How I Lost The Desire To Travel Solo
Oh, I was once so independent, so footlose and fancy-free! I wanted to go on a trip — say, Paris; say, the Galapagos — and if I had no travel companion, that wasn’t going to stop me. On the contrary, the thought of striking it out on my own energized me.
I was younger then. I was either single or in a relationship, but not a very serious one. I am less young now and in a committed relationship, and the man I’m committed to happens to be an excellent travel companion. Not everyone is lucky to travel well with their partner, but I’m one of those more fortunate.
In the 12 years we have been together, we’ve traveled hand-in-hand to spots around the U.S., but also to France, Italy, Australia and the Philippines. Our shared memories of these adventures add another indelible dimension to our bond.
So when I was accepted into the Sirenland Writers Conference, which would take place in Positano, Italy, we had a bit of a dilemma.
Ken took a stand. As envious as he might be, he was convinced that he would be a distraction and he wanted more than anything for me to focus on writing and meeting new writer friends and getting everything out of the conference I could.
I understood his position and believed he was probably right. I’ve been to writers conferences before — albeit not in such a glorious setting — and they are intense, all-consuming experiences. I would miss him while there, but I’d be too busy (and, sometimes, drunk) to realize it most of the time.
My hesitation, though, came with the pre- and post-trips. Given the cost of airfare and the fact that (uncharacteristically) I had the time, I decided I may as well tack on a couple of sidetrips: three days in Capri beforehand, three days in Rome afterward.
It was in Capri where I realized that the thrill of traveling solo, for me, has shriveled up and died.
It was off-season on that breathtaking island, blissfully quiet, and most of my time involved walking for miles along desolate paths and roads hugging a coastline that at every turn offered up a startling vista of sea and sky and rock and foliage more magnificent than the last. In the face of such majesty, there is nothing to do but turn to the person at your side and whimper in stunned appreciation.
No one stood at my side this time, though. And it wasn’t just anyone I missed now. The bittersweet moment evoked an actual, physical pang in my chest. That this beauty should not be shared with him — the disappointment shook me with the force of tragedy.
So what I did was, I took pictures. Dozens and dozens of them. I would capture this, damnit, and I would email the photos to Ken and it would be like he had been there, sharing these moments with me.
A camera is not an eye, though. Nor is it a heart.
That night, I sent two postcards home to Ken, two different views of breathtaking Capri. I sent him a postcard every day of my trip — after Capri, there was Positano and then Rome. In all these places, a dozen times a day, I set my eyes on a breathtaking landscape or feasted on an amazing meal or felt moved by the pealing of ancient church bells. I didn’t have to write that I missed him. He knew that already, as I knew he missed me.
I’d been proud once of what I considered my free spirit, my willingness to tackle whatever came my way all on my own. I can still do that, but apparently I no longer want to.
By Jude Polotan
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