Saturday, 31 March 2012

on traveling alone

PhotobucketFrom the bus, on the way back to Montreal from Quebec City. March, 2012. 

Today I went to Quebec City. :) It was one of the best days I've had so far. And not in the typical touristy I-managed-to-see-a-lot-of-places accomplished sort of way. In fact, I really did take my time when we were let loose to roam around in the afternoon for about 3 hours after the formal tour ended before the tour bus driver would take us back to Montreal. I spent most of the free time eating a leisurely lunch and not very long after, taking my time with a scrumptious almond and chocolate croissant at a bakery. (I'm in love with that flavor now!) Not really what the ideal tourist should do I suppose, given such a short amount of time to see things, but I'm of the opinion that if you can't take your time to enjoy things, might as well not bother. Thus my aversion to the Louvre. Because there's no way you can finish the entire place even if you give yourself an entire day. But I'm going on a tangent here. 

On the bus ride back, I started thinking about this whole idea of traveling alone. It's something that's been on my mind for quite a while now since that's essentially what I'm doing at the moment. I'm here in Montreal for my elective for about 2 months and apart from the 5 days that my mum spent with me before my elective began, I've pretty much been doing things alone. I'm lucky to have found a really great roommate whom I think I'll be getting to know a lot better in the next month since we're planning on going for desserts and to some restaurants to get our middle eastern cuisine (we actually have similar tastes! >:D) fixes. But apart from her, there haven't been people I've been meeting to go out for meals with. Not yet at least, and I must admit, it's also in part due to my own passivity in inviting people to go out. 

But you know what? I've really been alright by myself. :) I know some of my classmates are the sort who can never imagine traveling alone and I know this because so many of them gave the same sort of jaw-drop/surprised gawk when they asked who I was going to be in Montreal with and I cheerily replied, "No one!". For me, these past few weeks have really allowed me to know myself a lot better. Or at least, for the thoughts I've always vaguely felt inside to have really manifested to the surface in a more coherent form. There are of course, moments when I've felt this desire to be with someone I know JUST SO I can look at a familiar face, smile, laugh and chat about the incredible moment that we both experienced together. I felt it most strongly after watching a fantastic play called, The Leisure Society, in this beautiful, cosy theatre that was perfect for an intimate sort of performance. It was so good and it even included some nudity which I was surprised by (but not bothered) and would have liked to have giggled over it with somebody. So there are indeed those moments when I wish I could be with someone/ the people who mean the most to me just so I can share these incredible experiences with them.  

At the same time, there are also times like today when I feel so incredibly happy just to be by myself. Over lunch, I read A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'engle, which I know, is really meant to be a children's book but it was SO GOOD. I've always heard about that it was good and I think another one of my favorite books, The Time Traveler's Wife, might have referenced it (?) but I simply never got around to reading it. I'm not used to reading science fiction/fantasy very much because it can be so challenging to suspend that level of belief for the course of the book. But every single time I read a good piece of science fiction/fantasy, I'm so drawn in. This was no different. And I enjoyed every moment of reading it over lunch, keeping warm with hot tea, feeling happy with a tasty meal of croque monsieur (ham and cheese croissant! but in this case it came out as a baguette). I just had a feeling that if I could spend weekends in the future, reading while having tea or over lunch at cafes... I would be really happy. Something simple but also rewarding. I love how comforting books can be and how within a split second of flipping open a book to a page of words, you can be transported off to another world altogether. Certainly helped with this 3 hour bus ride there and back today. 

A part of me also feels that I should really treasure this period of being able to do more things by myself because really, will I ever get the chance to travel alone for such an extended period in the near future? Possibly, but unlikely. Travel with friends and family is going to be top on the list for any sort of travel and it makes sense for it to be that way too. But there's something so liberating about traveling and being alone that makes me feel happy/relieved that I'm the sort of person who's able to feel comfortable with myself. I can take as long as I want in a clothing/bookstore/design store (probably 3 of my favorite types of stores ;D) (and that can really amount to a LOT of time) looking, feeling, browsing, walking around in circles appreciating things over and over in that small space... I can't imagine doing the same with another person, regardless of how patient that person is. 

