I’ve been thinking a lot about community lately, and about support networks. I’ve been thinking more and more about my blog’s tagline – “It’s not just the where and the how of travel, it’s the who and the why.” I’ve been thinking about what this blog is here for, and what on earth I aim to achieve from it beyond the (hopefully not but probably) navel-gazing stories about my travels, emphasis on the my.
And, of course, the more I think about it all, the more it comes back to this: the main reason I travel, the main reason I blog, hell, the main reason I get up in the morning, is because of the interactions with people I have from all over the world. Meeting new people and engaging with people from different backgrounds and cultures is the whole reason I am so addicted to travelling in the first place. I wrote a post recently about how I believe people are good, and in that I talked about how much I’ve gained and learned from interacting with people of all walks of life.
But I am just one person, and I represent just one kind of traveller.
Yesterday was one of those jam-packed days in London that had me running all over East London, and it culminated in a really fun and random night of pub-hopping with amazing friends. I stayed in bed for a very long time, too comfortable and warm to get up despite the sun streaming in my windows, a welcome sight after some gloomy London weather.
When I finally got up, I made a coffee and sat on the couch. I live alone, and I relish these long and lazy mornings, especially on days when there are no pressing deadlines. I didn’t have plans until the afternoon, so I took the time to call my mum, read a few chapters of my current book, and then go online. I saw on Facebook that my blog’s page reached over 6,000 followers overnight, and part of me just can’t believe all the support and kindness that I’ve received through This Battered Suitcase.
I recently got an email from a reader; let’s call her Olivia. In her email, Olivia told me about her plans after college and of how she was excited to get a job in the field that she studied. She then asked me this question:
“I love the idea of travelling; I love reading travel blogs and studying maps. The thing is, I don’t really know if I want to travel beyond a couple of weeks away at a time, and only with my boyfriend or my friends. I like my life here and I’m happy with what I’ve created. I feel like a fraud by saying that it’s not really my dream to travel. What do you think? Am I being crazy?”
When I was a little girl I really only dreamt of one thing: to travel. It’s what I wrote in all my journals, it’s what I told people I wanted to do, it’s what I thought about when I couldn’t sleep. I would make lists of all the places I’d go and all the things I’d see. But is this dream for everyone?
As I sat in the main square myself – I ordered my first glass of wine at 11 a.m., because when in Italy, you do as the Italians do – I was reminded of my first trip to Italy. It was 2006, nearly ten years ago. I was newly twenty-two years old. I had short, dark hair I had cut myself with my mother’s sewing scissors the night before I left my hometown in Canada. Italy was my sixth country on a huge, whirlwind backpacking trip through Europe: I had already been to the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Germany. I was completely on my own, bouncing from one major city to the next, staying in hostels for a few days before strapping my backpack on and clutching my Eurorail pass to my chest to find another train to another city. When I think of that trip, I think of the click-clack of the destination board in the train station as it updates; I think of arriving in dark cities late at night, searching for a taxi; I think of staring out the window as the world whizzed past, watching green hills unfold in the distance, fairy-tale castles perched atop a few of them. I think of movement. And then, I think of Italy.
While travelling, I’ve met dozens if not hundreds of other solo female travellers. Through the blogging community, I’ve also met loads of inspiring women who live the solo travel lifestyle and share their experiences online. One of the women I’ve met is Kristin Addis, author of Be My Travel Muse, who has travelled on her own for three years. I remember meeting her for the first time – it was at a pub in London two years ago, when she was in town to attend WTM (World Travel Market). We talked about Burning Man and Southeast Asia and she showed me a couple of her gorgeous tattoos. I’ve since met up with her at a few other blogging events, and we were even both listed on Buzzfeed’s recent list of women who will inspire you to travel solo.
A few weeks ago, Kristin emailed me with some very exciting news – she wrote and has just released a book on solo female travel, called Conquering Mountains: How to Solo Travel the World Fearlessly. I had a chance to read the book last week, and I can attest that it is a fantastic resource for women interested in travelling solo, or even for experienced solo travellers.
London is a city that gets a bad reputation from time to time. It’s crowded. It’s expensive. It rains a lot. I get it – and sometimes I feel it so strongly, this weight of the city.
But most of the time, nearly all of the time? I love it. It’s a city that speaks to me, that excites me, that motivates me. In London I’ve found a fulfilling career, a lovely flat, and a great group of friends; in London I’ve found a home. Over the past few months, after going through a bit of a period of stress, I have made a conscious effort to enjoy every single day in London, and to fill my time here with as many museums, cafés, parks, shows, and outings with friends as possible. I’ve been very open about my love for London, writing a post about why it deserves all of that love and even why I felt strongly about settling here permanently.
And then something happened: my master’s program finished.