March 29, 2019
A new friend was somewhat astounded that I was going to San Diego on my own. The fact that I was going to be walking around alone, sitting places alone, eating alone was creepy in his opinion, that I should go to the conference that prompted this trip and come straight back. Not spend any other time there. He said I was going to be “creepy” all the time I was there- talking to myself- and when I came back I was going to be normal again. His reaction, although direct and full of opinion, was not entirely surprising. It is not the the first time I get some version of this narrative. I generally either get a “You’re so brave!” from women or a “You’re so pretty. Why aren’t you traveling with a man? from men. Obviously, I pay no mind to what my dear friend was saying because from what I know of him- he’s a silly guy who loves to anger me.
But as I was walking around on my first day in San Diego, the conversation crept into my mind. I started tuning into that idea and I guess I’ve come up with a few things:
I’m not the best at establishing long-term relationships romantic or otherwise. I’m not good at looking for or pursuing friends enough to continue and strengthen a friendship. As an immigrant this has become even harder. Those relationships and ties you build with the people that have known you forever, seen your transformation, witnessed your life are only but a faint memory to me. My life is divided from the “back home” to where I live now and the general idea of home at this point is somewhat blurred. My oldest friend in my new life is no longer part of it. Meaning there goes a whole pool of traveling companions. Add to this the fact that in more cases than not I lack the patience to “make things work”. At the first sign of heartache or disappointment it has always been easier for me to pick a fight and walk away. A friend of mine years ago, who the more I think of it knew me so well… once called me a Nomadic soul. This is now what I think he meant. I do what I want to do and the lack of company or support will rarely stop me.
I started thinking about when was the first time I traveled alone. I went to see a friend who had moved to New York City when I was 19 years old. During the trip, I took a Greyhound bus from NYC to Sacramento, California to meet up with someone else. The three days in a Greyhound bus across the United States at the mercy of the intentions of anyone around me who could outwit me. Added the risk of no one finding out where I was if I came to harm. 1996 was not the time of Internet, SIM cards or roaming plans on a cell phone. I called my mom from the various stops along the way at least to have a last known location, but she quickly got annoyed. I was on my own. I met many people, had to fight my way through a pushy crackhead lady who was threatening my spot on the bus. I was left in the middle of nowhere, in what I now think was Idaho, without my bags, my ID, my money. I had to run down the road to catch the bus when it stopped for a traffic light. I could write a whole other entry about that trip alone. In the uncomfortable-ness of no decent food, no sleep, and cleansing myself in bus stops, I found a wonderful solitude grazed by moments when the views outside the window showed me the beauty of a landscape I had not seen before. I guess at that point I internalized the magnitude of the process and that it was something I could just: do. Having the confidence in myself that I’m resourceful and independent. I guess that was the beginning of it all. The desire to see new things is not easily silenced. Being out of comfort just jolts my brain. Figuring things out, lost, working myself through. Synaptogenesis. Being in awe- Happiness.
Keeping track of EVERYTHING! There are so many things to keep track of when we travel. Routes and your belongings being the most significant. ADD makes these tasks overwhelming. I find that when I’m with people I get too distracted for this. I forget things and having to go through the process of dealing with my little mishaps in front of others stresses me out. Being alone when I travel makes the little routines I’ve established calming -it just feels like self-care. It also forces a level of engagement with my surroundings and with myself. Putting me and my needs in the center of everything. After 18 years teaching, being an on and off wife since I was 19, and essentially 22 years as a mother, that has not been something I’ve catered much to in the past.
As I went along the trip I had the same reaction in three separate locations. People wondering how I could enjoy myself alone. I came to the conclusion that the feeling of not having to run anything by anyone or synchronize interest, stamina, food restrictions, fears or any of the little things that as human beings divide us is incredibly freeing. It opens the space to follow that compass that is nothing but your own. To tune yourself to the surroundings and wander into the new opportunities and experiences that are meant and customized by the Universe for you. Interactions with strangers that will give you insight into the human condition fueled by experiences that can be vastly different to my own. Walking through streets in Little Italy, Gaslamp Quarters, the Marina, Ocean Beach, Tijuana, an overwhelming feeling came over me… I know how to grant myself a good time. Call me creepy!