>I’ve been wanting to blog about this for the longest time but life was going on around me too much for me to sit down and reflect and write.
I want to write about my trip to Japan a month ago – feels like a lifetime ago already. But I’ve still got some commercial stuff to sort out so specific trip reports will take a bit longer to post.
For now though, I’d just like to put some thoughts down on my solo travel adventure.
The very first trip I took on my own was when I was 21, on a flight to Melbourne. I stayed there for a month with my aunt who became like a second mother to me. So does that count as solo travel? Not quite right?
Since then, every trip I’ve taken has been with my KH – best pal and other half – who has taken very good care of me on all our trips. When I consider that he’s the guy who writes up the packing list, packs our backpacks and does our laundry, I wonder if I should just pack him in my luggage with me. But then again, he’s also the same guy with whom I’ve had some memorable rip-roaring fights on those trips too. Never a dull moment!
But now, it looked like I would be on my own in Japan. For two days after the Disney junket, I would be alone. It was only two days. Big deal right? But to me, it was a big scary deal. I had not done this alone before. I had not gone on a business trip, let alone a solo trip. No one to talk to, no one to remind me of the essentials (like my meds, as KH always faithfully does) and no one to share my mistakes and wrong turns.
You’ll be okay, KH reassured me. You know Japan. You know your way around.
He kept telling me that until 5am that rainy morning when I left the house for the airport. I left with a big stone in my chest – one loaded half with fear and half with exhilaration.
Luckily, I travelled with a nice bunch of reporters and I had a long-lost friend to catch up with. Helped me feel more grounded and a lot safer. The Disney portion helped ease me into solo travel.
For once, I had a whole room to myself. I could soak in the tub for as long as I liked after a day of walking in the parks and I did not have to contend with kids chasing me out for their own soaking! I could surf the internet past midnight and not have KH nag. I could have a decent complete meal with adult conversation without having to cut up meat for a little one or referee a fight.
Did I miss the children? Yes, in that I wished I could share my experience, let them see what I am seeing as well. Hence my videos at Tsukiji and Honke Bankyu. (To add, when Gillian saw the videos, she said my narration made it seem as if I was narrating to them there and then – as indeed was the case. I wanted to show them exactly what I was seeing) But at the same time, I relished my freedom from the mummy role. Does that make me a bad mummy? Or am I sending myself on another self-imposed guilt trip? Maybe there is a time and space for life to happen and maybe now at this point in my life, this is where I would like to be. Could there be room for all my roles? I would like to think so.
When I left Disney to venture into Tokyo and further, all I felt was a sense of confidence and familiarity – I knew how to navigate the train ticket machines with ease, I could find my way to the hotel and check in with no problems. The fear, the trepidation, apprehension – all vanished. Even a drunk lurching towards me at the hotel reception did not faze me – the savvy staff of the Villa Fontaine caught him a quick second before he could sway onto me.
Yes, I wished I had someone to talk to at times, or marvel at the scenery together, or soak in the ambience at the Honke Bankyu, a setting so ripe for romance. And certainly, when my shoulders ached and the backpack felt too heavy, how I wished KH was there.
And of course, there was the dilemma of photo-taking. No one to take photos of me. Or I of them. In Disney, with a princess for company, I took many pictures. Of her. But on my own, there was nobody. I resorted to putting on a smile, sign language and asking strangers to take my picture – with the train, next to a town mascot, in a bus. They always did. Bemused that I was travelling alone but gamely obliging. I always returned the favor though and volunteered to take pictures for them. And when there was no one around, I did the loony thing and took my own self-portraits.
All that aside, I don’t think I was ever homesick or oppressively lonely and longing for company. How could I, when there were the long train rides where I wrote in my journal, listened to music, ate onigiri, drank Coke and looked out the window and just day-dreamed?
Perhaps being alone, after being surrounded by noise and movement and activity in my large family day after day, was like manna to one who had not known she was hungry? I said before that I think Japan is a place well-suited for solitude, as if there was a sense of deep loneliness that I found familiar, that appealed to me. And so it was. Being alone did not feel alien or frightening. Instead, I enjoyed it greatly, navigating my way around and making my own decisions. At times I felt so free as if I could just soar, and perhaps, never come back.
I feel like I came into my own skin back in Japan. Its another part of me I never thought I’d be brave enough to find. Included now, with my other identities as mother and wife and worker drone, is now a sense of newfound independence as a traveler. And rather like an addict, trapped in the rush of sensations of a trip, so have I too been caught up in the seductiveness of solo travel. Like a really bad itch, I long to do this again. And now, back in the humdrum of everyday life, I miss it greatly.