that black hollow pit under my tit.
While I’ve rarely been truly “alone” as a solo traveller, I’ve had long-distance lovers (Don’t do it, kids. Cannot stress this enough), my connections back home and mates along the way, I’ve never experienced an overseas trip with someone I’ve loved.
Even after so many wacky experiences abroad – from finding a sort-of secret penis shrine to getting fired from a martial arts movie – this is the experience that seems most foreign to me. I’m not sure I’d be that great at travelling and loving, all at once.
My years of solo travel have shaped my independence and my fierce desire to get up and carry on (carry on more luggage than the airline stipulates, am I right LADIES?!?!). While tough times abroad have strengthened me, they’ve also isolated me, and now I’m less attracted to the idea of being dependent on someone else.
Sometimes I wonder if having someone with me all the time would take the magic, the transformative nature out of my travels. I wouldn’t be free to go wherever, whenever, right? How would I go about sharing a hotel room with someone if I got diarrhoea from bad curry? Would I learn less about myself if I weren’t travelling solo?
If you think about it, in another universe, that trip could’ve been the end for the blissful couple I Peeping Tommed saw on the plane. The grisly end. Not as in they died – god no! But perhaps she also got diarrhoea from a bad curry and he was one of those weird dudes that it had never occurred to that women shat/farted/sharted, and he just bolted. And maybe, just maybe, she realised after meeting a mixed-race honey in Asia that she could probs do better than her current squeeze. Who knows. I’m not here to shart on a fantasy.
The reality is, I’m still in my 20s. (Or was I born in the 1920s? This always confuses me.) These years might be my final opportunity to travel without a partner, children, or an overly attached tropical parrot that I will no doubt acquire once I become financially stable.
Solo travel has helped me build an identity I’m proud of, but I’m not so proud to admit that I find myself missing somebody I haven’t met yet, a person who shares my spirit of adventure, and would jump at the chance to have a big sexy one with me.
At the same time, my own life-making, identity-shaping experiences can come first. I’d rather have these precious travels in the first place, over having someone to build them with. Sounds heartless, but mama raised this one tough.
Besides, I’m sure whoever I eventually settle down with at age 58, 59, will be grateful for this, and will be ready to lend an ear* to the stories I’ve picked up on my own.
*or lend a hearing aid, because even 58 is ambitious and I can’t imagine anyone wanting this ass till I peak in my early 80s.