Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you and you hold your life in your hands all alone, you are more master of yourself than at any other time.
– Hannah Arendt
This insight rings so true for me!
Solo travel has definitely made me feel more centred, which has given me more freedom to explore and be fully present. There’s no negotiating or compromising with fellow travellers – not that this is bad but it’s different – and I have found it takes some getting used to making decisions purely for my own enjoyment.
I first travelled solo for a few days in bigger cities, and then joined up with an organized group to hike, followed by a few more days on my own. Then a few years later, I did the same thing but increased the number of days alone. I kept increasing the days alone and moved away from exploring bigger cities in high season to making my destination the smaller towns and villages in the low season.
On one of these small village trips, I stayed in a town near the Lazio-Umbria border called Casperia. I had seen it on a TV show and wanted desperately to paint it. It wasn’t easy to get to, and I nearly didn’t make the proper train connections. When I arrived at my B&B, I was the only guest in this massive castle-like building, and at night, I was alone with its constant creaks and (thankfully) kindly spirits. As it was off-season, only one restaurant in town was open, and I ate there alone every night, garnering stares and whispers from the other patrons. I had become used to being a solo diner by that time.
During the day I’d wander around the town, sketching and painting in my travel sketchbook. I’d plunk myself on some step and draw. The townspeople would walk past me and I’d offer a “buongiorno” and smile. One woman seemed to find me as I moved locations – I think she was the self-designated Neighbourhood Watch officer. Every time she’d find me, I would wave hello and she would take off in the opposite direction. Cover blown!
I remember this trip and other solo trips fondly not only for the stories like these, but also for the more independent, open and courageous woman I become on these trips – not nearly to the same extent at home. I thought a lot about this phenomenon as I painted my latest miniature of Casperia specifically to include in my first solo show “100 Little Journeys”. These paintings reconnect me to, as Arendt says, this mastery of myself, and act as a reminder to keep ME in charge at all times!
(If this subject is looking familiar, I sketched it many years ago in a larger size. This is my second version of this scene, this time in miniature)