Brief encounters of the reflective kind

L


ife offers many treats and one of my favourite is lone travel. It’s not that I don’t enjoy travelling with friends and loved ones but am I the only one that finds other people’s travel tics stress-inducing? Not all my friends or loved ones have these travel tics. I say this to put friends and loved ones’ minds at ease, or to get you to really think about the obsessive planning, that pocket patting panic at passport control or the repetitive questioning about arrangements on arrival… just saying!

Anyway I like to take myself off on teeny and mild mannered adventures these days. I’ve braved longer journeys to distant lands which I’ve enjoyed but my increasing fear of flying means that for me land-based travel is definitely the thing. I’m still of the mind that there is a romanticism to train travel, particularly overnight trains of which there are very few left in the UK. Memories of night time train trips from Umtali to Salisbury, probably a bit pink and fuzzy these days, got me thinking that an overnight train to the Highlands would be just the thing.strangers

But while I may write a slightly snarky blog about my Caledonian Sleeper experience later … this is about the people along the way. Lone travel, whether it’s an epic journey or a short trip, offers every sort of possibility for personal reinvention. When I meet a stranger will I be me? Or will I adopt an air of mystery, become the Clint Eastwood Pale Rider character passing through and saving the town on the way? The latter alternative seems like quite hard work for a woman who barely manages to hoist her own backpack onto her back, never mind the quandary of how many pairs of knickers to pack. So let’s be me then. I often rather like me so strangers might too. But the great thing is you don’t meet them for long enough that it matters, and if you really bond you can terrify them by asking for email or FB details to stalk them sometime into the future.

I made the definite decision to start conversations with everyone I liked the look of. The result: Japanese B&B owner in Stratford and I chatted about things to see in Osaka; a rather attractive young man and I conversed about gin; a mum and her teenage daughter and I chatted about Connor McCarthy’s (agreed) best book ever, All the Pretty Horses; I attempted to explain the concept of public ownership of the rail service to an American mum, teenage son and her mum; the elderly waitress in Fawlty Towers Mark II and I described the finer points of white pudding to an English woman; I discussed the merits of chips with the teenage waiter in the (amazing) fish and chip restaurant in Golspie; I had a brilliant chat with the woman who owns the flower shop in Tain (go, it’s great!) and discovered that when she was a teen she bought all her records in my family record shop in Rutherglen; the kindle vs tangible books debate with the mum of an exhausting toddler; the young woman behind the bar in an Inverness pub and I agreed that soup was the ultimate food; B&B owner in Inverness and I discussed the problems of varifocals and had a moment of hilarity when we realised we each had a pair of specis on our heads and another tucked into our cleavage – oh, what larks!

My strategy of talking to folk paid off and it made my trip all the better. Just don’t get me started on the people with whom I avoided eye contact…

Booked but elsewhere

Booked but elsewhere

 

5 Comments

  1. Alvina
    Jul 27, 2015

    I love travelling alone. My best times in Vietnam were travelling by train or bus and meeting other travellers

    • knowingd
      Jul 27, 2015

      I miss your Vietnamese blogging, but am enjoying your beautifully photographed walks through the Lakes.

  2. Miranda Coates
    Jul 27, 2015

    Clevage storage options. Your next blog please.

    • knowingd
      Jul 27, 2015

      tomorrow, tomorrow, I’m blogging tomorrow, it’s only hours awaaaay!

  3. Sue B
    Jul 27, 2015

    I hope the cleavage storage thing doesn’t catch on because I don’t have one, and everything will end up on the floor.

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