The Exploration of Self in the Solo Traveler’s Eyes

If you have walked down quiet streets with only the infrequent tourist or car, you know that the moments lend themselves to quiet reflection. Walking down streets that sometimes I know I will never get back to like in Tokyo or Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City give an even greater sense of the impact of the solo traveler as I walk. Its like touching yet not touching. Feeling for a moment a kindred spirit with the quiet blocks or tree lined country road. We are not one yet we travel through and we know that the road remains but even if we returned nothing would be the same.

I could walk that same small street in Hiroshima or Osaka and it would be different each time. This is a power thing that walking cities has. Cities are dynamic and agents of change too. You just cross over their boundaries and district and neighborhood lines but its ephemeral as you cross.

Combining with a camera that is quick to focus like the FujiFilm X100F and you can capture the things but wonder. Even doing so and getting that image from the walk does it persist? If you returned again, would not all the things be different including you?

Travelers impact but I think are impacted by the places they see. I like cities and their spirits and souls. Each one is different. The spirit of Hue and Hanoi are different but I have to say there is nothing like the spirit of Ho Chi Minh City. Its like a huge force of life that touches down with skyscrapers and temples and parks and lets us see how it will be that one day.

So I gently walk and see and wonder what each day has to bring. The inevitable questions have you been to tourist attraction A, B or C? I gently explain that I’m here for a long time and those things will come. We each let the sights and sounds touch us differently. For another person they only have 5 days here and then board the bus or plane and have a memory of those 5 days. Its all good! For me, I have a few months here. There is nothing to gain to seeing a thing tomorrow when what I really want is to see the city itself and gauge it, find its people, see the small shops lining the alleyways with little neon signs.

I come to the fork in the road and I can bear left or right and I wonder. Does it really matter which way I go? What is to the left I may never see because many of the places I have no idea how to get back to. What is to the right if I take that direction may be shady trees and lined parks and small coffee shoppes with “Hellos” coming out as I go. I get many smiles and “Hellos” from the children. But I’m just crossing their boundaries and will likely never see their shining faces again.

And that’s good for both. Each of us have to be agents of change. The solo traveler can touch only so much and perhaps leaves. For me, my goal is to live longer in a place and experience its change. I get that sense each time and I also learn just a bit about the street I live on.

Movement and moments are always good. Agents of change that let us travel through them and see the ordinary and the remarkable and capture them. They may be there tomorrow but we shall not. Other places call my feet to explore and the lefts and rights are rich. Just like the places I see.

Author: Michael Perry

I've been blogging for over 20 years and now am living in Southeast Asia. The blog is about my slow vagabonding wherever I want to go. My home base is in Cambodia but I'm rarely there.