Solo searching: in defence of travelling alone

Posted by Sonya Schoeman on 21 July 2015 Tags:

Can’t find a travel buddy? Go on your own. You owe it to yourself.

Photo by Jens Schott Knudsen.

Photo by Jens Schott Knudsen.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve experienced the full gamut of life: a wedding, a funeral and an adventure. I travelled for all of them, and it struck me that travel is a real show of commitment.

The first event was in Germany. Ever been to a German wedding? They’re surprisingly un-Teutonic. There is no single best man’s speech. Instead, there’s a variety show of contributions from all the besties, which can range from poetry to singing or dancing in traditional costume. It’s a riot. It’s also a prime opportunity to see family – one of the great motivators of travel. And when people know that you’ve flown 10000 kilometres their hearts expand with appreciation for the self-sacrifice you’ve made to them.

The funeral was local, but required a small journey. It was the mother of a dear friend, one who never really asks for much. When I offered to be there, she gladly accepted. Once there, I realized the effort was greatly appreciated as it meant the sharing of something profound in her life and, since I knew her mother and have also experienced a cutting loss of my own recently, it meant something to me too. It’s now a little piece of the puzzle of our lives that means there are certain things we need never explain to each other.

The last was a small adventure. I woke up on the morning of the Stanford Penguin Plunge. The week before I’d tried to drum up support from my closest friends. I’m surfing, was my guy’s (expected) response. I have a children’s party to go to, said my friend. And I have a roof to fix, said another. Cold whets few appetites.

I did have a friend already going, but I felt shy to intrude on her and her family. So that morning I considered not going at all. But then I thought: do this road trip just for you. So I put on my headphones, filled the tank, hit the road, and when I got there and presented myself, her delight at my arrival was gratifying. Afterwards, we sat on the banks of the Klein River and drank glühwein and talked life. I got to meet her family. And a shared experience of plunging into the frigid water with a bunch of other nutters has said one thing to me: good sense isn’t our strongest suite – she’s the one for my more irrational exploits.

And so I realized on my drive back home, that travel is a commitment, to family and friends, but mostly to yourself. It adds depth to living and creates lovely memories.

This month, I’m adding St Helena to my bucket list. Why? It’s spectacular, and the nature is pristine. And not having even one sea leg, it was never an option to me before. With the imminent airport, it now is. Development does, of course, bring change – read Tyson Jopson’s story on page 74 and make up your own mind about how you feel about it.

There’s also our fabulous Botswana Blitz, plus a gorgeous new Mozambique destination to add to that country’s many plusses, and Manyeleti, the lesser-known game park you should add to your list. At the very least, just flip these pages for the great photography.


This article first appeared in the August 2015 issue of Getaway magazine.

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