17 Feb ‘To awaken alone in a strange town’ is a real gift to yourself
To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world. ~Freya Stark
While your initial reaction to this quote may be that the speaker is sad, I feel their excitement as they realize the creative potential of the coming day. To awaken alone is to be free. The speaker has no expectations about what they will find as they venture out, there is no one else to consider in their plans for the day just the undiluted thrill of a day of serendipitous discoveries and adventures!
So much of what you learn as you travel is where your own limits lie. It may be that they lay far beyond the place you think they are, or much closer if the experience you thought would be exciting has you bored within minutes. You may think you can’t walk to that building on the horizon, but as you weave your way through narrow streets, and smell your way through markets, you look up and see that the once-distant skyline is now very close. It is the perfect example of creativity in practice!
Having no traveling partner also brings the freedom to try things you may have publicly declared to be off limits in the past. Foods you have decried at home, may look so much more tempting in their original form it would be ridiculous not to try them. No one need know – or you may have a wonderful tale to tell when you return. When there is no external judgment, you only have yourself to convince.
Some of the fun of traveling comes from the glorious vistas and scenery, but the creative thrills come from solving small puzzles along the way. If, like me, you hate to pull out a map as you walk, you are completely reliant on your own sense of direction. From time to time however, a building will appear between you and your route. Then what? This is the moment you get to pick your adventure as you have no external clues as to whether to go left or right – but one direction will feel more intriguing – so take it and exercise your creativity!
Open your eyes and ears to see what brought you this way. What treasures will you find along the way? I’ve found tiny museums for niche collections, an outdoor concert, art exhibitions, the thrill of rifling through a basket of items outside a shop I might never have chosen to enter. I’ve found amazing used book shops, fountains and monuments, and sometimes confusing vignettes of everyday life. So far I’ve always found my way back to my original territory, though in the process I may well have walked many miles further than I anticipated!
Being alone also means you get to choose where you want to stop and eat – or buy food for the journey. Open air markets are a treasure trove of local foods and produce. While there may well be a language gap between you and the seller, gestures and smiles generally mean you will leave with delicious, fresh, local food you might never otherwise see. On tasting some may not appeal to you, some may never be identified, but the glorious freshness and surprising flavor combinations is hard to beat.
Does the idea of eating alone freak you out? Then go into a supermarket and buy food that looks good. (In a globalized world you will probably recognize a lot of packaging. Don’t pick any of it up. Go off piste here and pick something unfamiliar.) The cash register will display the amount you need to pay, so you can get food that catches your eye and pay for it without ever having to speak a word. Then find a low wall overlooking an interesting scene and sit down to eat your haul – while enjoying the daily drama of the location.
Alternatively find or bring something with you to draw on or read as you eat, then find a good spot to sit. Whether you ultimately sketch, read ,or just people watch as you eat, no one but knows you – and any opinion they may have about your solitary dining status it one that you’ll ever know. If they react, just smile and ignore it. Just give it a try. Eating alone is seldom life threatening!
The chances are you are in this unfamiliar town for a purpose, but make time to enjoy it around the edges of that reason. Plan on enjoying the time. Leave your room without a plan. Expect to be delighted. Expect to see things you have never seen before. Savor being creative out in the wide! And if all else fails, get out your smart phone and use it work your way back to the bed you woke up in. You’ll still have a tale to tell, and will have surprised yourself by being freely creative in the process. Take the risk and awaken alone in a strange town!