I suppose one thing that sort of struck me recently is how wanting to explore new places through travel is something I enjoy and crave doing so much not just because it's so much fun but also because it's a way for me to assert my own unique-ness. Modern Family's Mitchell said it so well. There was an episode in season 2 where Manny's feeling sad because he wasn't invited to a classmate's sleepover and well, he's always had problems with being different since he's from Colombia and everything. And Mitchell turns to him (in full funky tribal anorak glory) and says, "This is the funny thing about growing up. For years and years, everybody's desperately afraid to be different in any way. And then, suddenly, almost over night, everybody wants to be different." I felt it to be such a true statement. I feel it applies to so much of what I do and sometimes it's not even something I do consciously. It's almost as if I just don't want to be tied down to any one specific thing that I'm supposed to be good at. 

Along those lines, I don't mind traveling alone because it's not something that everyone would do and thus, it makes me more unique. Something that I can sort of feel proud of given that not everyone would be comfortable with being by themselves in a new place. But it is precisely because it's special and not everyone would do it, that it also can become lonely. I suppose it's such a basic statement but it was sort of a eureka moment when I thought through it in my head. The same thing applies for practically everything in life in which we strive to achieve excellence in. Everyone wants to be exceedingly good at something so that they can be different from each other and have something they can call their own. People want to get to the top position because that's where the recognition and status lies. But in differentiating yourself from other people, you end up alone. And with that, I can only say that it just depends on which area of life you want to differentiate yourself in. For me, I'd rather do something different that defines me, as a hobby, rather than a job, because I'd like to work with more people :). One reason why I'd never gun for a top commanding position. It can be lonely at the top. 

Sometimes though, when I'm in a public place such as a restaurant by myself, I do often fall prey to the rather self-centered thought of -- "What does everyone think of me?" As I tell the waiter, "table for 1 please" and get ushered into a seat by myself, I do sometimes wonder what other people around me think about me eating alone. Or even other things like taking a tour alone. Haven't we all, at one point or another, looked over at someone else sitting alone at a table and think, Aww poor thing. Hope he has someone to go to at home later on. But it really depends on how they look. ;p Because if it's a young female like me, reading a book, I think, COOL. Kindred spirit! If it's an old man who looks rather haggard and isn't smiling or entertaining himself with a book or phone or anything, I often get a sinking feeling of pity in my stomach when really, I shouldn't feel that way because, that's just a different version of me! 60 years older and after a sex-change. There's really no point in judging people based on their appearances in such situations. It's not all about us. I'm pretty sure hardly anyone will be focusing on someone who's dining alone unless they are really bored with their dinner partner. In which case, which is worse eh? So to anyone who has a fear of eating alone in public because you're afraid of feeling embarrassed, I say, no one is really going to care. And once we let go of that concern about how we appear to others, we can finally start learning to be comfortable with others and enjoy our own company. 

Surprised by the first lengthy post? :) I am. But I wanted to get these feelings out into the world. For quite a while already. Or void more like. Not sure if anyone's actually made it all the way to this part of the post but if you have, I would love to hear what your feelings are about this. That said, I say that for a lot of posts but hardly anyone comments! O.o 

Too lazy to go through the Quebec photos tonight but sooooon. They will come soooooon! :) Along with Montreal ones so far. Unfortunately I do have to work on a presentation tomorrow (SOBBERSSS!) for which I have been procrastinating SO BAD this past week. I hope I can finish it entirely tomorrow and then relax after that over the next few days. Next week is the end of my first posting and then I'm taking a weekend trip to Toronto! :D To finally spend time with some friends. Looking forward to that <3


  1. I spend most of my time alone in London too and it's not as bad as people make it out to be! Totally with you on that being passive about asking people out for meals hahaha. I'm so lazy like that.

    You seem to be enjoying Montreal! Too bad you didn't pick London :/

    1. Haha I'm lazy too >< Well, especially since I know I'm not gonna permanently reside here too (or at least for now heh). Montreal is one of the best places I've ever visited!! X)) haha but yeah oh man London is such an awesome city too... there are too many places that I'd like to travel to/live in. <3<3<3