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How my solo travels are different

INDIA | Wednesday, 6 July 2011 | Views [883]

I've travelled a few times without Andrew now. My first post from this India trip shows you how far I've come in being able to manage the perils and joys of travels as a solo female, and in the meantime, I've made a few observations about my own habits while I am sans fiancee. Some are curious, some are obvious, all are mine.

1. I take fewer photos, but I take better photos
When Andrew is around, I seem to feel more comfortable being a 'tourist' as opposed to appearing a 'traveller'. However, when alone, I want to appear a little less of a tourist. Maybe not one of those long term travel types or a local, but maybe I could pass as an expat. Thus, my camera often stays tucked in my satchel in my efforts to blend in, and my lack of having someone watch my back whilst I am deep in photographic concentration. This forces me to limit my shots to things that really deserve my attention. No, I don't have incredible shots of people lining the streets, but I've got kick-ass shots of architecture in the wee hours, without the hordes distracting the photos, and I have the opportunity to spend more time working on my composition, without boring the brains out of my waiting travel partner.

2. I eat less; a LOT less
Don't get me wrong, I love food. But when I travel alone, I'm on my own clock, and get lost in my own wandering world rather than worrying about 'snacks'. I'd happily go 8-10 hours with nothing more than water and coffee (or juice or lassi if blistering hot) in between a decent breakfast and a light dinner to ponder my writing over. Every now and then I'll cave in to a truffle, nougat or something else decadent if my cafe is entrancing enough, but outside of that, I think I'm one of the few people that regularly comes back from holidays having lost weight, rather than gained.

3. I walk more
On this last trip to Mumbai, I took two taxis: one from the airport, and one back to it. I refused to try and negotiate the mess that is taxis and fares on my own and resolved to only visit places within walking distance. It's another reason why my attempt at getting to Marine Drive failed. In London, I did the same thing, wandering the bridges, laneways and footpaths for hours on end, only using the tube when absolutely necessary. Yes, it often leads to a painful end to the day, but it's a rewarding pain, and nothing a light jog or stretches can't work out of tight calves.

4. I'm back in accommodation an hour after nightfall
I'm not going to say I'm so dedicated that I'm back on residence before the sun sets. There's too much liveliness, action and photographic opportunities for that. However, I do make sure I'm heading back soon after the street lights come on. After that, I start to get nervous about the people around me and am too paranoid for my own good. It may be a quiet and relatively long night, but the netbook is always loaded up with movies, tv episodes and has the capacity for much writing about my days. When Andrew is about however, we wander the streets well into the night, taking in the glittering lights, the frivolities of locals and tourists alike, and often partake in a beverage or two. I do miss the evenings out, but I'm ok with the nights in.

5. I dawdle
I tinker with my phone, smile at strangers, scroll through my photos of the trip repeatedly, stand in front of single paintings for twenty minutes at a time, loaf around in internet cafes and take the better part of an hour to have a coffee or pot of tea. I can spend ninety minutes rifling through pashmina shops and bargaining over bangles and will walk forty minutes just to find a nice place to eat. I get lost in staring at the sky, swinging my legs off railings and I repack my bag each night. I am an avid people-watcher, buy local artworks just because I can and almost always pick up local literature. I read and I absorb my surroundings. I am in no hurry; I even allow myself a sleep in. I am almost a completely different person to teacher-Kristy.

6. I read
I had a conversation with my colleagues on one of my last days of school this year. They looked at me in horror when I told them I didn't read, not really. It's a little shocking, I suppose, being an English teacher and all. It's not that I don't read full stop; I read a lot of blogs, especially those of the travel variety, and read set texts for classes. Aside from that I rarely tackle a book, finding it just another thing I have to fit in to the end of a work day, among marking, cooking, running and catching up on my social networking fix. But, when I travel, especially alone, I usually have a book on me and have actually made my way through two novels so far this year. I am not afraid of being antisocial and losing myself in another world when I'm sitting in the sunshine and enjoying a breeze.

7.  I buy more stuff
I'm a girl; I can't help myself. I like to buy pretty things and when there is not a discerning male by my side to discourage me spending my hard-saved travel cash on pretties, I tend to be a little more gun-ho. Heck, it's my bloody holiday, why not make the most of the city I'm in? Andrew is better at buying things for me when he goes away, and I'm a bit slack in return. That said, I'm easy to buy for. Boys are hard to cater to when you're faced with pashminas, jewelry and handbags.

8. I write more
This one's pretty obvious really. Without the opportunity to experience these adventures with my loved one, I want to share it with him all the same. You'll find the often personal narrative nature of my writing is because I'm essentially talking to him and the friends and family back home who may not have the same opportunity to travel as I do. This is a record of my journeys to reflect on when I am old, and to keep in touch with those I have left behind at the bottom corner of the globe. I am not out to earn money from my blog, I am just here to share my adventures and those long hours of the evening and solo trips to cafes give me the opportunity to do so. In contrast, when one is sitting, perched on a hillside after six hours of trekking, waiting in anticipation of noodles, broth and Tibetan bread on a cold Nepali Winter's day, watching a young girl play knuckles and a toddler running around declaring his name is Basut, one does not write so much, but rather spends the time enjoying the moment with that person who is sharing the experience.

So, there you have it. A range of different habits I take up when I'm on my own in a new city. When I am with Andrew, I eat a lot, take transport, take a bazillion photos and regret it when I have to edit them all later, and I don't write about my experiences quite as much. I get lost in the moment with him and focus less on how I'm going to describe it later. I'm not going to say I like one better than the other; there are pros and cons to travelling alone and together, but they are both very different creatures, like comparing apples and oranges I suppose.

Also, in reference to number four, regarding local literature, I have just begun reading "Breathless in Bombay" by Murzban F. Shroff and it is ASTOUNDING. Here is a man who looks at the life and the degradation of Mumbai in the same way I do, although he is a resident. He sees the inherent beauty, but he also sees that it is not being cared for in the way it could be. It is a compilation of personal stories, each a different perspective on life in Bombay, and so far is a fascinating read. I don't recommend books often, because ultimately, I don't read them enough, but THIS is a real gem. Go read it.

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