Travel is simultaneously the most solitary and most social activity.
So, you’re embarking on a trip alone. You may be going someplace new, for yourself. Or, you may be meeting people later on. Perhaps you’re visiting a friend. But at first you’ll sit in that plane, train, car, or bus, and if surrounded by people—strangers. And then you’ll make your solitary way. You’ll walk the streets, parks, wander, sightsee, pass the time. Visit museums, take photos, visit shops.
During these long moments you’ll become accustomed to the silence around your mind, and it’s perfectly fine.
But of course you’re not always alone. Sometimes you visit, meet up with others, catch up with old friends. A whirlwind of histories intertwined, instant and comforting reconnections, laughing at tragicomedies past.
Or, you encounter new people. They’re like you, out on the road, traversing unfamiliar spaces, and you continue on making your way together. And years later, you still do talk. Many of these connections are stronger than mere buddies-of-convenience. Just as new places stick with you, people can too. Traveling is among the top friend-making situations, in my estimation.
I just spent a rather long weekend in New York City. Here is what I did: I went to visit a very best friend from college, who kindly hosted me. I walked all over Manhattan. I had dinner with another old college friend. I spent hours in a bookstore. I accosted some Finns in Finnish, and they were pleasantly surprised. I read in coffee shops. I hung out with a friend I first met while in London. I stood in corners, figuring out directions. I went to a concert with my host friend and we joined arms with strangers. I ran down streets in heels. I saw No Man’s Land and got a selfie with Sir Ian. I warmed up in clothes stores. I somewhat helped my host’s housemates make dinner. I finished a book. I spoke some German with a guy from Germany and we talked about Iceland. I wandered Central Park. I caught up, laughing about old college antics, with a former suitemate. I read during long subway rides. I grabbed coffee with my graduate school housemate. I read in the airport. I read on the plane. My boyfriend picked me up at the airport and brought me home.
In New York City you are, unavoidably, surrounded by people. You can be completely alone, but you can find almost anyone.
Extra social and oft-solitary. That’s how it is.