strangers

IMG_6079
On a train in Czech Republic, 2012

I will eventually share somewhat more...descriptive photos of my trip, but this was actually one of my favourite moments of the trip, when I was on a train between Loket and Decin in the Czech Republic. I'm very fond of train journeys and this one was especially lovely because I could open a window for a fresh breeze, and I had the whole cabin to myself for much of the journey.

I travelled alone for about 10 days - which makes it the longest I have ever been on holiday alone. Being alone for 10 days feels like you're confronting yourself - what you like, what you hate, what you are afraid of, your weaknesses, your strengths. It's a lot of "me" time, spent navigating a new environment and the little challenges thrown your way on a holiday.

This trip gave me a chance to hone my "talking to strangers" skills. Being in journalism, I suppose it's funny that I find this difficult, but while I have come to become comfortable with doing this professionally, I still find it incredibly difficult at a personal level, partly because I am shy and partly because I am an introvert.

So, I discovered that I am capable of walking into bars and clubs and striking up conversations with strangers, but I am still not quite comfortable with doing so. I persevered though, because of something someone said to me during the work phase of my trip that rang true: that travelling is more than just seeing stuff, it's about meeting people.

I then realised that a lot of what stayed with me from past trips were the conversations I had with random people. This is not to say I didn't love the very first time I walked down a Parisian street or when I saw Angkor Wat. But I remembered conversations years after the trips themselves just as clearly: talking to a girl from Brazil about Radiohead in 2007, talking to a dentist about beer in Cambodia in 2003, talking to student from France on a train in 2005 about tennis, Airbus, everything.

This trip, the moments spent chatting with a bartender about "stoner rock" in Dresden, with a coffeeship proprietor about the the best places for hiking in Loket, with a Australian girl about the economic crisis in Europe, with an English guy about tattoos and motorcycle road trips in Prague, to a Spanish guy on a train about cameras, to a German guy about music and backpacking in Frankfurt, put a smile on my face. I love "seeing stuff" of course (3 epic hours in the incredible Military History Museum in Dresden!), but I took time to consciously appreciate the "people" aspect and I think it was more rewarding for it. And of course, I challenged myself in the process and I think I grew up a little too.

Thanks for all the kind wishes and recommendations from everyone for the trip, as usual I think all the good will helped keep me safe, and happy. Will share more photos and stories soon, but I need time to adjust; I feel like a stranger to home.

Comments

Joanna Karenina said…
Train journeys are one of my favorite things in the world. And I don't know why, but I love that feeling of being a stranger to home upon returning from a trip abroad, and always try to savor it and make it last as long as possible. Looking forward to seeing more photos!
Ammu said…
I am so glad you had a good time! Can't wait to hear more about it. Alone time is one of my favourite things about travelling.
Aïssa said…
Great to hear from you and your journey! I love this post because it's so endearing and full of positive energy.
I'm pretty good at doing stuff alone most of the time but being outside my comfort zone, alone, is still tough, so travelling alone has been challenging but I don't want to miss any opportunity anymore and as you point out, it's so incredibly rewarding emotionnally!
Xannie Nguyen said…
I love this post, I'm so happy to find out that you're in journalism and an introvert at the same time, happy in a sense that I know I'm not alone... or odd: I'm majoring in communication and love it but I enjoy and absolutely need some 'me' time.

Can't wait to read more of your travel post.
Lindsay K said…
I'm glad to hear that you're home safe and that you had a wonderful time! Can't wait to hear more since I've spent a lot of time in that area of the Czech Republic and Vienna growing up at dance intensives. Alone time is such a luxury and one of my favorite things about travel.
lin said…
joana karenina: feeling like a stranger does make me love some things about home more.

ammu: this time i didn't have much choice, i didn't have any travelling companions, haha.

aissa: it is! i would do it again, happily. but i guess i cheated a bit because i had wifi connection at some places and at cafes so coud chat with my friends and share photos.

xannie nguyen: it was so hard when i started out, i found it odd to phone up total strangers or to just walk up to them and start talking. but the guise of a professional title helps you brazen it out. i envy people for whom this comes naturally.

lindsay k: i didn't get to spend as much time in vienna as i would have liked, but yep, have some highlights from czech (though not about prague) i can't wait to share!
Eileen said…
Hello Lin, glad that you are safely back and that you enjoyed the trip.
I cherish moments of alone-ness where you can be reflective and connect with yourself again.

Beautiful stories of people you met on the road and these are special points of intersection where paths meet and lives are touched.

Hope you ease back into your work life quickly and it is not too challenging handling over.
Kate said…
I'm glad your journey is going well! i love train journeys. 3-hour trips home every few months from uni put me off a bit but I'd still love to see Europe by rail.
R A said…
This is a really beautiful post. It made me smile. Seems everyone is experiencing nice travels at the moment! <3
lin said…
Eileen: Thanks! I'm in a bit of denial about what I need to get done actually. But I feel lucky that I got to go away so I'm trying to be optimistic about keeping up my good mood!

Kate: The landscape along certain routes can be amazing - I remember a train ride between Prague and Budapest, it was like some kind of dream. I don't mind buses either, provided the buses aren't stuffy and falling apart.

R A: I always set aside money for travelling, it's just one of those luxuries and pleasures in life I can't give up...and I feel lucky that I've always managed to go somewhere every year at least once!
I wrote a really long comment a couple of days ago but must've had hit the wrong button as it hasn't appeared here.

Your post struck a chord with me as I've had a similar experience to yours. I made a decision to explore the length and breadth of Greece for 2 months on my own 16 years ago. Some days, it can be overwhelmingly lonely but I met so many interesting people along the way.

Thankfully, I kept a journal and wrote down my conversations with the different individuals I talked to. It may have been 16 years I still remember the conversations as if it was yesterday.
lin said…
chocolates, cookies & candies: I hope I get to try something like that for two months! I wasn't away long enough to feel overwhelmingly lonely but there were evenings alone when I felt restless and wistful for company.

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