I am, as regular readers of the cornucopia of Richard-related writing that is this blog will know, off to do some downtime and backpacking of our northern neighbour, Mozambique, in December. Travel (especially the dirty, off the beaten track variety) being something of a terminal affliction of mine, further compounded by an upbringing which has left me relatively godless (in the bible bashing, clichéd sense of it), I will be skipping Christmas in an attempt to spend as much time as possible seeing and doing a different world altogether.
I am joined later on in the trip by Jonathan, my brother, Claire and Katherine (who, despite my prodding, has not yet begun to blog), meeting up at a backpackers in Maputo on the 27th and then exploring onwards from there. From the 22nd or so until that point, I will be roaming around by myself and seeing what I can see in that period. While travelling with others offers its own rewards – especially when the company is well-chosen, funny as hell and easygoing – I am finding myself increasingly excited about the solo travel part of the trip as well. While I am blessed to have some of the most downright entertaining and exciting travel buddies that I could wish for, and am looking forward to all sorts of adeventuring and nonsense, there remains something exciting about solo adventuring that travel in a group can never capture.
In solo travel exists a sense of being part of the surroundings, of swallowed up by the world you are walking through, which is generally never present in group travel. As a group, you immedately establish a rapport with each other, a set of relationships and (in this case) witty repartee which survives within the surroundings you are travelling. In the tough times, this can be a lifesaver – to be able to retreat into a comfortable space of rules you know and dealing with people and a social environment you understand. At other times, however, being comfortable in the familiar intellectual world of one’s friends can detract from being a part of the world you are seeing during your travels.
Traveling alone offers no such refuge. Your conversations must necessarily be with strangers and are generally not yours to control, as they might be in the company of friends. Where travel offers the opportunity to grow and challenge yourself, that blessing is only realised to the degree that you are willing to reach outwards to others, to strangers, and become a part of the world you are moving in. While it makes it tougher to hide in the familiar, travelling by yourself gives you no choice but to extend and share of yourself with new places and people.
It’s a little bit tougher, but you get what you give.