Friday, October 23

Lone Travelling

I was listening to the radio this morning where a lady was talking about her travels following the death of her husband.  Getting familiar with travelling on one's own can be a challenge, but it is something that I have done for a long time.

Strangely I started my solo travelling while I was married.  In 2005, I went to Ireland to do some research.  Alone.  I remember the fear that I experienced before I left - freaked out that I, alone, would travel from Brisbane to London, with stopovers in Auckland and Los Angeles, and in London I had to find my way to Gatwick for the flight to Dublin!!!!  In the week before I left, I was extremely stressed because a local publication that was to be launched just before I left was not completed and I worked day and night to have it ready!!!  Lack of sleep and fear resulted in a very stressed me!!!

However, when I boarded the plane at Brisbane, a great sense of relief came over me and I had a pretty uneventful time that lasted nearly four weeks.  I did my research and drove around Ireland on my own for a couple of weeks, and came home with a renewed sense of achievement and confidence.

Subsequently, just three years later, I set out to take on a teaching position in China.  I was on my own but had the friendship of the other foreign teachers at the university.  I went back three times, and one year I went to live in South Korea for three months for a teaching project too.
So I am familiar travelling on my own.  I went back to China last year and am going for a week in December too.  Alone.

Why not travel with someone? People often express concern about my solo travel, but I usually say, "Because I can do what I want!" It doesn't matter who I go with; I always feel that I am always comprising.  I have learned that few people are prepared to consult with the other traveller/s and make decisions that both/all are happy to book or do.

Let me explain some of my experiences.  On one occasion, I set out to travel to a major Chinese city with another Australian teacher.  Several weeks before we were to leave we sat down and worked out our travel and accommodation and we booked as we sat side by side at the computer and  used my credit card. 
 
I like to visit Bamboo Gardens - not everyone does!

Much to my surprise a few days later, she told me that she had made another booking as she had had second thoughts about the original hotel!!  I was a little miffed that she had not consulted me before she made the booking, but I said nothing.  

The trip was most interesting but dealing with her and her ways was the biggest challenge.  She didn't like the hotel when we arrived, and she made such a fuss over quite a few things.  
The return trip was a nightmare.  The plane was late due to a storm, and she was angry about it.  Nothing we could do about it and a waste of time getting angry.  When we arrived back at Hangzhou, we had to catch a taxi as the last bus had left.  She was angry that we had to pay double but I knew that the fee was high at that time of night as there would be no return trip for the driver. So she abused him about that.  And along the way he was on his mobile phone frequently - and she yelled at him about that.  He ignored her - he spoke little/almost no English anyway.   (I learned later that he was phoning the university to get directions as he did not know his way - the staff member being kept awake late as she was helping the driver reach our destination!)  I could almost write a book about travelling with her!
Paper making in Fuyang.

I have travelled with other people - I like company, but I find it hard as my companion will make decisions solo and expect me to obey their new "rule".  They don't consult with me - just tell me that they have changed their mind, or no longer want to do this or that.

Also as a photographer, I am always "dragging the chain" as I pause often to take a photo. On one occasion my travelling companion "ordered" me to take certain photos as she had forgotten her camera.  Grrr.

When I set out to drive around Australia in 2011, many friends offered to travel with me.  I was NOT looking for a companion - it was their idea that I should have one!  But there were conditions. " I like to sleep in until 9 am when on holiday", "I must be back by ...."  "I don't want to go to ......" "I like to go to a restaurant each night" and so on.  Luckily for me, and maybe for them, no one fitted into my plans and I set off on my own.

I don't think I am difficult - but I like to discuss/consult with my travelling companion and am prepared to compromise, but it has to be a roughly 50/50 thing.  I don't see that I should give in all the time!!!!!  And I don't like "surprises" - if I think I am going to place X and my companion decides alone that she wants to visit place Y, I like to be consulted in a timely manner, and not told that the plans have changed!!

Even the booking/planning can be difficult.  When my sister and I travelled in 2014, I paid all the accommodation up front and told her that I had paid and the amount.  Getting the money back was hard as she didn't realise I had paid for it - despite saying so, and she thought she could pay me via her credit card.  Well, no.   So I was out of pocket for longer than I had planned.

So I feel more comfortable travelling alone - and hope I made friends with folk as I go.








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