Have you ever noticed that when there are two of you travelling together, that nobody offers tips on how to play those age old fun tourist games of ‘Which Way Up Is The Map’ or ‘Let’s Try That Direction’ … but when travelling alone, the locals willingly and regularly gift advice and smiles?
I frequently find silver linings when I observe my solitary glass is half full.
Flying solo allows me to go wherever I like, whenever I like and for as long as I like.
It’s the ultimate self-indulgence, with no need to apologise to a long suffering companion for another excess, to spend an entire afternoon aimlessly wandering through a park or walking in circles around a gallery that I accidently found when I first wandered left instead of right down an unknown back street while looking for the promised exotic aromas of a local produce market.
Travelling alone lets me eat when I choose; to dine out… or in; on previously untried local delicacies… or on welcoming home reminding comfort foods; on a plan… or on a whim. I don’t have to discuss it with anyone else… well, as long as my hotel has 24 hr room service.
‘And the earth becomes my throne. I adapt to the unknown. Under wandering stars I’ve grown. By myself but not alone…’
But travelling by myself can also bring out a few self-preserving, ‘little girl lost’ insecurities and fears:
- Is this airline I’ve never flown with before going to be better than flapping my arms astride a large fat duck?
- Am I standing at the right departure gate? I better check it for the fourth time in the last 10 minutes.
- A 6 hour marathon of Big Bang Theory in Chinese isn’t so bad? Ok, keep looking for the English translation button.
- Did I hear the heavily accented translation over the loudspeaker correctly and will I fall asleep in this Transfer Hall while I wait for my delayed connection?
- Will my tour guide still be waiting for me even though my connecting flight won’t arrive now until 2am in a place I’ve never visited, where I don’t speak their language and the alphabet may as well be hieroglyphics?
- Am I worried because there’s nobody on the front desk at the hotel I was booked into?
No, just follow my very patient guide into the thick, grey smog and around the corner to the hotel’s more expensive Big Brother and get out the visa card.
I wonder what health risks remain after an Air Quality Index reading of orange (unhealthy151-200) instead of green (healthy 0-50)?
- Should I have changed my hair from blonde? It just seems blonder, for some reason, today.
‘Less I have the more I gain. Off the beaten path I reign. Roamer, wanderer, nomad, vagabond…
Call me what you will…’
And so my new adventure has started!
I have arrived in Xi’an after 18 hours of travelling. I am tired but not from flapping my arms. I have spent my first day wandering around getting my bearings and now I’m looking forward to remeeting my guide tomorrow morning and visiting the Terracotta Warriors.