That ghastly pink tinged day of the year is upon us. From the shared consumption of prix fixe (and sub-par) delights at overbooked restaurants to the equally cringe-worthy anti-Valentine's events stirring up the social calendars of the meta-aware singletons - the day always has an impact. No, in the following paragraphs I will not anchor a judgemental rant on either of these extremes. I will, however, share with you my intrigue around the two words I constantly hear:
I love traveling and photography. The sort of traveling I do goes a bit beyond buying the latest Lonely Planet to a Top 10 destination and obsessively highlighting streets, outlining itineraries with a military precision and setting alarm clocks for 8am (lest one misses the precious croissant at the B&B).
I like to get lost in cobbled medieval streets (the caruggi) in Genoa, decide on a whim to descend several hundred metres to a blindingly bright, crevassed glacier using no equipment, at the mercy of rickety steel ladders bolted onto sheer granite cliffs in France. I like to 'read' maps in Cyrillic by associating known sounds to symbols followed by a crude extrapolation. I make friends with random Ukrainian students merely through what appears to be a universally shared passion for Pendulum and buy strangely deformed strawberries in a Kyvian supermarket - only to be told later that they might be laced with radioactive soil (I doubt this). I would tell these stories and a thousand more only to hear the two words in response. Sure, there will be further enquiries but the necessary prelude - always, the "Who with?"
I stopped analysing a long time ago if the question was an enviously malicious put-down or a genuine, earnest search for content. Either way the answer is usually, "No one. Just me." And those words fuel me. The thought of picking up the phone and asking my partner/friends if they fancy a day-trip to an obscure, icy Norwegian fjord has never occurred to me. For some reason, suggesting a spontaneous weeklong, casino-less holiday in Vegas - driving through the Mojave and taking action shots of tumbleweed, day-tripping to the Canyon may also not appeal to my friends nor my dates.
Not that I've ever asked them.
Most of my holidays end up in a story. Perhaps I'm just smugly content with my own company or maybe the very real fear that dragging someone to be part of my experience would make it a watered down, tepid crawl towards the average.
No. Just no.
"Oh, but how lame is it to be walking down the Riviera in Cote d'Azur all by yourself. Surely it would be nice to share that glorious sunset with someone?" say my friends. To this I have no ready retort. It's as absurd to me - this idea of shared pleasures - as if someone were to tower over me whilst I sip my medium roast coffee and read my Sunday paper. One set of visual faculties and just one brain supporting these seems adequate for simple pleasures. Or maybe I'm just missing something.
My principles are supported by Aristotelian ideas on Pleasure. He believed that,
When one is active about two things at once; the more pleasant activity drives out the other, and if it is much more pleasant does so all the more, so that one even ceases from the other.
I would like to think my desire for a oneness on holidays/general merriment is nothing special - just a mechanism to purely enjoy that what I set out to do. You might be better than me at navigation, may come in handy for lugging my photography equipment or may actually speak the language of the land - all very useful traits to have in a holiday companion. However, you'll still be one extra character in my very strict equation.
You could've stopped me from wearing heels on the cobbled streets or perhaps taken all the romance away from my Cyrillic map-reading by using your smartphone's self-righteously generous international data-roaming plans. Or maybe, just maybe, you'd have started the conversation with the Ukrainian youth professing your appreciation for Kanye West, thereby costing me a friendship. An experience.
No. Just No.