Friday, May 27, 2011

The Traveller's Dilemma

Before venturing into the working world, I'll make it a point to take a sabbatical year and just go travelling alone around the world (excluding Europe of course, because to be honest, I'm getting bored by it).

After much experimenting, I figured I'm better off travelling alone. Somehow travelling with others, even if it's with only one travel companion, stresses me out. For me, travelling is all about being inspired by the moment, and being whimsical. If I feel like doing something, I have to do it right away and not have people questioning my motives. I don't like compromising, and when travelling with people, it's all you do. Where you're going next, how long you're going to stay there, what to eat, should we take the bus or just walk, etc. It's all about keeping everybody in the group happy, because trust me, travelling with grumpy people is the worst thing in the world.

Being the nice guy that I am, I always find myself meeting people halfway or even conceding all the way to people's wishes and get frustrated at the end of the day. I'm not that little kid who always wants to get his way, but travelling is an expensive activity, and I don't pay that much money just so people can decide on what I should do. And even if I did get my way, after the day is done I'd always find myself wondering if the rest of the group enjoyed what we did, which gives me the most unsettling feeling.

I've been asked a lot of questions regarding my loner tendencies. The most common question is, "Don't you get bored, having no one to talk to and share stuff with?"

The answer is a categorical NO. How can I get bored if I get to be extremely selfish and choose all the activities myself? And I travel to meet people, so I always have people to talk to. Believe me, I've had many, many conversations with people who didn't speak any of the languages I know, and we managed to understand each other and even laugh at each other's jokes no problem (well, our humour threshold tends to be considerably lower in a foreign language, and that definitely helps).

I'm a very choosy person in real life, and I can get really anal about stuff. But somehow when travelling, all my obsessive-compulsive propensities go out the window. I can become really laid back and devil may care to the point of being irritating. Travelling with people makes me feel rushed, and I don't like that. I need to be able to sit at a cafe, read, write, watch people and miss a train if I have to, without it being a problem to anyone else. I need to be able to try questionable looking food without anyone criticising my palette. I need to be able to absorb my unfamiliar surroundings without familiar faces ruining the mood by talking a familiar language.

I need to be able to get confused by unpronouncable street names and get completely lost, without anyone raising serious doubts about my map-reading skills, because sometimes, I actually want to get lost in a new city and just discover new things I wouldn't have discovered if I had taken the beaten path. I don't mind losing my north point because I'm like a cat. I always find my way back.

But mostly, I need to travel alone because I know myself very well: I'm an annoying travel companion. I don't know what it is, but I can get on people's nerves very easily. Maybe it's the fake accent I put on wherever I go (and in every language too). Maybe it's my splurging ways (travelling on a shoestring is not my thing). Maybe it's my inability to stick to a plan. Maybe it's the fact that I get easily fascinated by unremarkable stuff like how the Spaniards say "dime" when answering the phone (which means "tell me"), but can get totally indifferent and unmoved by things that should actually matter like imposing tall buildings or huge ass war monuments (I've never even seen the Tugu Negara. I mean... glorifying war, really?).

There's one big problem though: travelling for a year is going to cost me a pretty penny. After my studies and before working, I'll be in what I call "the financial uncertainty period". I won't have an income, so I'll have to rely on my savings. By the look of things, I won't be able to save that much by the time I complete my studies. And I don't want to be completely broke by the time I start working.

It's a serious dilemma. Really.


nasuha said...



I'm totally with you on this. I've travelled in Eastern Europe (Baltic, Balkan, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia) alone and loved it. Unfortunately, there are some countries (sadly so-called Muslim countries) where I've been advised it'd be wise if I have a travel partner with me or risk being harassed. All because I'm a girl. Dang it!