There is something quite liberating in approaching a restaurant and, with the confidence of an Olympic games medallist, say: – Table for one, please.
I recently travelled alone to Lisbon, in Portugal, and I really wanted to experience their culinary. I usually have no problems being on my own, but I have to say… it had been a while since I sat in a restaurant, ordered a dish, ate and paid the bill entirely on my own, having just myself as company during the meal. It was almost like a new experience for me. Something that represented freedom in many ways.
Eleven years ago I went travelling in Italy. For 10 days, I explored Italy completely on my own. My goal was to see as much as I could, so I started in the south and made my way up north. The great thing about this trip was that I didn’t have any hotels booked, no train timetables printed out, nothing. I didn’t even know all the places I could go to. I just went. I was literally arriving in each city and fighting for survival (ok, that sounds a bit too extreme, but if I chose not to do anything, I’d literally sleep on the streets and probably get arrested or something). Arriving in an unknown place, not knowing where I’d sleep that night was such an adventure. Yes, of course I know that many people have done that before a million times, but I recall that experience one of the best ones of my life. I felt so proud of myself every night when I laid my head on a pillow, knowing that I made my way there on my own. I guess it was the time I felt most responsible for myself. And that didn’t change since then, so I suppose it was a bit of a turning point.
There is a lot more to travelling alone than just finding a bed, though. You can decide everything… ON YOUR OWN. You are the queen of your own trip and no one will dare telling you what to do, because no one knows you! I find that visiting a place alone works as a great opportunity for a very close meeting with yourself. You can get your mind wandering about everything and not get these thoughts interrupted by people talking to you. It’s like meditating the whole time, with amazing discoveries along the way.
On this recent trip to Lisbon, I remember getting out of the hotel (yes, I had booked it in advance – I guess my gypsy ways are gone) and looking to the right and to the left. I then remember thinking: which way should I go? I answered my own question by giving myself a little spin and thinking: whichever side I face, that’s where I’m going! To the right it was, then. On this trip, I walked, walked and walked the entire time. I didn’t have a long time to explore the place and I wanted to make the most of it. However, although I did see amazing sights, what I felt most amazed about was the way I was feeling. Walking down the street, with a fresh breeze on my face and the impulse you get when you are walking downwards, combined with the very appealing idea that I had no clue where I was going gave me this fantastic feeling of freedom. It was almost like I was floating on the streets, just letting that breeze take me wherever. And my mind was wandering all the same, making up all these thoughts that would come in and go out in the speed of light.
I had two incredible days in Lisbon. I just couldn’t believe how insightful it was to just detach myself from my usual surroundings for a couple of days and what a difference it made to my outlook on life. That freedom, that adventurous spirit stayed with me, and reminded me of the girl I was 11 years ago. It reminded me of my courage, of my ‘happy-go-lucky’ ways, of my free spirit. The same one that I’m not letting feel trapped ever again, for whatever reason.
Sometimes we just need a gentle reminder of who we really are to go look for that person inside ourselves and bring them back.