Traveling alone is one of the best things you can do as a woman. It’s almost as if the positives and negatives go hand in hand. You have to consider your safety but that mindfulness forces you to build some character. Not having anyone to rely on, you learn to do things that you normally would have relegated to your partner, friend or mother. For example, I used to be awful at giving directions and it was a better option to ask a stranger on the street rather than have me read a map. Now, I am quite proficient at orienting us when we travel because I was forced to practice. I learnt to navigate street names and intersections because I had to find my way around in a strange place, often in the dark, slightly intoxicated and alone. The other benefit is that you challenge your preconceived notions about who you give the time of day. Being in a foreign country bonds individuals from different backgrounds together and it’s from these friendship that you recognize how distinctions enrich your life.
Being on my own also gave me the freedom to call all of the shots. I no longer had to consult another person and make concessions on film choices or the plans for an evening. Having been in a relationship since the age of 16 it was quite liberating. I ate alone and did not feel like a loser. But with all of that freedom from familial obligations came a whole lot of time and at some points boredom. Just like nothing good happens after 2 am nothing good comes from being idle. Lets just say that I went looking for some drama when it didn’t come a knocking. After I got that out of my system, I read a lot of books, drank some coffee, and sat in some air conditioned theatres to fill up the spaces and silences.
Within this context I spent many hours on my own. I still had my family of close friends with whom I connected with on a regular basis but this didn’t account for when I was traveling from site to site, researching and writing. Reflecting on it now there were several instances where I could have easily disappeared to never again see the light of day. But like with anything in life we roll the dice and hope for the good outcomes. I even took a romantic trip to Bali solo and ate breakfast in bed every single day. All of this is fine and good till several months into my time abroad I started preferring this state of solitude. The upside is that it’s rather peaceful to go days at a time not speaking to anyone. It was a whole lot less work that’s for sure. But when I started to view human interaction as a source of fatigue I knew I was on the precipice of some not so healthy tendencies. But there is a middle-ground between the extremes. There’s nothing worse than someone who cannot be fulfilled without some sort of social affirmation. The balance is just hard to achieve.
Please let me demonstrate the dangers of a hundred years of solitude. I recently saw a documentary called Guys and Dolls about men who buy life-size love dolls to serve as their companions. They speak to them, shower them with affection, perform sex acts and buy children’s clothes to dress them up. So, basically Lars and the real girl without Ryan Gosling to take the edge off. Now, there’s a politically correct reaction and a more honest one that I felt. Why don’t I give you both. PC: “well, that’s interesting.” Honest: “that’s some weird shit.” I have no problem with men owning dolls and I’m even fine with them assigning personality traits like meek, standoffish or traditional to them. We all have desires and enact them in various ways. Truly, I believe that as long as you’re not disrespecting or physically harming anyone there’s enough room for all of us. I am more uncomfortable with the motivations behind the ownership. Research indicates that many of these men have not been rejected by women and could probably have actual relationships, they would rather have a woman who will not speak back and whom they can fully control. They can’t achieve this with actual human beings with their flaws and multiplicities. I think that’s when your fantasies cross over to the slightly delusional and unhealthy side. When the uncertainty of life is a source of fear rather than excitement it might be time to ask yourself a few pertinent questions. In this life you cannot make anyone reciprocate your feelings or remain in love with you. Yes, people do leave but when this debilitates you it becomes kind of sad.
These stories are not be fetishized or gawked at. It’s a reality that we are continually becoming more disconnected and feelings of alienation can isolate the best of us. But perhaps instead of withdrawing completely to material cultures to cope it might be more fulfilling to try to make some contact. Join a drum circle, Amnesty international, a house league. Anything, just open the door and step outside.