A Solo Travel Pursuit – On the Other Side of Depression
Article by Jackie Alecho from On The Other Side of Depression
The thought of doing anything alone can honestly be scary. Its the stigma associated with doing stuff alone puts most people off. Have you ever been to the cinema alone? Do people go to the cinema alone? you ask? Most people will say no, and they wouldn’t try. But why? Because it is an activity normally done in couples and groups and it would be embarrassing to rock up buying your ticket, and the cashier staring back at you while they pass you over your one ticket. Then you take a seat in your alone chair, while everyone around you has someone to chit chat to while the adverts are rolling. Then the worry you get when someone laughs, and you think they are laughing at you, because your all alone. Its the same for going clubbing alone, eating at a restaurant alone, and going on holiday alone.
I decided to be a lone traveller and I cannot tell you how liberating it is to travel alone, if you haven’t tried it. I hope one day you manage to.
After years of tormenting myself mentally and tiring out physically. I needed a moment to reflect on myself. But also challenge myself. Studying in university plus working, and being so unwell with sadness made sure i didn’t have the time energy or money to do such a brave thing. I always felt alone in my thoughts and feelings, but always surrounded by people at work, at home, with friends. I needed a change, time to be comfortable within myself and to love myself. So I took that leap, and I have loved the harmony of travelling alone ever since.
Now its not all butterflies and bees and honey and trees…
I decided island hop around a few islands In Greece, I started in Athens, then took a ferry ship over to Ios, then another ferry ship to Paros, and ended in Mykonos. Island hopping alone was exciting, but this is my 3rd time travelling alone now, and at some points it is still the scariest feeling. Travelling alone and being black for most black people is even more off putting. Before I travelled alone the first time, I searched for black experiences, black blogs about being alone on holiday. Which places to go where black people stay, so that I don’t need to worry about racism. Now please don’t misunderstand me, I am not creating barriers for myself. But only making sure the my travels are safe without discrimination racism and hassle. A lack of alone experiences for black people while I searched on the web didn’t help my hunger for wanting to experience and travel without restrictions and constraints. It also didn’t relieve my worry’s and fears of being out there alone as a female of colour. While I was away I had expressed those anxieties to a few people I had met, and they all seem to respond the same. Its all in your head. Everybody loves black people. Now I know I am generalising, but unless you have had the experience, then you will not be able to understand fully what the experience feels to those that have. And yes, people do love black people, but some people hate them. But don’t get me wrong, I am not saying other ethnicities don’t encounter problems on their travels.
I once watched a video where a few black boys are in china sitting on some stairs. And people kept going up to them and just touching them. And taking pictures of them a person even asked to lick one of them. yes, It could be very endearing. But it could quickly turn into feeling like you are a gorilla in a zoo.
So I landed in Athens Monday afternoon, the run down city the oozes graffiti on every corner, to my surprise resembled more of a shantytown. I got to my hotel Aristoteles, The loveliest reception lady told me to go and eat down the road at a restaurant called Rozalina. After about a 7 minute walk, I found it. I Went and asked if they had an English menu, the young guy gave me one, and I let him know that I wanted to order. He spoke and understood a decent amount of English. We went up to the counter together, and the lady at the counter said something back to him in Greek. He then turned to me and said okay come with me. He walked me out of the shop, and pointed down the brick road. ”you can go and eat over there’’ I was shocked, but I was hungry. I asked him why? he said he doesn’t know.
I left, and went down the road. Later on on the evening I returned to take pictures of the restaurant, but found the manager outside. I explained to him what had happened and why I am taking pictures. He told he was very sure it must have been a misunderstanding due to the lack of understanding English. He told me to sit down, and gave me a specials menu. The hospitality from then on was 5 star, and the food was truly beautiful, I couldn’t fault it at all. So a negative experience turned out to be a positive one. Because i ate for free! ha ha!
The next day I visited the Acropolis, the views of Athens city were out of this world. The ancient ruins still kept in good shape. A lot of barriers and prohibited areas, so you couldn’t really get up close and personal to some of the remains. And if you tried, you had women with sun hats on blowing referee whistles at you! But all in all a beautiful spot to go for €20 and just take in the views and sunset, and enjoy being in the back of hundreds of tourists selfies.
That experience slowly turned into a slightly sour one. As I was walking down from the Acropolis, a group of young girls, which may have been tourists. Watched me as I walked passed them, Then shouted out to one another ‘Fifty shades of black’ At the time I thought it was quite funny, because what does that actually mean? What did they want me to do or say? I just kept walking, and smiling. But when I envision being on holiday, I don’t get to scene where i’m minding my own business and people scream out at me because of the fact that I am black. Sometimes I forget I am black, at times I assume I am just a human like every body else. On my walk home i stumbled across an outdoor poetry reading. Those that know me, know i love poetry, and poetry shows. So i was delighted. The speaker was FEMME in public, a trans and gender performing artist drawing on “a dream of what it could look like to celebrate transfemininity in public—both in ourselves and for the people who desire us.” What struck me, was the emphasis on people of colour and their struggle within the wider human community. I really enjoyed the poetry performance, it was strong, witty, intense and real.
Over my time in Greece I had some wonderful experiences and memories, that I will take with me in my life forever. Accompanied by some down moments. But the positive days have beaten the negative times. Please don’t let negative barriers cloud your motivation to get up and go travelling to places you wouldn’t try! Negative experiences are part of your growth, and you can look back and see how you over came them! Just because you are alone, it doesn’t mean you are lonely!
Let me know about any alone experiences.