Travelogue: Me, myself and I

I’ve spent a lot of time on my own in the past year. More alone time than I’ve ever had before. More than a lot of people have had. And I’ve been thinking a lot about being alone: on the Jatbula trail last July, I read A Philosophy of Loneliness; in the Whitsundays, I meditated on May Sarton’s praise of solitude. And then there’s the comment Blaise Pascal made, which often comes to mind, that “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Perhaps it’s too strongly put, but the point is valid.

It was during my eight-day solo jaunt in lutruwita / Tasmania that several lessons from the past twelve months crystallised, as though — to switch the metaphor — my brain had been panning for the gold in the handful of soil it scooped up over the past year of my life. All of a sudden there were some gold specks to show for it.

After dropping off my passenger at Launceston airport I continued east to the Bay of Fires, spending a night in one of the many popular free campgrounds near Binalong Bay. (Lesson #1 is that while female solo travellers should absolutely get out there, we’ve gotta keep our wits about us. The world’s a sadly confused little place. That’s all I’ll say about that for now.) I don’t regret the promise I made to myself some years ago that I will always, always, unless completely impractical, swim in the ocean when I am there.

Bay of Fires – Binalong Bay

Back in Lonny, I left my car parked by the river and caught a bus to Hobart. After a night in the fanciest backpackers’ I ever did see, I rose early to meet with a few other hiking enthusiasts for three days of east coast walks. We began with Fortescue Bay to Cape Hauy, ascending and descending 9000 stairs and thereby addressing the more cardio-intensive leg of the acclaimed Three Capes Track.

Cape Hauy, Tasman Peninsula

The energiser bunny of the group, I often pushed ahead on the trail. In these stretches of solo walking I enjoyed reflecting on the recent past and continued something like a dialogue with myself about the things I learned in 2020. Lesson #2 is that being a good friend to me is like any relationship – it takes time, both in the sense that I need to invest in the thing, and I need to be patient for the growth to happen naturally. You can’t hurry love.

In the same vein, Lesson #3 is that bad habits die… badly. I’m learning to treat myself with more respect, and I’m definitely more in tune to whether or not I’m being a caring friend to myself. But I also see and forgive myself for the times when I still treat myself recklessly, like other people’s doormat / punching bag / spew bucket, and when I treat my body like it’s some piece of non-biodegradable garbage. Nobody wins when I do that. I’m thankful that these days I’m more aware of how good it feels to treat myself kindly.

Maria Island

Lesson #4 is that I never regret speaking up against injustice and other forms of dickheadishness. One fellow hiker furnished me with ample opportunity to do so and, while I champion the proverb that says Even a fool is thought wise if she keeps silent and discerning if she holds her tongue, I also like the one that says DISMANTLE OPPRESSIVE POWER STRUCTURES BITCHES!!!!!!!!! It’s all in the timing, I guess.

Hiking, car camping, backpacker bunking, eating on a shoe string and spending my budget sampling local liquor — there are some things it’s only possible to get away with because nobody else is being forced to live the way you are, the way you’re choosing to do life at that time. I’ve come to enjoy my own idiosyncrasies when I’m in my own company. I no longer think of these times as a ‘default’ state, something to survive with minimal upheaval or expenditure until I’m back in my ‘real life’. Living well on my own is another string I’d like to add to the bow of my creative ability.

The Spirit of Tasmania carried me back to the mainland and my adorable RAV4 carried me the 900km from Melbourne to Sydney. Last time I got home from a solo travelling stint, I was in quite a state for reasons related to Lesson #1 (eek!). This time, I arrived feeling calm, grateful, strong — and already dreaming of a new adventure!

Planted in 1893 at Cataract Gorge

Because you know what’s funny? Sitting here, writing this now, while the seconds tick away until I need to zip off to work, I realise I can’t remember some of the things that solitude gave me in those moments. To be alone with oneself is really to be in the company of another, one whose voice is gentle but authoritative — the kind you need to lean in to hear. Right now, it’s too faint. I think the rest of the things I’ve learned lately are waiting for my next solitary sojourn to show their pretty faces.

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