Have you ever travelled alone? What was it like? Did you find out something new about yourself? Did you come home with a new perspective?
I’d love your advice and insight into what to expect when being alone for the first time.
It’s a poorly kept secret that I have a love affair with Japan. Specifically Hokkaido. Even more specifically Mt. Yotei. She is a mountain (a volcano to be exact) that stands taller and more beautiful than everything around. She is utterly mesmerising in her solitude.
My family has been travelling to this paradise for over twelve years and I feel my heart swell with emotion every time the plane touches down.
Yet, Japan has always been a place I’ve enjoyed with other people. The kids love the outdoor lifestyle and variety of adventures we go on at different times of the year. We love catching up with the friends we have made and those who are discovering this magical place for the first time.
At the end of August I am heading off again. This time on my own, with the hope that the beautiful scenery and solitude of the mountain landscape will facilitate some intensive writing– because working from home with a family is easy… said no one ever.
As I ponder how I’ll structure my days it occurs to me that this is a very different trip from anything I have done before. I will be alone. Of course, I’ve travelled alone before. Spent a few days here or there exploring a city before catching up with family or friends. I’ve travelled without my husband and kids (a guilty treat), but I’ve never, not ever in my entire life, spent two and a half weeks completely alone.
(Think: child living with parents–grow up and move in with partner–get married have kids and voila! 40 and never been alone.)
On this trip I will live alone, eat alone, walk alone. I don’t speak the language in any meaningful way so my interactions outside the house will be limited to asking for food, thank you and smiling gratefully.
The prospect is both exhilarating and terrifying. I have a romantic notion of going for long walks, writing all afternoon, maybe having a glass of wine in the evening while I read… A running montage of all the things I fantasise about when I’m trying to squeeze in time for a blog post, short story or edit a photograph between work, taekwon-do, kids, pets, house…. you know the drill.
You all live the drill because, well, that’s life.
BUT will it actually turn out that way? Will I get lonely? Will I sleep in all day? Will I wander aimlessly around the house fidgeting, too restless to settle down and work? And if so, what does that say about me? What if I CAN’T write now that I’ve been given this amazing and luxurious opportunity?
Worse! What if I love it so much I don’t want to come home?
Okay, so the last one is unlikely. They’re all unlikely. Chances are it will be a little of all of these things. I’m hoping the isolation will force my creative hand. There are a surprising number of hours in the day all you have to do is look after yourself.
What’s wrong with sitting for an hour watching the woodpeckers from your family room window? In Japan, nothing. That’s why it’s so special.
I decided to break it down into positives and negatives:
- No human/pet distractions
- No “care” work: school, sport, homework etc
- Beautiful surrounds
- Completely selfish: what I want when I want it
- Many empty hours
- No apologies/juggling
- No human/pets
- No one to “care” for me
- Beautiful surrounds: walking, photography, staring out the window
- What I want, when I want: less pressure to triage my time
- Many empty hours: see above
- To write. Everyday. Serious, hard-core blocks of writing
- Enjoy the change of pace
- Time wasting
- Walk, Write, Read – Everyday
It’s not the travel that weighs on me. I’m a confident traveller. It’s the isolation. While many years at home with small children has made me self-sufficient and happy with my own company, this is an entirely different (and incredibly exciting) prospect. Then I think of Mt. Yotei. Her isolation sets her apart, and above, the world around her.
I’m hoping to look across the landscape at that amazing moutnain and find beauty in my isolation.
Few people get blocks of time to truly do whatever they want. I’m determined to love it.