Are you alone?
Somewhere in Malaysia about a week ago…
Weather: cloudy and HOT
I love travelling: I adore it. I enjoy the sensation of not quite knowing what people are saying, of trying to understand the layout and transport system of a new city, of eating a dish I can’t pronounce, the satisfaction of discovering something or somewhere the Lonely Planet didn’t mention. I relish the challenge of trying to work out a way of getting somewhere, of asking a local to help me and that warm fuzzy proud feeling of doing it right.
I decided to spend my stopover in Kuala Lumpur because knowing nothing and having no experience of Asia what-so-ever, it seemed the easiest, most user friendly option. I began to worry that 4 days in one city would piss me off, so followed the advice of a friend and booked a night in Melaka, 2 hours away. Once I arrived in KL, however, true to form, I dithered and dizzied over the new sights and lists of things to do, wondering if I should cancel my night away and make the most of my time in the capital. But, NO Grace, you made decision, now stick with it!
So I arrived in KL and was immediately surprised and awestruck with the modernity, the use of English and the ease in which my first few transactions were completed. I tried not to walk around with my mouth gaping as I stared up at the impressive skyline and watched my step for missing pieces of pavement.
The heat hits you like a slap round the face, like someone has opened the oven door and you can’t walk around it. You leave an air-conditioned building and immediately the skin on your face turns to liquid, as you draw in breath, it’s filled with car fumes and you look around and see locals in jeans, ladies wearing black hijabs, people wearing suits. No one is sweating, no one is uncomfortable everyone is just getting on with it, when it feels like If I stop walking, I’ll just seamlessly melt into the pavement.
My knowledge of Asian culture and Asian people is admittedly very limited and most of the time, I couldn’t tell who came from where. What was clear though, was that there weren’t many of me. Not many white people walking around and certainly no white girls walking on their own. This didn’t bother me: it possibly helped me, as had I wanted to buy any of the many things people wanted to sell me, my skin colour would have stuck a bargain. If I wanted a taxi, the fact that one beeped at me every 5 minutes, meant they weren’t hard to find. And had I needed help, people would have fallen over themselves to do so.
Are you married? I was asked by women on more than one occasion. No, I’m not married. Are you single? A Chinese girl asked me, who sat next to me on the bus. Yes, I am. Are you alone? I was asked by two hijabbed women separately. Yes, I am. Be careful, was the response. One older lady looked at me in awe and said “You are very brave”. It’s a hard concept to grasp that I should be so brave, when to me, travelling is a means of education, it’s a way for me to branch out and say, Yes, I can do that. Walking around on my own, having to answer to no one, going at Grace Pace and seeing what I want to see when I want to see it can be total bliss. But a constant reminder that, yes, I am doing this alone and no, I’m not married does make one wonder a little about where one is going and why.
The whole point of this venture for me is yet another reason to not settle down in the rat race quite yet and to use the fact that I am not married and with very little responsibility as of yet to make the most of my not married status and see a little more of the world. But there is an interesting line between the concept of travelling alone and feeling alone. It can stop being a novelty when a Monitor lizard scuttles across the road in front of you, or 10 minutes with your feet in the fish spa leaves your sides aching from laughing so hard, or you catch a glimpse of an impossibly perfect sunset lighting the KL tower in a way you never imagined in a city skyline and you realise there is no one beside you to share that moment…
Am I travelling alone? Yes
Am I alone? sometimes.