Over the last few dys I’ve had a lot of time to think, perhaps too much time and I started thinking over my early days traveling. Most of my thoughts wander to times I traveled alone. On this trip was cycling solo in France, I was in my early 20s and still unsure of being by myself. In one of the campsites I started in I attached the attention of an elderly woman who invited me to her van for a cup of coffee. She was a German woman also traveling on her own and I guess thought that we could keep each other company. Unfortunately at that point my German was extremely basic and her English good as my German, however she made us both a coffee and we attempted to make conversation.
I remember explaining to her my story about deciding one wine soaked lunch to cycle around France and in return receiving a free bike from the person I was telling, thereby forcing me into something I had no idea how to do (I still have that bike btw).
She in turn told me her rather more tragic story, that her and her husband had always wanted to travel in a camper through Europe together but had never got the chance. He’d recently died and in memory of him she’d bought this little camper that I was sitting in at that moment and decided to the trip they’d never done together. I remember thinking at the time God this conversation is hard to maintain and follow, both of us using a mix of English and German. I’m now aggrieved at my callousness at this person’s story. I put it down to being naive, slightly self absorbed and also not truely understanding what it feels like to travel completely alone.
Almost 10 years later, sitting in my own van, alone I can begin to understand where she is coming from. Solo travel is something I’ve become good at, I like making my own decisions, having my own space and listening to my own music and there’s definitely things your do on your own that you probably wouldn’t do in company. However, I can still hold on to the idea that maybe one day I’ll get a bigger camper (or at least make my van more duo compatible) because I’ll have found someone to travel with who makes solo travel pale in comparison. This lady I met all those years ago had none of that left. She seems resigned to the idea that she’ll be sitting in the driver’s seat of her camper until her time comes. She’s spent her life making plans with one special person and now that he’s gone her plans are looking like lonely nights on her own. It makes me incredibly sad that I didn’t realise that until now. It makes me want to tell everyone to cherish every moment they have and enjoy everything they do. It makes me to want to stop couples fighting, it makes me want to tell people to appreciate who and what they have. It mostly makes me want to remember that everyone has an important story and if you are so lucky as to hear that story you should treat it with the respect it deserves. It might not be important to you, as your story probably isn’t important to someone else, but that doesn’t matter. It’s important to the person telling it.