Lonely Planet

7 days ago, I was on a flight headed for Ho Chi Minh City. “Headed for” are the key words here. What I was really doing at the time, and what I was unaware that I was doing, was that I was headed on a flight to Beijing where I would miss my connection to Ho Chi Minh city and have to spend the night all by myself with a stranger in a less than delightful hotel room in a less than delightful city.

The time between leaving San Francisco and arriving in Ho Chi Minh city was spent completely alone, since Tracy was on a different flight. I found myself idling away hours in the airport, walking through dozens of duty-free shops, bookstores and travel stores. I purchased a simple alarm clock, a small container of hand sanitizer, and a few pens so that I could write whenever I felt the urge to share something with someone. I thought about the title of the popular travel guide series “Lonely Planet,” and decided that it was aptly named. As I made my way slowly to my gate and noticed the travelers streaming past me, I felt an incredible sense of loneliness, but simultaneously, a strong sense of lightness and freedom. Having left my devices at home, with nothing to entertain me other than reading the manual for my cheap travel clock or scribbling down my thoughts in the notepad I’d purchased, it dawned on me that there was no way for anyone to reach me, and that I was in an airport alone, flying to a foreign country alone. I watched as families and couples walked past me, many of them excited about the trips they were about to take, scurrying around in a frenzy to reach their gates on time.

Most of the time, I am well aware that it can be lonely on this planet we live on. For anyone who has ever felt alone in a crowded room, I am sure that it is easy to relate. Traveling alone brings this awareness to a whole new level. Stripped of the distractions and the people we depend upon to quell this feeling of loneliness, we become completely aware of the artifice of the constructions we have made around our lives, and how easy it would be to destroy those constructions and build new ones. The lightness is all at once freeing and unbearable.

Richard Bach once said, “Every person, all the events of your life, are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.” As I wandered by the shops and restaurants, I became increasingly aware of the truth in this statement.

A few foreigners standing in front of me in line at a Starbucks attempted to order a coffee in broken English. I walked to my gate, sat down, pulled out a book and began to read.

5 thoughts on “Lonely Planet

  1. Interesting point of view! I know what you mean about being alone, but I really value that time spent alone sometimes whilst traveling. In this day and age where everyone is connected all the time, it’s refreshing to be alone and be in a place where no one can contact you and where you can truly relax and lose yourself in your own thoughts.

  2. Someone’s been thinking about Unbearable Lightness of Being again. ;p I want to give you a hug right now. But instead I’ll give you this… Wilco “Born Alone”.

    I have heard the war and worry of the gospel
    Ferry fast across the void
    I have married broken spoke chargin’ smoke wheels
    Spit and swallowed opioid

    I am the driver at the wheel of the horror
    Marching circles at the gate
    Mine eyes have seen the fury
    So flattered by fate

    Tonight, I’d rather count the warm fuse internally
    Subtract the silence of myself
    I would rather choose the middle mind of mystery
    Reverse a riddle for my health
    I’ll unwind strange rinds overpowering
    Toss the chimneys in the sea
    I believe I’ve seen
    The finger divine extremity

    Please come closer to the feather smooth lens fly
    Sadness is my luxury
    Will you weather, join the cold, come before I die
    More aware of it than me
    The valves are blowing stone
    The kids are unabashed
    Loneliness postponed
    Mine eyes deceiving glory
    I was born to die alone

  3. I always find the phrase “alone together” really interesting and how that feeling even works; I think you captured some of that here =)

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