Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Shanghai Surprise

For my birthday this year, I've decided to take a little solo trip to Shanghai.

We actually went there last Christmas, but it was so bitterly cold outside that we didn't get to explore the city as we normally would do. In addition to that, Sean was a walking corpse the last time, suffering from the flu and trying to make the best of it.

Moreover, I'm starting to notice that our time here in Asia is passing quickly. Who knows when I'll have another chance to feed a baby panda in China or ride an elephant in India? If there's anything I've learned in the last year, it's that we always have the best intentions of going here or there, but life complications get in the way and we have to act now, especially for obscure places that are once in a lifetime opportunities, which is the kind of travel I really want to do.

So all this is well and good, but it brings me to my big confession to you-- these days or rather since I've been married, I feel anxiety traveling alone. Okay, I've said it.

Now, this discomfort was never a problem in my previous unmarried life. Sure, I always worried about being safe and secure, but even so, I did some pretty crazy things. I hitchhiked in Africa by myself, I walked around the streets of Rome unaccompanied at night, passing by all kinds of leering Italian men, and even somehow survived when my rental car broke down at 10:30 at night, leaving me stranded in the Czech Republic years ago...

So surely, I can handle anything that Shanghai might throw at me, right?

However, my resistance also stems from just WANTING another person, a friend to BE there. This feeling is probably a direct result of marriage and engagement with another person about all the mundane details of our lives together and apart.

But if I'm completely honest with myself, a big part of the thrill of travel for me in my life now is not just the "doing", but the sharing. It's so wonderful to have an experience that's funny or bizarre or even scary with another person. And I love talking with that same person down the road and saying, Do you remember that time we... ?

In my previous life, I would never have anticipated that I would feel this way about travel. Even so, I'm forging ahead and making plans to do some fun things so that I am not really alone. (how can I be in a city with 17 million people?) My plans thus far are to sip tea in an ancient teahouse, join the throngs of people for morning exercises on the Bund, eat famous soup dumplings with a straw, and take a gondola through water village known as the "Venice of Asia". I still feel the anxiety, but I feel excitement too.

So, readers and fellow travelers out there, how do you manage traveling on your own? Do you notice yourself having more fun solo than with others? Can you relate?

BTW, it's not too late to join me for a smattering of soup dumpling-- My trip is Nov 19-22


Kirsten said...

Sounds like a great trip ahead! I know what you mean about traveling alone. Sometimes I picture myself doing it and imagine it as really freeing, but then I remember the times I did, and how sometimes at dinner I just wanted someone to talk to. That said, I'd like to try it again because I think I'd go about it differently -and I'd be better at it now that I'm older and wiser! I had a night alone in Buenos Aires last Spring, after some friends left, waiting for my boyfriend to arrive and had a fabulous time meeting friends in the hotel. That doesn't really count though because I was in limbo and knew it was only one night! Looking forward to hearing about your trip.

Peter and Stephanie said...

Wow...you totally nailed it girl!! I used to be quite the little independent explorer myself back in the day before marraige. However, now that I have tied the knot, I can barely bring myself to travel just to the mall alone! Whats the deal!??? I think most of it has to do with the fact that we just got here to Japan, and I am not yet confident enough to take it on alone....
Who knows...either way I admire your spirit of adventure and wish I could join you on your journey!!!!

Shannon OD said...

I think all solo travelers would be lying if they said they never got lonely - I know I certainly did at points on the trip. But, once you recognize it's there, the key is to just get out and socialize, find the opportunities to meet others and talk to them - it's not the same as sharing the everyday details of life, but man is it fun and rewarding! You'll surely find conversation and new people to reach out and talk to at the teahouses and other things you're off to do :-) Enjoy!

mina said...

I definitely prefer traveling with Alex and would rather never travel alone again. It's just so much more fun! Loving your pictures - giving us a lot to look forward to.

Chris and Amy said...

Mary - Hi! Please do invite me for adventures. I love trying new things. For another craft adventure I'm thinking of trying stain glass work next month. It's through Crafty Things and I think they offer it every month.

Have fun in Shanghai! I haven't traveled much on my own. Part of it is fear, but part of it really is I enjoy sharing the experiences with the husband and friends. While you're in Shanghai, we'll be on a cruise to Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore. Woohoo!

Hope to hear from you, I keep seeing your gold faces in every magazine I pick up! :) Amy

Laura said...

I've traveled with my boyfriend over the last five years we've been together and loved it. But there are times when I miss being out in a new place on my own. My boyfriend likes to take naps, so sometimes I'll get out in the afternoons by myself and relive my independent travel days. But then it's nice because we have dinner together and talk about our days. It's the best of both worlds.

peregrina feminina said...

I had tons of anxiety about traveling solo on my Latin America trip. I think I just settled into after awhile. I had moments where I was alone and wanted someone to share something funny or interesting I'd seen with, and times where I really enjoyed the solitude. I think you'll be fine! How much longer do you have in Asia? Definitely take advantage of every opportunity that comes up!

Akila said...

Once I got married, my life became so inextriably tied to my husband's that I don't enjoy myself as much when I am not wit him. It is so much fun sharing everything with him that I hate traveling without him (even on stupid things, like business trips). So, I totally know what you mean.
Either way, you are going to have fun in Shanghai. And, just think about all the great things you are going to have to tell Sean when you get back!

Fly Girl said...

Wish I could join you! It sounds like exactly the kind of tavel experiences I enjoy. I've always been a solo traveler and even though there are always lonely moments, I really enjoy the independence and freedom to explore what I want. Since I've been married, I have traveled with my husband and family more and that does reconfigure your expectations. I don't think I ever though about having a travel companion before but sometimes I do now. I still do most of my travel alone or in press groups and I enjoy getting away from my husband and then coming back with new experiences.

Joelle said...

Totally know what you're saying. I loved loved loved the year I got to travel alone -- never having to compromise on where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do... Sitting or walking or eating for as long as I wanted... However, what I found is that none of it had REALLY HAPPENED until I'd managed to get onto the internet and email my friends/family to tell them of my adventures. Sharing the stories (even if no one would ever really understand) made it all seem more real. Can you take a recording device along with you and do verbal journaling? Then Sean could listen later!


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