Cultural Travel and Solitude

Cultural travel seems like a really good idea until you are on your first journey, alone, to a land where language and communication are a gap to be bridged, and there you are without the comfort of conversation. Cultural travel and solitude go hand in hand if you are truly passionate about travel and knowing yourself. You can learn more about yourself on a trip around the world than you can in many graduate programs or therapy sessions.  You may eat alone, ride on trains and buses alone, and communicate alone, unless you are traveling with friends or a group. But this is how we really learn about people, places, and ourselves. Without the little bit of discomfort, or edge that we feel when traveling alone, we loose the most valuable treasure, which is called discovery. I was once on a train from Bangkok to Chaing Mai on a sleeper car with beds that had cloth curtains. There were 12 or more men in the same car, and I was the only woman. All throughout the night, as the liquor came out of the bags, the men got louder and louder, and I began to feel like a woman with a little less courage than I once had.  Finally, the men settled down and passed out, and I was fine.

Through Cultural travel and solitude, we  discover people, what they eat, and the language of their gestures, their smiles, and their reaction to our sometimes inability to communicate with them. We discover ourselves by what is reflected in our differences, and we learn about ourselves through the solitude.

Here is what Averill Pizarro says:

But what they don’t often tell you is that traveling is also, essentially, a lonely thing. It’s hard to be talkative when there’s no one to talk to, when no one understands (literally — lo siento, no lo entiendo). Sooner or later you will find that there is no one to call, even when you know locals or are traveling with a group, and you will have to learn that it’s okay.

To travel is to go an adventure in solitude. You must be able to sit with yourself for long periods of time without going crazy, and I’ve had only moderate success in this area. I’ve taken to writing more, and drinking more (which, in wine country, is acceptable behavior). Sometimes, I’d wake up in the early morning hours, check my watch, and catch myself singing, “It’s five o’clock in the morning / the conversation got boring…” Other than that, I think I’m okay.

Learning about other places is a great benefit for the cultural traveler, but there are also other gifts along the way. Cultural travel and solitude can be one of the greatest gifts in knowing more about who you are within the context of a larger world that we all share. Read more from Averill Pizarro here.


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