The year is 2082.
The hero that is Dwayne Douglas Johnson is half way through his 9th consecutive term as President of the United States which, at a sprightly 110 years old, makes him not only the longest serving President in US history but also the oldest Head of State to have ever existed in the whole history of Earth. Like, ever. Or at least for as long as official records have been around.
The UK is still floating around the ocean, bitter and lonely and forever resenting their decision to vote Leave. Not even that “special” transatlantic relationship circa 2017 was enough to save them from an eternity of regret. Still, who needs friends when you have an unlimited supply of shortbread and teabags, right?!
Nancy and I are sat there, rocking away on our old lady rocking chairs, as we’ve done every Sunday evening for the last at least 10 years, circulating ideas on how to celebrate our upcoming 90th and 91st birthdays.
All of a sudden, Nancy gasps, holding one finger in the air in a very Evil Genius-esque moment.
“Ethel*, I’ve got it! Let’s go on a girls’ holiday to Magaluf!”
*In case you’re new here and wondering why my name has been changed to Ethel, check out ep. 1 of the Ethel & Nancy saga.
Almost 90-year old Me knows she means well but really, Nancy?! A girls’ holiday?!
You’re more likely to see me dancing the tango with a kangaroo in a tuxedo than catch me on a girls’ holiday anywhere, let alone Magaluf.
Now, I have nothing against girls’ holidays, nor do I have any issues with Magaluf as a holiday destination (that’s a bare-faced lie, I have all the issues with Magaluf as a holiday destination), but it’s just not me.
In fact, I don’t think it’s just “girls’ holidays” that don’t sit right with me, but group holidays in general.
Which is a little strange as, despite how I may sometimes come across online, I’m actually a relatively sociable and, dare I say, likeable person. I like talking to people. I like enjoying the company of others. I like sitting next to strangers on buses for 18 hours and hearing all about how they once got stuck down a mine for 3 days, surviving on nothing but graham crackers and probably-contaminated water (true story).
Bottom line: I like people.
But, for whatever reason, I just can’t travel with other people and enjoy myself as much as I would if I were alone.
I’ve tried. Lord knows over the years and my many, many trips abroad, I have tried.
I’ve travelled with old friends, I’ve travelled with new friends, I’ve travelled with a school choir, I’ve travelled with a boyfriend, I’ve travelled with an ex-boyfriend, I’ve travelled with family (well, a cousin…), I’ve travelled with strangers.
Short of travelling with a full-on circus and musical procession, I’ve tried it all.
And to be honest, as a general rule, I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every trip I’ve taken alone and with others. But on every trip I’ve taken where I’m joined by one or more persons, I’ve felt constantly on edge.
When you’re with other people there’s this constant niggling feeling that you have to please them. You have to look after them.
We’re not just talking lengthy holidays here, but even something seemingly simple like going out for dinner.
You haven’t seen one of your best friends in what feels like a quarter of a century, so you invite them out for dinner at a new restaurant that’s just opened up down the road from your house. It’s already been on the receiving end of rave reviews on TripAdvisor, the local newspaper, and various local blogs and apparently serves the best enchiladas this side of Mexico.
As you were the one who suggested the restaurant, your companion’s overall enjoyment of the evening rests on your shoulders.
You spend the whole evening nervously glancing at them in between bites of your taco salad, wondering if they’re enjoying themselves. Maybe you shouldn’t have pushed them to order the enchiladas, you think. Maybe fajitas would have been a better bet. Actually, maybe you shouldn’t have come here at all. You should have gone for the safe option – a restaurant you’ve both visited, and enjoyed, before.
By the end of the night, if your friend hasn’t enthusiastically expressed just how much they loved the kitsch decor of the place, how the enchiladas were perfectly spicy without making you want to drain Loch Ness of all its water, and how the waiting staff was wonderfully attentive without being overbearing, you feel like a failure.
You feel personally responsible for the fact that they didn’t enjoy themselves as much as they would have had you gone to Nando’s instead. (Because everyone loves Nando’s)
Now imagine all of that, but with a whole freaking holiday instead of just a few hours.
When I travel, I travel for me.
It sounds selfish, but it’s the truth. I go somewhere because I want to go there (or because Ryanair are having one of their bloody fantastic sales and I buy tickets because £20 return to the other side of Europe?! Why the devil not?!). I want to see the world, and I don’t want to wait around for a time that’s convenient for others.
The beauty of travelling alone is that, much like living alone, you can do whatever you want whenever you want. The only living being you’re responsible for is yourself. The only mood you have to care about is yours. The only stomach you have to feed is your own.
Travelling alone is easy.
Throw somebody else into the mix and WOAH EN, suddenly there’s like a whole other person you have to consider in your everyday decision-making. There’s another mouth to feed, another body to keep hydrated, another attention span to keep. There’s another human involved. Someone else to keep happy.
When I travel alone, if I want to hit up 6 museums and 3 coffee shops in one day, I’ll do just that. Likewise, if I want to skip out on all the sightseeing and just relax with the latest addition to my Kindle and a tube of BBQ Pringles, I’ll do that too.
But when you’re with someone else, you have to consider what they want to do. You have to consider when they want to eat. You have to think about whether they’re just as interested in seeing a mushroom museum as you are. And if they don’t want to see a mushroom museum, are they really worthy of your friendship?!
In my eyes, travelling with someone is very much like being in a relationship with them. It’s a two-way street, mutual respect is key, you have to think of others and all the rest of those cliché sentences you find on the inside of a Hallmark Valentine’s Day card.
I’ve actually been on a holiday with friends which resulted in the termination of a decade-long friendship simply because there was a lack of mutual consideration and respect for one another. And trust me when I say, that’s not something I want to happen again.
Travel, for me, is about freedom.
Being able to go off and see the world and experience new cultures and sample new flavours and learn new languages and dance around a campfire in the middle of the Amazon rainforest like nobody’s watching. Which, if your travelling alone, is kind of true because nobody is watching.
I’m not completely against travelling with other people and more than likely will do so again in the near future, but I just know that I won’t enjoy it as much as I do when I travel alone.
Because when you travel alone, there’s no pressure to please or pander to somebody else. The only person that matters is yourself, and I really bloody like that.
In the future maybe I’ll find someone who is totally compatible and in-tune with me and all my travel-y stuff, and that will be absolutely fantastic because I’ll finally be able to get those back of the head shots I’ve been dying to get for years. Hey, maybe Nancy will even be that person!
But for now I am totally, 100% a-okay with going it alone.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on travelling alone — are you a solo travel? What’s your reason for it? And if not, why not?
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