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Solo Travelling - Radiohead Rescue

by  sue n

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

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.