The last few weeks have been hectic, moving around a lot, meeting lots of new people and admittedly partying a bit too hard. I worked out that despite being a ‘solo traveller’ I’ve not actually had one night in eleven weeks on my own.
First there was New Zealand travelling in a van with the lovely Hannah, then eight amazing weeks in Fiji living with my adopted family and the rest of the volunteers, a week staying with friends in Singapore and, most recently, seven days of fun and sun in Langkawi. Of course, there were moments in which to think about the journey so far, but I was never far from a friendly face. Since being in Penang, left largely to my own devices, I’ve realised some important things about myself and how I travel:
- I like routine. As boring as it sounds, when everything else is constantly changing (swapping dorm rooms, saying goodbye to travel companions, making new ones) I enjoy the comfort of small, mundane activities. After the craziness of Langkawi, I took some time to catch my breath in Penang, visiting the same coffee shop, Cafe 55 on Muntri Street, each morning. By day three they had my order down and my table waiting for me. It’s the little things like this that helped make me feel a little grounded, which, whilst not very rock’n’roll, was important after being away from the familiar for so long.
- I like to being anti-social. I don’t mean sitting in a darkened room in silence for days on end. But once in a while it’s nice to wake up when you want, eat when you want, visit the places you want to without having to organise a schedule between a group of people. I’ve had very few of these days so far and this is no bad thing – it’s always better to have people to share your travels with on the road, no matter how sad the goodbyes at the end are. It’s not like I’m so popular I just can’t get a moments peace, but I’ve found even when I have set off on my own, intending to have a quiet day, I’ve always bumped in to someone for lunch or made bus friends to go exploring with. But every so often it’s important to get away from the crowd to help you figure out what it is you want to get out of your time in certain places and what it is that will make you happy. It’s been very easy for me to be laid back and follow everyone else’s plans, but I’ve actually enjoyed those times where I’ve had to organise myself and I alone.
Quite simple observations, but ones I’ve found easy to forget. After my horribly cliched ‘me time’ in Penang I’m refreshed and ready for the ups and downs of backpacking solo, but appreciate the times when you can just stop and slow down. Having been gone now for almost six months, they’ll help me stay sane for the long-haul.