Receive LOVE in your mailbox

Try our weekly newsletter with amazing tips to bring and retain love in your life

I Traveled Alone… And It Depressed Me

My social media feed is full of people who are probably trying too hard to evince that the topmost ‘need’ in Maslow’s hierarchy pyramid can be fulfilled by traveling. Now, don’t get me wrong – I am all for travel. In fact, I love the idea of waxing lyrical about philosophy, admiring art for hours on end, spouting Dickensian conceits in cafés, digging up the cultural treasures of people who live on the other side of the world, and falling in love with strange climes that seem so much like my own! When you rip a bong of being at one with nature, scooting over to unknown lands, navigating new cultural landscapes, embracing a different tongue, and running into countless faces that are but a rich tapestry of the emotions that are universal, you wake each morning with a pounding hangover that you can’t wait to carry home – sandwiched between exhilarating tales of your adventures!

girl outdoors

Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

My problem, however, is the way this rather exciting prospect of traveling is being marketed. When you are bombarded with lush photos of your friend, colleague or simply, an acquaintance going snorkeling, standing at the Emily Dickinson museum, or even finding inspiration in Michelangelo’s birthplace, with some ‘inspirational’ caption – you begin to wonder if you, too, should have packed your art supplies and left for Italy years ago. As pointed out earlier, there is a Maslow-nian undertone in the aspirational p*rn that our social media feed feeds us – and my problem is with the way we consume it.

Sure, it would be great to go scuba diving in Florida or go backpacking across Europe, maybe even catch a great re-run of Turandot or Anything Goes at Sydney Opera House, and get yourself inked on the way to the airport – but is it all worth it – when I am consuming this whole delicious spread ALONE? I guess it will only give me an upset stomach.

Suggested read: Never be sorry about your emotional baggage

Alright, I know, I know – you are up in arms already – and will tell me that to travel alone is precisely the point of the whole self-actualization process. Umm… bulls**t! This whole hullabaloo about dropping everything, quitting that unsatisfying job, soaking up the beauty of the world when you are young and untethered to do it and so much more, vis-à-vis traveling alone, is nothing short of a bad platter, which when consumed looks all-so-inviting, but will give one an upset stomach and perhaps, a bad appetite for well-cooked dishes on the travel platter. And before you dismiss the whole thing as my usual ranting diatribe – take a look at the proof.

Lured by the tempting tales of travel packaged in inspiring bundles of self-discovery – I decided to go traveling alone. This was two years ago. I imagined spending my days bathing in the beat subculture, meeting interesting people, drinking off the cups of art, poetry, and music, and planning out my itinerary as per the dictates of the ‘spontaneous, free, and liberal’ super-woman I set out to be. I had planned a pretty small trip, that given the ‘grandiose travel buffet’ I was rapidly devouring, soon morphed into a long vacation. Needless to say, I was excited beyond words for my first ever solo trip.

girl traveling

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

If only traveling alone was as exciting as it is made out to be! Life isn’t Eat, Pray, Love, and I am no Julia Roberts! And I do not want to expound upon the possible dangers of a woman traveling alone – of being out in the wind on her own – coz really THAT is matter for another discussion. I will only tell you of why traveling alone depressed me and made me retreat into an ice cavern, refusing to come out and see the sun ever.

girl in the sun

Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

For one, all glorious dreams about meeting amazing people came crashing down coz let’s admit it folks, it’s the digital age. When you have Siri and GPS, attempts to ask directions from people usually fetch some curt responses! Plus, everybody is so busy with their back-breaking quotidian jobs or their not-so-hep personal lives (well, mostly) that they do not have the time to sit and chat the day away with a woman traveling alone! It just reminds them of what they aren’t doing, you know (relate back to the feeling that kicks in when you see those travel pic on your feed; get my point? Good)! Of course, you meet other solitary travelers but they, too, are a bunch of mildly interested travelers with a bulging rucksack, map/phone in hand, and a harried look on their faces.

Suggested read: Why being single isn’t as scary as dating!

