Saturday, March 7, 2009


Garth asked me if I was lonely in the context of traveling with someone else or a lack there of. I thought briefly about it at the time, and then thought about it on a trip I made to the desert and then actually thought about it when I was in Tripoli. And then I actually wrote some stuff about it on layover that I had.

The short answer is yes. The long answer is somewhat more involved.

Saturday I had one of the best days so far this trip, just walking around lost for the day (one of my favorite pastimes). Libya seems to be a good place with a good vibe (as long as you can see through the bureaucracy of actually getting in). I hung out in a junk store in old Tripoli and wished I had another backpack. I have an idiosyncratic view of souvenirs, but check out this phone!! The shopkeeper delighted in showing me that it was actually his shop phone and made a dialing sign in the air (there was indeed a dial tone). I delighted myself by picking up the phone, mashing some numbers and saying, "Hello…. Canada?" Laughter ensued. Ha! Good times. Another highlight was meandering around a pet store that was sandwiched between a fruit market and an abattoir, each overflowing its boundaries to the other. Being a pet would blow in Libya, as would being livestock. Being a carrot or a tomato probably wouldn’t be that bad though.

It is entirely possible that if someone else was there that I wouldn’t have spent the time in these places. I may very well have taken my perception of what they wanted to do and not have dug deep in that pile of junk. It is likely that I would not have had such a gleeful reaction to the day’s events.

Even if that day’s experiences didn't have any room for someone else, there have been a lot of moments that I wish I could have shared. Its experiences like breakfast in the Sahara that has enough room for sharing to drive a Mac camel through. I need to relate with a friend in these places. Then sometimes you just want to have a significant other to keep your head on straight.

I'd have asked if she thought that the sand people found me to be joyless and she'd have asked me if I thought that it mattered. And I would have said yes, because what if I was joyless? and she would have rolled her eyes and reminded me that I have to work on not being dramatic. I would have sipped my coffee and looked out at the dessert, validating both points nicely.
Now not every moment traveling with me would be filled with such fun. There would be hard work, like downshifting through switchbacks, or making sand angels in the dunes, or seeking the maximum sustained speed of a KIA (155), or helping me triage out the fun Berber hitchhikers (some of them are duds), to laugh at the ludicrousness of a day or two here and there and see some really cool shit.

It is a cruel joke that the singular moments that I cherish the most make me the loneliest and the wackiest moments that are the most fun are likely only so for me.

So I guess I'm traveling alone partly as a choice and partly as necessity. I don't think that I am capable travelling with someone else for a long period of time. Although I barely notice when people make me do things that suck, I can't seem to forgive myself for choosing to do stuff that makes others have a bad time. Being with someone else (and actually traveling) comprises of about 150 decisions that have to be made each day. There is a certain responsibility to each other, and to each others "successful" trip (whatever that means) that really could be fulfilling, but may just turn out to be paralyzing. I don’t have enough experience with the subject to run the risk of late (things can change though). It boils down to a mixture of an inability to be vulnerable and an ability to take oneself too seriously, which I think too often, are just the same. Whatever it is, I am afflicted with the condition from time to time.

So I am alone. Lonely? Yes. Would I want it any other way the last few months? No. Although I am short on shared experiences with a palpable desire to relate to someone in a deep manner, I am doing what I need to do for now… without apology.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s funny that I am writing this on my way to crash Ken’s apartment in Dubai. Upon reflection though, there is a huge difference between two people spending most of the day working in the Las Vegas of the Mideast and 2 people sitting around a strange town asking, “So what do you want to do now?”, 10 months in a row. Does that make any sense?]

Anyways. I wish you were all here to share some things with me, and then disappear :)


  1. Your blog makes me sad. Because I'm selfish and I want to be doing what you're doing... no connections, no ties, no roots. Dammit, how is it possible that I traveled half way around the world to travel, and ended up planting myself in the first city I landed. Ugh. Keep on living the dream dude.

  2. Everyone takes there own path. Neither is without sacrifice and the grass is always greener. I could go for some roots right now. Call me.

  3. You make perfect sense :) Oddly enough, I wondered recently what was the word for the opposite of "lonely". I couldn't think of it and asked Robert, assuming he would know because he is so smart. Well, he didn't and our quick search on the internet didn't resolve it either. Your post makes me think that maybe the lack of a word to neatly describe/explain the opposite of "lonely" is itself another example of how complex and contradictory we are when it comes to being alone and together physically, emotionally, mentally (and virtually)... now, on to some tagine porn!

  4. I think that the opposite of lonely is connection. I am not sure how complete that definition is, but by extension it means that loneliness = a lack of connection, which seems to fit. Everyone has the ability to be lonely in a room full of people, or lonely in a relationship awash with physical intimacy. Being connected to yourself, although tenuous in my case, can stave off loneliness quite well I think. Complex and contradictory it sure is. I like your comment and I'm now glad that I devoted food porn to you. Porn is illegal where I am and I did so at great risk to my freedom ;)

    Did you know that "Stave Off" is a "phrasal verb"? Or that "staves off" doesn't really make sense, cuz "staves" is the plural of "staff"?

    I didn't.