I ate dinner by myself last night. That in and of itself is nothing new, but I ate it alone in a sit-down restaurant. And not like an internet cafe type of place where everyone else there is alone too and playing on their laptops. It was a restaurant with cloth napkins and families and appetizers that are brought to the table when you arrive. I was reluctant to do this at first; I considered ordering what I wanted as take out and eating it in my car before a concert I was going to. But then I said to myself, "If you can't do this right now by yourself in Chapel Hill, how the hell are you going to do this for 3 months on the other side of the world?" I instantly decided there was no choice; it was time to experience the table for one.
It wasn't so bad. Once I got over the slight embarrassment of the hostess having to clear the other three settings off the table and the feeling that everyone in the restaurant was staring at me, the freak who can't scare up a dining mate, I didn't really notice anything unusual. The main difference was that the time spent waiting for your food, which usually seems insignificant due to conversation with others at your table, seemed more pronounced. It gave me time to think about how I might spend the rest of my life eating alone and living alone, which is not things that people typically like to ponder, especially before enjoying a meal. I did decide that letting my mind wander while feeling sorry for myself and about my table for one wasn't the best idea. So I survived the first experience, and I think it won't be so bewildering in the future. I know it seems like something small, but some people these days cannot stand to be by themselves at all. I know people who call other people on cell phones just because they have to drive or walk somewhere and don't want to be alone. And I realized my issue wasn't eating alone; it was worrying about what everyone else thinks. I love being alone. It is often time for reflection and meditation. I don't have a problem being alone, and many times, I prefer it. I suppose this is a good thing, considering I might only have a travel companion for a couple of weeks. If people can't stand being with themselves, how can they expect anyone else to stand them?
I'm very excited about this trip, and although I probably sound like a broken record to those around me right now, it's really all I want to talk about. It consumes a lot of my energy and planning and thoughts. It's a goal I have to work toward, which keeps me going. I know up until just recently, a lot of people didn't really take me seriously about going. But I think now that the passport has come in and I have a visa to get into Australia, they realize this is really going to happen. I spent a couple of hours on REI's website the other night, and it just made me all that more enthusiastic about the trip. Not only do they have tons of fun stuff like backpacks and boots and sock liners (which I didn't even know existed until that night), but they have a lot of articles on traveling, including checklists on what to pack and tips on traveling alone. The article on solo travelers was very empowering and just gave me that much more encouragement that I was doing the right thing. It made the point that I had been making that yes, I would be alone in another country and something awful could happen to me, but it is just as likely (and if you are judging by crime stats alone, actually MORE likely) that something awful could happen to me in my home country. And I think people underestimate how vigilant I am and will be. I am very aware of my surroundings, and will be even more vigilant since I will be somewhere less familiar.
My mantra this year has been simple: Australia. It's truly just that one word. I find that I say it to myself anytime I am doing something that is less than desirable, but in working toward that ultimate goal in September. I repeat it to myself over and over again when I want to give up. I often have that 9 letter word as my facebook status. It's what's on my mind now all the time. It's become an driving force and a necessary life sustaining element, like water, air, and food. It more than that though, it's soul inducing. It gives me a purpose and a meaning.
It's simple and pure and says it all: Australia!