This dream, then, quickly flared from fun to boring. When you have to spend hours taking the train/bus/boat/plane to reach places that are a must-visit, those long rides without any companion very quickly turn dull. And NO, no attempt to begin small talk with co-passengers, especially if language is a barrier you are trying to overcome with a translator in hand, is going to reap fruit. So, on most occasions one has to be content with snoozing on rides and snuggling up with a good book back in your dorm room. My takeaway – experiences become meaningful only when they are shared. Two years later, I am the only one who knows my trip and I only keep replaying events that’d have been great had X been there or Y been there!

woman thinking

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

The next case in point was the efficiency of such an exercise. Unless you have won a genetic lottery and have no qualms about returning to a job that allowed you this respite, you’d pretty much be looking to gather as many ‘experiences’ as you can in those limited ticks of the clock. Unfortunately, traveling alone isn’t going to give you that. When I chipped in all the precious wads I had earned by slaving all year, working overtime, and even discounting on a few urgent wishes to take that 7 day trip to Paris – I wanted my time-bound trip to give me the ‘outcome’ I had in mind when I set out to travel alone!

But forget all the cr*p about self-discovery – here’s the cost-benefit analysis – I knew just how much money, time, and effort had gone into making this possible, and yet, when I was travelling without a companion and had a plan in hand, I fell prey to taking a 7-hour detour to watch the babbling brook my new ‘friend’ at the airport told me was ‘AWESOME!’ Yes, as if he were speaking in capitals! And that this detour cost me my time at the Louvre is a regret I will have forever. If I were traveling with my own peers, our expectations about what we’d find exciting and engaging would be in sync vis-à-vis meticulous planning and I’d be less susceptible to such detours! My lesson – efficient travel comes of collaborative effort. There is a reason travel expectations and their realization can be effectively managed through team effort.

My next contention is precisely the thing that bugs me about the ‘travel-mania’ so much. When one is traveling solo and possibly, is a gifted photographer with a remote release shutter camera, the pics might still be of places one has visited. And that is okay, but still not enough – not in my books, anyway! You want the clicks to be your exclusive memories, right? And what do you opt for, then? Duck face selfies!!!! Eeewww! I splurged so much for this trip, invested precious time into this, and couldn’t share the memories with a buddy – or a camera! I didn’t have anyone for those quick captures which’d have been more brilliant and many more in number had I somebody else to rely on than a camera on timer! I came back home with those handful of captures and a lot of grainy front-cam phone pics that I am too embarrassed to show people! So, I guess what I am trying to drill is, solo travel = a trip full of selfies! And to me, THAT is yuck!

girl contemplating (2)

Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

Some of the best times of adventure travels are in the company of booze. And boy, do I need to tell you this – you don’t want to be the sad loner in a corner with light beer! Taking some friends, downing those pitchers, and jumping in the center of all the brouhaha to be the life of the party would have been fun! But nope, I didn’t have a single familiar face with whom I could clink glasses with and there is nothing sadder than drinking alone! My wonky work hours (two years ago) took care of the fact that I remained sad for 359 days a year! Which is why it was even sadder that I couldn’t make these 7 happy – with buddies and beer!

And last, there is something when you have the power of numbers with you. Not only would you have to not be ‘always-on-the-alert’ for charlatans, honey-pots, tricksters, peddlers, fraudulent vendors, and guides, but also not be a voyeur to everybody else on vacation and feel more sad about your life. I mean, after an immensely harrowing case with the charity signature collectors in Paris, an evening at Eiffel tower with amorous couples all around isn’t likely to cheer you up, is it? First hand knowledge!

Suggested read: On our 50th wedding anniversary, dear husband, I want to…

Which is why I know, for sure, that traveling alone is a ‘thing’ I am never going to do again. There is no introspection, reflection, enlightenment or any of those idyllic things happening on a solo trip! All that happens is depression. I have nobody who knows the tale, so it remains sealed in me and dies with me, I cannot undo it.  I didn’t realize any Maslow-nian tenet and worse, I wore a frown to office for two weeks after that trip!

And that when my smile’s really pretty! At least, one soul thinks so – and I am taking a trip to Paris with him, this New Year’s! :)

Featured image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

Article Name
Traveling Alone Kinda Depressed Me
Lured by the tempting tales of travel packaged in inspiring bundles of self-discovery, I decided to go traveling alone. It was the worst decision ever!
Sejal Parikh

Sejal Parikh

"I'm a hurricane of words but YOU can choose the damage I do to you..."