Why would I want to travel alone?

About three weeks ago, I co-facilitated (along with the wonderful Anick-Marie and Luca) a workshop at the Alternative Travel Gathering in Amsterdam. Its theme was “solo travel“. We had a great discussion, shared a lot of hitchhiking experiences, our strategies of dealing with lonely moments on the road, and some of the differences between genders when travelling solo. The most commonly cited motivation for travelling solo was “freedom”. This word makes me imagine the lonesome traveller on a Patagonian plain, surrounded by gorgeous mountains, patiently awaiting the next lift while developing a deep philosophy of calm. Freedom: being only responsible for oneself, not worrying about plans since it’s only ourselves who will be screwed up if they fail.

Now that I’m travelling with another person, I’ve had some occasion to refine this view of what I like about being alone. It’s quite simple. I really just miss time for myself.

In our workshop, we stressed that travelling solo is not the best way to move for everyone, that one should be able and willing to be alone and that challenges can be all the more challenging if you have to face them for yourself. Now, I’d like to add the opposite perspective to this. Travelling with other people includes being around people a lot of your time, possibly all of it. In much the same way in which I use certain strategies to meet and socialise with people when travelling on my own, I need to develop ways to deal with people.

I’m not trying to say that I hate people (just look at all my rambles why I travel for people, not places), but I do struggle to secure my personal space, especially since this is sometimes seen as anti-social behaviour. If I didn’t have time on my own, I couldn’t write blog articles, I couldn’t even reflect the journey I’m on, and for me, this would mean only having loads of raw experiences while not learning from them.

Another thing that this short reflection made me realise is that I must have started behaving like a long-term nomad. When I’m on the road, I’m not too fussed about exploring all the sights I could possibly fit into my schedule. By now, it seems more important to me to take that time for myself, read a book, chill, do some boring admin. Since I spend nearly half my time on the move, I shouldn’t be surprised about this.

It’s also no surprise that I found my first strategy for caring for myself. It’s above all realising my own needs, then communicating them. Boring, really. But it helped a lot. And it turned out that my friend was really looking forward to some time on her own, too.

 

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Anarchy in Amsterdam.

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I love the red sofas and wall in this squat. Actually, I love almost everything about this squat. Coincidentally, it is also the first squat I’ve ever been to, or stayed in. Permit me the childlike excitement, but this place is just so cooool. A large house in Amsterdam that was taken over when the original owner had to go undercover abroad, this squat has been running for over ten years. Nine people live here permanently and the sofas in the living room as well as the especially designated guest room are constantly occupied. Everything is covered in edgy posters, art work, and left-wing propaganda.

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I always imagined the living conditions in squats as much more basic, but apart from the occasional bit of dirt or homemade piece of furniture, this just looks like a place in which people have had the chance to live and be creative. Seems like this is what “owning a space” is about. The kitchen cupboards are comfortably filled with organic staple foods and most things are communal, working on the trust that everyone will contribute.

Too bad that the Alternative Travel Gathering that put me up here in Amsterdam keeps me too occupied to write more. In some future time or parrallel universe, more stories will follow!

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