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Solo Travelling - Radiohead Rescue

by sue n 

Posted: 21 October 2003
Word Count: 659
Summary: A little piece from my tale of travelling round the world

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Solo Travelling - Radiohead Rescue
Not having spoken to anyone all day, I felt a little lonely that night. Tucked inside the case of the tape my daughter Rachel had made for me was a little note with the strict instruction 'Only to be read when feeling sad or lonely'. That moment had arrived and I wrapped myself in a blanket ready to be comforted by her words. I had brought six tapes but now there were five. Rachel's tape and its note were nowhere to be found. I emptied out the bag, searched all its nooks and crannies, shook all the contents several times and then shook them again. All to no avail - it was lost. I felt thoroughly miserable and had my first weep of the trip. It was as if a thread that connected me with home was severed. There was nothing left but to play the tape of Radiohead, brought along for when I needed a good wallow. 'OK Computer', dubbed by one critic as 'music to commit suicide by', would be among my desert island discs for such moments. I'd originally bought it for Rachel one Christmas, bad timing as she'd just been 'dumped' by the boyfriend. I surreptitiously put it on when she wasn't around but somehow or other she always managed to reappear. A quick flick of the 'off'switch was needed before devoting myself to mopping up the tears and giving her a hug while uttering the obligatory platitudes of 'plenty more fish in the sea' etc. I would have been so grateful for a hug myself that evening and again wondered if this trip was such a good idea. I was learning that being on your own and being lonely are two different things. I can be at home for days without speaking to anyone and not feel lonely, but travelling, so far away from anything familiar, there were times when I wanted to beg or scream for someone to talk to me. Luckily such moments were rare.
If I was to survive I had to learn how to 'backpack', to shed my natural shyness and also to ignore the fact that I was usually thirty years older than everyone else. The next evening, after yet another solo meal in a café, I resolved to begin that very moment and, taking a deep breath, attached myself to a group of young backpackers of assorted nationalities. I was made welcome and stayed chatting until late in the evening. Buoyed up by this success, at breakfast the following morning, I struck up a conversation with a French girl, Valerie and we spent the next couple of days together. I wanted to show her Baktapur and we caught the trolley bus for the five mile journey, a never-to-be-repeated experience. We were the only non-Nepalese crushed in among the locals with all their sacks and trays of produce. Like nose blowing, throat-clearing in public is perfectly acceptable in Asia. Following the hawking, the louder the better, comes the trophy-like ejection of the results, anywhere, including the floor of a very crowded tram. The overhead rail short-circuited twice and a little girl was violently sick. We caught a taxi back.
This was much more like I'd hoped travelling on my own would be. The common enjoyment of tales of far-away places had no age, gender or racial boundaries. A big advantage of being a Netjetter was that it made a good story and as time passed I lost count of how many times I told the tale and of how many Netjetter cards with the website address on that I handed out. I wonder how many people looked on the site, if only to see if they got a mention. I felt I was just beginning to get the hang of things when it was time to move on. I left Nepal feeling optimistic that it was going to be alright, I would make it.

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Comments by other Members

Richard Brown at 00:08 on 22 October 2003  Report this post

Another intriguing episode. I still have the notion that the right kind of marketing would make a niche for this account of the 'older woman's' backpacking adventures. I can't imagine that there are all that many rivals in the field. I'll do my best to track down the travel writer I mentioned in a previous comment to see if he can offer any advice.


Ellenna at 09:13 on 22 October 2003  Report this post
Sue I am thoroughly enjoying this ...you give insight to those lonely moments and the reality of backpacking and I am full of admiration. Thanks for sharing this and look forward to reading more of your travels..I wish I were so intrepid!

Ellenna at 19:41 on 23 October 2003  Report this post
Sue how fascinating.. and I live virtually next door to where you worked in Cambridge !


great pics.. especially Macchu picchu.. a place i yearn to visit! thanks for sharing them..

Richard Brown at 19:54 on 28 October 2003  Report this post
Took a look at the netjetters site. I had no idea it existed. You're right about your pics - very impressive. I'm wondering if there might be a publishing angle relating to Bruce (!) I see that he features in many of the photos and clearly has a lot of courage. There's a risk, I suppose, of seeming a tad eccentric but I could see a sustainable comic role for your companion.

sue n at 18:23 on 30 October 2003  Report this post
I have thought of making more of Bruce - he is alot less evident in the book than on the website. I have always suffered from some confusion about what I am writing. It started as a diary/travelogue but developed into more of a personal account of the experience of travelling. I feared that yet another strand in the 'thoughts of a teddybear' might confuse matters and detract from the narrative. I am willing to be corrected but would want some editorial guidance before embarking on any more refinments/rewriting, in case it was all in vain.
I like it as it is but am left with the general comment that it is not different enough.
For the first time in 18 months I am beginning to doubt that it will ever be published - it is a very depressing thought

sue n at 18:29 on 30 October 2003  Report this post
I used to live in Clare St at the back of Shire Hall about 20 years ago. Small world. Machu Picchu is not so far.

Ellenna at 19:19 on 30 October 2003  Report this post
oh wow i live in the next street...lol

yes one day I will gasp to the top of machu picchu..in my old age :)

Richard Brown at 09:16 on 31 October 2003  Report this post
I haven't given up on my travel writer person. I'll do my best to extract some kind of assessment from him.
Please don't despair! It's mostly a long and arduous road to publication.


jimbob72 at 09:10 on 28 November 2003  Report this post

Thanks for your comments. I've only just realised they were from a famous travel writer! Love your pieces on the Guardian site. I was actually going to enter this year's netjetters comp, but couldn't decide on a sensible premise. I totally agree with Richard that your writing would appeal commercially. Consider the vast number of people that it might just inspire to take the plunge. Good luck.


Ps. If you fancy looking at (yet) more pictures from South Am. then my travel website is at www.james.wrighton.btinternet.co.uk. Not sure they offer as much interest as yours though.

sue n at 00:44 on 29 November 2003  Report this post
I have never been called a famous travel writer before - I love it.
(Maybe it will be true one day)
Great pictures - you caught far more wildlife than I did.Loved New Zealand pics.
If I could do my trip again I would take a totally different set of photos - more local people and idiosyncraties(is that a proper word?), less touristy.

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