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Friday, 31 August 2012

Travel. Alone.

Ready to fly
If you read my blog a bit you might know that I like to travel. Oh yes. And my new role is going to facilitate my love of travel. The business is quite spread out around Australia, there is a lot of change management work to be done, my role also covers asia-pacific so I'll be seeing a little of Asia, and the company head office is in the US. Apart from missing all the boys in the house, it's all good. And Arran loves having Aiden and Charlie to himself.

All the boys
This week I spent two days in Melbourne and one in Brisbane. I really would like to spend more time in Melbourne. It's a real contradiction. It's gentrified and gritty. It's traditional and edgy. It's polished and friendly. It has a different vibe to Sydney, which I think is big, brash and egotistic. And breathtakingly gob-smackingly beautiful. I think Melbourne lacks Sydney's beauty but I really like the city. And don't know it that well so I'm intrigued and curious.

After spending all day in an office on Monday I was busting to go for a walk on Melbourne's streets. Staying in the centre of the city, I checked into my hotel and headed to see what I could see, and decide where to have dinner. The streets were bustling with tourists, people heading home from work, and friends meeting up for an early dinner. 
One of Melbourne's many laneways
I walked around for half an hour before stumbling across my favourite lane-way. I never know it's name or exactly how to find it, but I somehow always end there when I'm on footIt was full of people catching up, having a bite to eat or a glass of wine. I walked a little longer but returned there to one of my favourite places for dinner. 

I settled myself into a bench seat with my back against the wall (a great people watching position), ordered a small plate of pasta and a small greek salad, a glass of red and settled in with a glossy magazine. Perfection when a usual working week meal is provided by "lite and easy", and eaten at toddler o'clock.

I wandered back to my hotel for a little social media indulgence and then off to sleep at 9.30pm with no interruption till morning from Charlie screaming for no apparent reason.  Bliss.

Melbourne skyline
Tuesday night I was in Brisbane and stayed with Mum and Dad. Mum wanted to know what I did the previous night. She was horrified that I was walking around the city alone and had dinner alone. In a restaurant.

When I first started travelling for work I found travelling alone a little tougher. I guess I was younger and less sure of myself, a little less confident. My very first business trip was to London, business class. My manager kindly let me fly in on Saturday morning so I had the weekend to see the city and shop. It was tough to leave that hotel room and get about that city by myself. There was a lot of self-talk going on about what a great opportunity I was given and that I needed to stop being stupid and just get out there!

The more I have travelled by myself, the less I have had to encourage myself to explore. Now if I'm travelling for work and a kind work colleague wants to look after me, or organise my personal time, I feel a little resentful that I'm not left to explore alone for at least some of the time!

I knew that I had become very comfortable travelling alone when Charlie and I did a trip to Guangzhou, China when he was 4 months old. I was having dinner with 7 Chinese people, of which only one could speak a little (basically no) English and I knew no Mandarin. My translator was not joining me until the next day. And it was ok. We were all having a lovely night with lovely food.  I felt safe and confident. 

Compare this to my first business trip to London, when I spent a weekend in Antwerp, Belgium. I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to communicate with anyone there, which was a completely ridiculous worry. Belgians speak very good English along with 2 or 3 other languages. I was fine. I even discovered I can mostly read French in restaurants and work out what I would like to eat. It was a good lesson.

So a 45 minute walk on Melbourne's bustling streets and a lovely meal alone was fine. Nice. Perfect.

I think travelling and eating alone in a strange city and/or country is an acquired skill. What do you think? Have you ever travelled alone and found it hard to "get out there"?


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