I've been fortunate to be traveling a lot lately- primarily for work but tacking on a day here or two there to explore the cities. Habit is a strong pull, it seems, as I watch people land in a new place only to jet back to where they came from as quickly as possible. "It's just that I'm so busy," they say. Aren't we all? The "cult of busy" I think someone once called it.
Truth is most of the things we have to do can be done anywhere, and usually we are doing these things on our own- emails, reading, checking Facebook (seems like all the people I see sitting on a train or in a coffee shop are just endlessly scrolling throw pictures of cupcakes and tailgates and poorly lit pasta dishes). Habit again, or so we can hope. Anyway, why not be in a new place, alone?
Maybe not everyone enjoys the anonymity of solo travel, or has the opportunity to do it, but lately I have and, damn, it feels important. While it can be exhilarating to experience a new place with someone who calls it home, as I did in Portland, there's something different and quietly special about going it alone and knowing no one. Gliding through unnoticed, or in some cases very much noticed. Solo travel is like a great painting, the one that made you feel something. At first glance it didn't look that great but then you got close enough to really experience it and you felt its beauty and power and then a twinge of familiar.
Solo travel nights are spent sipping slowly on a glass of red wine, dipping baguettes in very good olive oil, soaking in the tub, and noticing the texture of sheets and the way light recedes across the floor. It can also include such luxuries as coffee shop hopping, book store browsing, and vintage shopping broken up by long brunches and early dinners at the bars of nice restaurants.
I take extra long getting ready (with no one to meet or yell "hurry up!") while blaring 60s French pop. I read good books or, gasp, whole magazine articles. I wear black winged eyeliner (maybe the influence of aforementioned French pop). I do touristy things that are actually really memorable like botanical gardens or self-guided public art tours. I take care of myself.
By the end of the trip I notice friends deep in conversation or family members deciding what to order and miss home in the best possible way. I learn I could do all of this at home- could but don't and probably won't.
On the eve of holidays, here's to the art of solitude. To making the most of opportunities. To coming full circle. Cheers.