Traveling alone is something that I've always found alluring. No doubt, when the day to set off draws near, I start getting a little jittery. Yet it's this very reason that I need to venture out alone. Being too comfortable and settling into too familiar a routine is a danger because it’s regression. Besides, life is always much more than that. I seek to keep myself on my toes, stay independent and most importantly, to remind myself of who I am. For to me, travel is all about self understanding and discovering. And always at the end of such a trip, I find that I've grown and gained valuable memories.
On this recent trip to Xi’an, China, it rained on many days, lending the city a dreamy, surreal quality. I remember especially the people I met on a land tour I took. The old man who sat next to me on the bus. A kind looking grandfather who spoke softly and in a cultured way. I found out the Chinese city he was from and that he used to work with the airlines. Hence he has traveled a bit. We spoke about Singapore, about places to visit in China. He also asked about my traveling alone.
I remember too the young man traveling with his 3 aunts. I found it interesting that I understood bits of their local language. He was humorous, friendly and took good care of his aunts. He saw me doodling and we spoke a little. That was when he found out I’m not from China. At the end of the trip when we alighted the bus, he said goodbye and to perhaps meet again if fated.
There was the little old man whom I found poking himself to the front whenever we gathered around the tour guide. Initially I found it a little irritating but later thought he's quite adorable. Must be in his 70s or 80s but still sprightly and trudging along with everyone even in the rain. It was when he spoke to me that my impression of him changed. How little it takes to break the ice and see the good in others.
These are people whom I'm likely never to meet again but whose blurred faces I may remember years down the road because they formed a page in my memory. Passerbys whose paths crossed my mine.
The terracotta armies were a highlight of this trip. I was overwhelmed witnessing the scale of one man’s ambition. I got a glimpse of how detrimental absolute power is when taken too far. I enjoyed the solitary moments when I walked those huge halls. I was amongst such a big crowd but yet I was every bit alone, seeing the sights ahead and humming my favourite tunes. I'm glad to be comfortable in my own skin. Alone but not lonely.
The sun came out the day I was scheduled to leave Xi’an. But it didn’t matter. My short stay there was perfect the way it was.
p/s I’ve had this thought about collating all my travel stories and thoughts, publishing a book on them. But I never got round to it....