Despite my recognition that are there are indeed benefits to traveling alone (not least of which the ability to be totally selfish without hurting anyone’s feelings), I feel it necessary to say with total clarity that solo travel will always and forever fall short of traveling with pals.
There are many reasons I feel this way – reasons I hope I will articulate on a later date. But one of the big ones is this:
Stories are always better shared.
I’ve come to this realization even more clearly while visiting China. When funny, interesting, amusing things happen, my immediate reaction is to want to share them. To lean over and say, “Did you see that too?”
Maybe it’s because I’m a think-by-talking person, but I have the need to provide commentary. More tangibly, it’s also just dang hard to remember things if you’re the only one doing the remembering.
I’m confident that going home is going to be difficult for many reasons. Largely because I will have had all of these experiences that no one else did – and they are going to be too time consuming/difficult/impossible to explain. Which means it will just be me and my memories trying to hold on to one another, pushing away the time that will inevitably try to break us apart.
In my attempts to combat what I know is coming, I’ve been so thankful for Instagram. Getting to share a daily moment or two – a snippet of a story – makes me feel like others are coming along on the adventure with me, albeit virtually.
A friend asked me if I felt pressured or constrained by posting each day. It’s actually quite the opposite. It’s freeing. It’s my point of connection. It’s how I feel less alone, as dumb as that might sound.
It’s how I tell my story without a friend standing next to me listening.
So the 10 days I spent in China sans social media were hard. Partially because I felt like I didn’t know what was going on with my friends, but more because I could’t share what was going on with me.
I’m going to remember the big things, of course – I visited the Great Wall and wandered the Forbidden City. I photographed the space-like view from the Bund. I checked off the big-ticket items.
But the good stuff – the fun stuff – is all in the little moments. The ones that you recall years later, giggling with those that shared them with you.
“Remember when you sat on that park bench and that old man sat down next to you and it took everything in you not to laugh out loud and call him Tran because your life was a literal scene from New Girl?”
“Remember when you got interviewed about boys paying vs. going dutch by Chinese college students?”
“Remember when you ate cotton candy for dinner?”
These are the moments when I wish I had a friend.
Because they won’t make the highlight reel. They won’t answer the inevitable “how was your trip?” questions.
They’ll just be my little memories, and unfortunately, most likely, they’ll eventually be nothing at all.