Started in 2007, at least once a year, I travel alone. It doesn’t really matter how far or how close the destination is. The idea is simply to go to a foreign place, a place where you know no one, alone. It’s not that I dislike travelling with friends. I do enjoy spending summer with my best friends: shopping and partying with the girls and going poetically mellow in a remote village with the boys. But travelling alone gives a different kind of pleasure. It’s more of a journey to know who you really are, better.
Travelling alone gives you a lot of time to spend with yourself, to do things as you wish, to see things that you want, to spend more or less time in places that you find most or least interesting, to say yes or no to a stranger’s invitation for a drink without having to consult anyone, to spend your time doing nothing—or anything, for that matter. To me, it’s an opportunity to wander around, to daydream, to write, to read, to draw, to take pictures, and most importantly: to think.
The most interesting part is, when travelling alone, you have no one to accompany you but yourself. It’s a great test to see how much you like being in your own company. Do you see yourself as a good friend; someone you can feel comfortable with, or someone you can’t stand? Do you see yourself as someone you can count on to? Will yourself disappoint or fulfill you? Can you make peace with your own thoughts, worries, fears, dreams, passions?
Travelling alone also teaches you in a humble way. It makes you see things with lovingness. Deep down inside, you realize that if things go wrong somehow, you can only rely upon the kindness of fellow strangers or locals you meet along the way. This makes you see everyone around you as a good friend. You feel happy and generous in offering directions to someone who seems lost, helping those who carry a lot of stuff while trying to lift their luggage to the pavement, cleaning the table once you’ve finished eating, or running—chasing for a baby hat that’s being blown away by the wind. A pleasant smile, a short stop to chat about the places you’ve been yesterday and places you’re about to go today, a polite nod with a hello, an exchange of good-mornings, a waving of the hand, a simple thank-you note after a great meal, a farewell card, a bottle of wine as a friendly gift.
This year, I went to Santorini in Kikhlades, Greece, alone. I’ve been reading Greek mythology books since I was in elementary school, and have always been interested in the country—but Santorini drew me in when I saw it for the first time on TV and postcards as a teenager. The picturesque island looked like a distant dream, a place hidden somewhere inside a fairy tale. However, I always believe that everything—no matter how small, no matter how big, starts with the courage to dream. And until today, there’s always a place for fairy tale in this world. When you’re patient enough to hold on to it, you can have your own, too.
On these series: