It was back in 2009 through about 2011 that I traveled for work. I went to India about every three months until 2009. Then the company asked me to go for a longer time to prepare a major software launch on new hardware. I lived in Chennai for about 7 months that year. Had side trips to Singapore each time that the company paid for. Also stopped in Japan and toured around Tokyo. At the end of 2009 went to Hanoi and Singapore again. In 2010 more trips solo to India, Japan, Singapore. Then the company closed the India office and that basically signaled my departure. In 2011 I went to Sydney, Singapore, Chennai, and Kyoto and then…
It all stopped.
I stopped traveling because of a few reasons. None to bore you with here though. Instead this is a story of solo traveling to many places and things I’ve learned doing it for work and play. There are two main things for me traveling solo.
Thing 1. Train travel is much better than flying or driving. Trains are not about the destination but the getting there which for the solo traveler in me was good. I trained all over it seems like but still not enough. I took train trips to Mysore, Kyoto, all around Tokyo if you count subways, and then on amtrak here to Eugene, Portland, down to Los Angeles, Santa Barbara. Train travel for the solo traveler is the best. When I solo travel on trains there are no rules. There are no impatient feet tapping on the passenger side of the car. Asking the inevitable questions. There are no surly passengers pardoning themselves and squeezing into seats not meant for them. Why is it that I sit next to truly large people on flights? Train travel for the solo traveler replaces all this with a slower and saner pace where you do not count the miles or hours left or ask for location services. The train dispels all that and replaces it with the soothing beat of wheels turning on tracks and an observation car that lets you… Observe.
Thing 2. I walk when I travel. I pick out cities to go investigate because I want to walk in them solo. I don’t want someone asking me if I should turn that next quiet street in Tokyo or walk back up to the bridge in Sydney. I set out on a day of solo walking in solo travel mode to simply see. Not be bothered with strides and miles and complaints about distance or weather. I don’t care if it rains in this Thing. Rain is fine and sun is good. A mall in Kyoto cools me off and feeds me a huge bowl of noodles while another in Portland when it was in the high 90s had an ice rink and cooled me off. So I excel at thing 2 on my own. Walking and seeing and stopping for a beer at a brewpub I carefully select. Like sitting in Deschutes Brewery in Portland and studying. Watching that next table almost surreptitiously. That family laughing and eating. I always remember the fractured family I have and ask the same question when I do Thing 2. Do I miss it? Yes and No. But saying yes to missing it does not mean I want it back. That other thing was broken and those years after 2011 until 2014 with no travel hurt me. Thing 2 could not be done.
Now I dream of a trip. The mother of all trips. That one after work finishes for me and me in my waning years transports back to Japan. Perhaps on a ferry boat to Shanghai from Osaka or a train ride to Hong Kong. Maybe a hunkering down in Malaysia or Thailand and living. Seeing and doing both Thing 1 and 2.
I need both of them. I have this work thing but I don’t have either of the things now. I will take vacation though in January and do one or both of the things. Hopefully both. Solo travel means getting back to sitting in Terminal 3 in Changi with no place to really go and all day to get there. Watching the other travelers bothered and frustrated as I sipped a latte and watched. The dreamer in me dreams and the realist figures. I’ll go again because Thing 1 and 2 await my pleasure and I cannot let them go. I’ll travel to Austin Texas on Amtrak so I get a fix. Its a narcotic that travel and I am going through withdrawals. It hurts for this traveler.