I came across this just a few minutes ago, while finishing my last swig off coffee before I get dressed and head out for my walk.
Traveling alone. Ah, I know this well.
The first time I ever left the US was in the summer of 1993. I went to London and other main tourist spots, like Windsor Castle and Stratford-on-Avon, for nine days. It was a package tour, a college graduation gift from my parents for a job well done. The previous year, I had gone through a rough patch, and things were looking up. I was confident and motivated to head to graduate school for another two years. That turned out to be a mistake, but I’ll save that for another time.
I had a great time in London, and went with a good group. Mostly older, there were a couple of people my age, in their early 20s. There was this one par: younger girl and older woman. Now, looking back with ‘spherian eyes, I could see some of that feminist type behavior going on. After the package tour, they were renting a car and going to see Wales together. They were kind of fun, but kind of annoying at the same time.
For the record, no, they weren’t lesbians. The age difference was too great and I didn’t see any signs of that kind of attraction between them. Suffice to say, they were reveling in their (relative) freedom (from men) and living it up.
As someone who, from an early age, wanted to be alone, I tried to do more things by myself, even during this package tour. On the day that we were free to explore the city on our own, I took the Tube to Highgate Cemetery to see the grave of Karl Marx. Why? Because I could, and because I had been reading him at the time. In the days before smartphone GPS, reading a map and trying to find my way along the winding streets added to the adventure. When I got to the cemetery and saw the grave, which also includes some of the members of Marx’s family, I felt a sense of communing with a great historical figure — though I know look at him much more critically than I did back in those days.
There were other Marx memories. I bought two of his books. First, the Grundrisse, which I got from a used bookshop not far from Highgate, and which still has the price written, in pencil, in pounds on the first page. Second,. the first volume of Capital (Penguin edition) from a bookshop near Trafalgar Square. I also remember thumbing through some of Baudrillard’s books (including the very odd “Revenge of the Crystal“). This was from the time when I loved wandering through bookshops.
Since then, I’ve traveled alone quite a bit. Not necessarily by choice, sometimes by circumstance.