Sunday, September 30, 2007

Solo Travel

"I looked for you last night," said the flat owner. "I was going to a party."

"Oh," I spoke quickly, with a nervous laugh. "I was at Sagrada Familia taking photos."

"Would you have gone?"

"Well… no."

He said he was going to another party tonight. I made excuses and fled, unable to properly explain that I didn't want to go to any parties, talk to anyone, and that I wanted to be alone.

And so I walked aimlessly, with no destination in mind, solely with the purpose of avoiding the flat. I walked and walked, up out of Raval, out of the old city past the hordes of tourists, past three Starbucks, past Plaza Catalunya and the Saturday shoppers. I walked until, exhausted, I stumbled into of one of those assembly-line all-you-can-eat places that serves pizza, pasta, rice, and potato dishes. All the carbs you can eat.

"Why the hell did I pay ten euros for this crap?" I wondered as I stared at the hardening spaghetti, rice, and watery "gazpacho" on offer.

I knew why, even as I asked myself the question.


I seek out anonymity everywhere I go. I'm only partially connected to anywhere, a semi-stranger even in that place called home. I'm comfortable being anonymous and disconnected.

I don't want to go to Spanish parties. Nor do I want to go to parties in New York. I barely want to go to parties in Egypt. "Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik" was one long essay about overcoming fear of commitment, of not being afraid to connect with others, but over the last two years, I've completely backslid.

Bouncing around the world has benefits. I'm semi-comfortable anywhere. I assimilate quickly. I can figure out how things get done in a society in about a week. But then there are drawbacks too.

When world travelers crow that they've become citizens of the world, what they don't mention is that it is at the expense of home. Deep roots erode over time, until home has changed to the point where it's no longer home. And even if it looks the same, the friends you left behind have evolved in their lives. You gain the world but you lose home. You belong everywhere but also nowhere.

And then there's this. An even-scarier concept.

Maybe it's not world travelers. Maybe it's just me.


Amanda Castleman said...

Gorgeous post, Marie. Poetry...

You're not alone in the home-away conundrum. A lot of "cosmopolites" suffer the same. They're just not as articulate about the condition.

Corraggio, mia amica! Ax.

Matt Hollingsworth said...

Depends. If you spend three months everywhere, then you won't belong anywhere. But if you stay longer, you can develop new roots if you allow yourself. If you want to be solitary, that's obviously your choice. But by doing that, you choose to not develop any roots.

Having been in Zagreb for 10 months now, I have deeper roots here than I did after three and a half years in LA. But LA is filled with people who are more distant. Here, you are forced to engage people, whether it's the bartender at the cafe or the woman selling you fish. They talk to you. I've chosen to engage them. I choose to go to the party. And I've found new roots growing here.

Undoubtedly, though, home will keep growing without me. But I never felt at home in LA anyway. Portland was always much better. If it weren't for the damned cloud cover, I'd still be there, methinks.

It's okay for you to want to be solitary, though. As long as that is what you enjoy. I grow through phases with that too. But usually I'm less happy during those phases.

Yasir Khan said...

No, it's not just you.

You need a hug.

- khanundrum

Marie said...

If I were a huggy person, I probably wouldn't be in this situation in the first place...

Amanda Castleman said...

I dunno, Matt, I lived abroad almost eight years: England, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. My capacity for being a weenie loner was impressive at every turn.

I agree that European and Middle East life involves people in the thrum of noisy co-existence. But it takes a certain personality to respond ... or rather, perhaps, to respond with consistency. Sometimes I love the "all together" experience, oft I run howling for the hills.

You hit the nutshell I think: expats CHOOSE to engage. Or, heck, for that matter, any aliens, legal or otherwise...

I hope Zagreb keeps you happy. I passed through there April 06: seemed like a wicked place to live, from a quick survey.

But don't forget the cloudy NW entirely, eh?

Amanda (in Seattle)