On Earth Day I took the train into Boston to go to a free Earth Day concert near the New England Aquarium, and this lady on the T (the Boston-area commuter train/subway, to the uninitiated) started talking to me. The bulk of our conversation was about faith and God--turns out she lives in the environs of the City, is Jewish and goes to a Unitarian Universalist church. It was pretty interesting, and I haven't had one of those random chats with someone I didn't already know, in a long time, so I enjoyed it. But that isn't actually the topic of this post. Along with this woman's curiosity about my "religion," she was fascinated and impressed that I would go to a concert by myself. She was middle-middle-aged, had been married before but had been single for quite some time, but she confessed she never went and did anything unless she had a group of friends to go do it with.
It wasn't that I hadn't invited other people to go, of course, but when everyone declined (or just ignored the invite) I still wanted to go to it, so I just went. Sometime around that time I got together one evening with a friend from church and told her that I'm going to Quebec on vacation. I had wanted to visit Dave and Sister-in-Lu and TWCN and Patrick in Jerusalem, but finances and timing and other logistics weren't lining up right, so I googled "pet-friendly hotels," found an adorable-looking and affordable one in Baie St. Paul, Quebec, and booked myself (and Oscar) in for four nights.
"Who are you going with?" my friend asked.
"Oscar," I said.
"You're going by yourself?" she exclaimed. "I don't think I could ever do that!" At present, she is single, too.
I admit, most of the time when I travel, I go where I know someone, stay with them and get to know their area from a local's-eye view. This suits me very well. I get to see people I care about and I get to see a place from a slightly different angle than the normal tourist traps. Hopefully my hosts find this arrangement acceptable, too. If they don't, they're all very good liars.
But there have still been times when I've struck off on my own. It isn't, in any case, something I think twice about anymore. I remember having recently moved to London and first visiting Oxford. I did have a friend there to go see, but she was a student and so she had classes and appointments and things, and I was taking a day off, which meant I had a lot of solo-wandering time. At first I didn't like that; I kept fantasising about a nonexistent "special someone" to wander along Addison's Walk with me . . . or at least my family of origin to enjoy the C.S. Lewis haunts with.
But they weren't there, and the special someone continued not to exist, and eventually, starting that day and spanning across my time of living in the UK, I discovered that there is something truly enjoyable about traveling by myself. I can meander as slowly or march as quickly as I want. There's no one else around to get bored or to tell me I'm walking too fast for them (something I get a lot . . . it's a height thing). I can keep company with my own thoughts . . . and actually do some praying, too. I can go into a shop that "becuriouses" me and not worry about someone else thinking it looks weird or dumb or just hating shopping.
It's not to say I wouldn't enjoy having a travel partner. I had actually invited Dear Friend Paulina on this trip, and would have liked having her company. But I think I'm equally happy having the time and the auberge and the exploring to myself. I guess what I'm saying is that I like that I like going off and doing these things by myself as well as with people. I have spent most of my adult life wishing to be married and actually being single, but there are times, like right now, when I'm really happy that I've been single this long so that I've learned not to be afraid to go off and do what I feel like doing, instead of waiting around and wishing I had someone else around to validate my expeditions and interests.