The astute reader might have noticed that all my recent entries about my trip have included the singular pronoun “I.” Now, I tend to use the “I” pronoun most often, because this blog is about me, and I do feel a little weird about totally invading other people’s privacy. But, when your married to someone, and blogging about travels you did together, the “we” pronoun often sneaks in. It just feels dishonest otherwise. The recent pronoun switch, from “we” to “I” has nothing to do with an editorial decision. It has to do with a life decision.
2 months ago Ryan and I agreed to separate.
Now it sounds very dramatic (and looks dramatic when written in it’s own little paragraph like that), but I can assure you it’s not. It’s not because of some crazy blow-up or singular event. Instead it has to do with two people, slowly, almost imperceptibly, changing and growing apart. It has to do with lost affections and different wants and needs. Â Ryan and I have done some great things in our lives, and neither of us have regrets, but we know Â the parties over and it’s time to clean up and turn off the lights. We remain friendly, (and will continue to work on new Moo-Cow books together,) but we won’t be hanging out or traveling together again.
Of course this means a lot of changes, one of which is traveling. We made our decision just two day, two days, before traveling. We had booked (and paid) for our hotel room in Xiamen, and we had also bought 2 plane tickets since the train tickets were sold out. The prudent thing to might have just swallow our loss and use our holiday to deal with the situation at hand.
But when have I ever done the prudent thing?
Instead, we agreed to keep it a secret until I came back and we could deal with it. Then I packed my bags and left. Traveling in China is one of the main reasons I am here and if I gave it up, simply to deal with logistical things of getting a divorce, well, I would regret it. I don’t know how much longer I will be in China so I want to use all my time, every minute, to the fullest.
I was also a little eager to challenge myself. As a wanderlust soul I have also been hiding a dirty little secret: I have never traveled by myself. I’ve been to more than 20 countries, traveled all around the globe and yet, I’ve always done it in the company of others. In high school I went with classmates, in college my roommate. And ever since then I have always traveled with Ryan. Oh sure, I’ve gone on little trip, road trips, by myself, but nothing for more than a day or two.
So I was a little nervous to set out by myself. While I feel very comfortable traveling around China I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Would I be lonely? Would I be more vulnerable to scams? Would I worry more?
Well, I got my answer: no. Traveling by myself turned out to be so much more fun then with someone. I never had a bad days where I was crabby to someone, I didn’t have to fight or argue about where to go for dinner and I didn’t have to make compromises. I don’t want to make it sound like traveling with Ryan was a burden I had to endure (it wasn’t–most of the time) I just never realized how much I was giving up when I traveled with someone.
As a woman traveling by myself I was afraid people would treat me differently. And they did, only they treated me better than before. In general men treat women respectfully in China, and seeing me by myself brought out the gentleman in many people. For instance, when I was touring the tulou’s another (male) teacher was with me. He wasn’t pushy, he didn’t lead me around or anything, but he followed behind me at first (to make sure I didn’t get lost?) and then slowly, as we talked, he became myÂ companionÂ for the day. A few local people asked him if I could speak Chinese and he would answer harshly, like they were idiots for asking, “Of course she speaks Chinese, she speaks it very well.” (Which wasn’t true but nice nonetheless.) And several times he would grab my camera from me and take a picture of me standing in front of some interesting place.
Other times, just the logistics of a single traveler led me to meet a lot of people. For instance on the flight on my first day. If I was with Ryan we would take up 2 of the three seats in the aisle and likely be put next to a single business traveler or something. (That’s what has happened on flights before.) But this time I was the single person and I sat next to 2 friends who were going to run a marathon in Xiamen. For the entire flight the woman next to me and I talked and talked, her using a few words of high school english and me using my poor chinese.
And once, when I was sitting by the water, a man sat down in the empty spot next to me and we struck up a conversation. He was a teacher and had amazingly clear Chinese, and we talked about all manner of things in about 20 minutes. As we left he gave me his number and made me promise to call if I ever go to his hometown (Xi’an).
In fact, I found only 2 negatives about traveling by yourself: getting good shots of yourself (I am not very photogenic to begin with, and self-portraitsÂ definitelyÂ don’t so me justice) and going to the bathroom when you have your bags with you. (You ever try using a squat toilet while wearing a traveling backpack? Little tricky.) Â But those are two very minor things, and all in all the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
After I came back from traveling, we broke it first to the family, then to the friends, then to the world via Facebook. (Although it has come to my attention that some people thought it was a joke. Its not.) It’s a big change, but, surprisingly hasn’t changed much in my life. I’m not the type to sacrifice myself and change for another person and instead of having a life crisis, as one is suppose to have after a breakup of more than 16 years, my life has continued on the same course. I didn’t buy a new wardrobe, change my hairstyle, or immediately start dieting. Turns out I like my life the way it is, whether I have a partner in it or not.
And for that I’m grateful.