This is a little post to all you solo travellers.
Have you noticed how noisy and crowded it gets in your little home-on-wheels after travelling alone for a little while?
I had no idea the characters I was bringing along with me on this little journey or how much real estate they occupied, or just how calamitous they would become.
For the first couple weeks, I was only vaguely aware of their presence and mostly practiced ignoring their growing rumblings.
There were murmerings while I read maps. The occasional “ahem” from the back of the van. A fleeting, sinking feeling in my stomach. An invisible slap on the side of my head. A sense something bad might happen. Worry I might fail on my quest. A realization that I might not know what my quest was.
I played music or podcasts back-to-back in an effort to ignore it all. I hummed and sang. I talked incessantly to Pippa. I banged pots and pans together. I knew I had visitors, but hoped they would get off at the next stop. But no, the colder it got, the louder and icier their voices became.
I remember well, the night we actually met.
I was in a near-empty, run-down truck-stop KOA outside of Winnipeg. It was Thanksgiving weekend, and my birthday. Transport trailers whooshed by on the Trans-Canada, 200 metres behind me. I walked to the river, hidden behind a pile of construction materials; it’s banks were littered with garbage. I ate cold rice for dinner.
I turned in earlier than usual because it was too cold to sit outside and swirls of dried leaves and dust were being hurled about by the incessant, cold prairie wind. I’d been hiding in the van most of the day, avoiding a plague of biting ladybugs. All of this after a week of exploring a vast, open landscape and feeling like a tiny rabbit without a hole to hide in.
I didn’t like that all the campers were going home and was unhappy the campgrounds would be closing now for the season. I was a migrating goose in a world full of hibernating bears, and without campgrounds, I didn’t know where I would rest at night.
Temperatures were regularly below zero. The wind was unusually strong even for the prairies. Pippa wasn’t happy hiking. There was no one to talk to and I wasn’t comfortable camping off grid.
I did what felt like the unthinkable.
I started dreaming about moving indoors until Indigo joined me in three weeks.
And at exactly that moment, the spotlight came on, the curtain rose and my noisy travelling companions finally stepped onto stage, into the spotlight. Let me introduce you to them. They had a lot to say about my plan.
The lead character was The Critic/Judge
- Well, you did a great job planning out this part of the trip, didn’t you?
- A real traveller would stick it out on the road.
- Well, this is going to be an epic fail, isn’t it?
- Your’e not tough enough for this. You’re too old.
Followed closely by The Victim/ Martyr
- I guess this is the price I pay for being a van traveller (don’t mind me as I spend my birthday alone in a cold van)
- I signed up for this; I’ll just have to suck it up (sniff, sniff)
- Maybe I should just go home (Flinging self onto patch of dead grass, lifeless)
- Everyone is with families and friends this weekend and here I am alone in a creepy truck-stop campground with biting ladybugs. I’ll probably die.
- Others are watching. I will be so embarrassed if I can’t do this.
Emboldened, out steps The Addict.
- I’m sober and sugar free for THIS?
- I’ve just earned a glass of wine (or two) and a super sized Toblerone. Yay!
- Surely, there is a pub close by.
Finally, The Fanatic appears.
- If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.
- Tomorrow, we are going to plot out every day for the next month.
- This is what happens when you don’t control everything.
No wonder I was feeling claustrophobic. That was quite a cast and I bet they all had understudies too. They were pretty imposing. But the longer I stared at them, the more questions I had.
What did the Critic want from me? Someone to bully and degrade? What was the Victim hoping for? A pity party? To relinquish responsibility for decision making?
I already knew the Addict as a compulsive liar only interested in an instant fix to obliterate uncomfortable feelings.
The fanatic? She had her way for the first month and we came to a truce after that. Constant control was exhausting and didn’t provide any guarantees for a challenge-free adventure. It also kept me from experiencing the joy of spontaneity. But she was clearly still hanging around.
None of these characters were going to get my Oscar nomination; my stomach felt a little sick and my chest was tight. I felt small and powerless under the weight of all they were saying. Was this it? Were there no others to look toward for advice?
I asked one more time, and listened carefully. Is there anyone else?
Soon, a gentle, quiet voice floated from Stage Right.
- You are not an island Kit. It’s important you be near others. Geese don’t fly alone. Honour your goosiness.
- Every day of this journey is filled with choice and you can choose whatever your spirit and body need, without apology. You are not powerless. This is your journey and no one else’s.
- Your discomfort and the hard times will pass, like the weather. You have the strength to feel it, accept it and move through it without “checking out” with alcohol or food.
- Life is not black and white. Some things we control, some things we can not. Seek balance, not extremes. It’s ok to decide moment-to -moment what you need, and make changes – because you are always changing.
I took a deep breath and squinted into the light where the gentle, loving voice was coming from.
“Who are you?” I asked, relieved to hear a motherly tone. I could have listened to her voice all day.
I’m your Inner Voice Kit. Some people call me Instinct. Others say they have an “inkling” and others use the word Intuition or Insight. “I” am your “I”. I’m the Essence of who you are.
I keep you safe. I lead you to joy.
“I think I’ll just keep you” I said, relieved and already beginning to make a plan that would help me get through the next leg of my journey.
“I bet you put on a great one-woman show. Can you please send the rest of the cast away now?” I requested, shooting my best stink-eye in the direction of the rest of the cast, who were silent, but still present, on stage.
I’m afraid not my Dearest One. Life requires a full cast, and these are just a handful of the characters you will meet along the way. Many will be constant companions. But the good news is you always have the power to decide who to ask directions from.
Right. Ok. I get to pick my GPS system. I get it! For just a moment, it was all very clear.
I yawned, closed my eyes, snuggled under the covers and felt Pippa release a warm sigh beside me.
I must remember to take advice only from characters that start with “I”…..I thought as I drifted off, calm and warm.
Leave it to my Inner Voice to use a travel metaphor to make her point.