So I think I owe it to all the other solo travellers out there who are finding it hard at the moment to tell you a little story. Being alone is hard. Harder than anyone can really imagine until they do it. You don’t realise how much you rely on other people for comfort, as a sounding board, for doing nothing with.
The morning I went to Ebor Falls I woke up in Coffs Harbour feeling more alone than I have done in a very long time. This is one of the most unpleasant feelings in the world. I think it was heightened by the fact I was in a hostel where everyone else had friends and this highlighted the fact I had none. I left as soon as I could, I headed to the wilderness where I felt distinctly more comfortable in my own company. I continued on until I got my chosen campsite in the New England Nation Park. And I felt fine, in fact I was enjoying the novelty of lighting a fire in the rain, reading my book and making a distinctly delicious dinner. But as it got later, it got dark. The rain set in for the night and I retired to my bed – at 5pm.
In the scheme of things there were no real threats to my wellbeing, my tent was holding up well and I was warm. But the previously mentioned lack of signal was turning from a joy to somewhat more of a worry. Suddenly over the many hours of darkness and rain, my brain started making stories out of the noises I could hear. Rationalising that they were only animals and the water moving around me was not working. I am very much a worst case scenario person therefore the stories I was creating were certainly more horror story-esk than they were Sleeping Beauty. I started questioning my decisions. Why didn’t I leave the farm later? Why did I leave all my friends in Sydney where I was comfortable and happy to put myself in scary situations? Why do I take such risks? Why didn’t I stay at the hostel? The list goes on.
I fell asleep at around midnight to wake at about 1am from a nightmare that someone had found my location and was trying to kill me and I couldn’t get out due to the road being flooded. It took this nightmare and some rather frantic messages to Lachie to get me to pack up my tent in the pouring rain and drive along a 10km gravel road to the nearest tarmac. I returned to Ebor Falls and slept in the car park there, in Stella.
On a total of 4 hours sleep the next morning I did the only practical thing and drove the 222km to Port Macquarie. This was the scariest drive of my life. The heavens had opened, the roads were slowly turning into rivers and tree debris was littering my path. I think I should clarify it was raining to the point that even with my windscreen wipers on high I could barely see the road. This led to a three and a half hour drive taking me six hours. And you know what? It would have been nice to have someone else there not only to share the driving but also to chat to during the scary moments.
I’m now in a hostel in Port Macquarie and honestly it’s one of the better decisions I’ve made. I’m tired and on the brink of illness. Neither of which are fun. I was talking to the French girl in my room about travelling alone and how no one ever talks about or admits to how hard it is. Everyone paints a picture of making your own decisions and being empowered, yes these are definite benefits. But you don’t realise how hard it is to do the simple things like to going out for dinner. On your own you feel like an outsider and your alone-ness is only emphasised by everyone eating together around you. You don’t realise how lonely you get.
I don’t want to make it sound like travelling solo is horrible, because it’s not, but I think that people need to be prepared for the inevitable bouts loneliness and isolation which come with it. It’s not all pretty Instagram photos. There are some times when you are uncomfortable. That’s okay though, because if you never leave your comfort zone you will never grow or expand. I just wanted to give the full picture of experience and not just a snapshot, and to let anyone who is feeling alone know they are not the only ones. It’s perfectly normal to feel that way. Even if you’re in a busy place, sometimes that’s worse.