As I sit and write this you'd be forgiven for thinking that my surroundings; rain falling gently onto the window and silence except for the hum of a distant radiator would scream 'isolation' or 'solitary existence.'
However, my current surroundings - unknown yet secure, to me allude no such feeling of separation or isolation. But instead, opportunity. A chance to regain some independent thinking, a state of calm, and a sense of individual comfort which can come with or without company.
For those who have an overzealous presence on social media, the opportunity for constant interaction and an accessible point of contact can help dispel any glimmer of feeling cut off from the world no matter where you are.
This digital solution to "isolation" can feel freeing. As Mark Corrigan so eloquently puts it, 'you're never alone with a phone', but even a digital native has the power to break away from the world of constant communication if they choose to. This is what I'm doing right now in the middle of Prague...on my own....yes, on my own....and my god it has never felt so good.
When it comes to travelling to and experiencing somewhere new, for a solitary wanderer the phrase "who are you going with?" can feel cumbersome. It did for me for the first trips I booked as I'd awkwardly laugh and shrug it off with an attempt at humour; "oh you know, me, myself, and I" while thinking deep down "oh...is travel something that needs to be shared? Should I be going with someone? Is that weird? Should I even care if it's seen as weird?"
And then you arrive at your destination, whether it be near, far, cold, or warm, and those thoughts flee your mind faster than it takes Ryanair to play their bragging 'we landed on time' fanfare. Because actually, going abroad and travelling to places you've always dreamed is not exclusively for couples or groups, it's for you as an individual too, and it definitely alleviates any 'what time shall we get to the airport?' stress to say the least.
Suddenly you throw your hands up in the air or at least I picture the hands up emoji in my head and say "you know what...I AM going abroad on my own and I really couldn't care less what people think" because after all, they're not joining you on that plane or train.
Now that isn't to say that I don't enjoy going away with my friends and family. I really do. Some of my most favourite trips have been with my loved ones, packed with experiences that only I'd appreciate with those people, and that's what I love about combining travel and friendship. Besides, going to Ibiza alone would have been an entirely different experienced.
But then there is also the other side of me, which craves a bit of breathing space, and as a word-loving writer, needs...which is thinking space. You don't have to have an internal monologue constantly on the go to enjoy being away from home and somewhere new. All you need is exactly that...being somewhere new, on your own.
Rewind 10 years and you'd see a freckly 14 year old awkwardly trying to learn the difference between the central line and the DLR, the district and the tubes and 'OH MY GOD WHERE DO THE BUSES STOP?!' on sporadic trips to London. But come back to the present and I'll be able to tell you of a time I danced on my own at a rock gig in central Stockholm, randomly met two people who it transpires went to the same university as me at the same time (three years prior to meeting) in Prague, and drank cheap beer (yes, there is a pattern emerging) with some of the loveliest Italians I've met in a back street market square in Palermo.
Travel is not just for couples. Travel is not just for families. Travel is not just for spontaneous weekends away with your friends, though all of the three I just mentioned are equally brilliant.
Because the way I see it? Travel is for anyone who has a burning desire to see the world. Travel is for anyone who wants to get lost in a new place but laugh it off and determine a solution and feeling happy when you eventually get back to where you're meant to be. Travel is for someone who wants to sit and dine themselves in the middle of nowhere. Travel is for someone who wants to escape the everyday comforts and throw themselves into the scents and sights of a place that is an everyday comfort to someone else. Travel is a way to breathe life into the ordinary and bring the unknown into you as a new-known. Travel is a way to make you feel like a temporary local in more than one place and consider all the history that occurred before you could even think or speak.
Travel, for me, is a sensory experience that can reach right into your core and remind you that you are in the here and now. Deadlines are forgotten, any ill-feeling is left behind, as you sit in a café scribbling poetry, opening and sniffing old books in quirky bookshops (just me?), and strolling through town taking pictures of puddles. Because for a split second you're in a challenging but insanely exciting situation that will flow through your veins every time you think of it days, months, and years after. And the best part is, you made that. You planned it. You decided on it. You made it happen. You.
You don't have to have a rigid itinerary, though knowing where you're sleeping each night is definitely advisable before you set off, but once you're there, that's it. That's where it begins. And you, on your own, can be completely and utterly selfish in choosing where you want to walk, what you want to see, what music you want to listen to, where you want to eat, and how late you want to stay out or sleep in.
Because lets face it, if you can't feel selfish sans guilt when you're on your own, map in hand, wandering around new roads that you've never even comprehended before, then really, when can you?Suggest a correction