I leave tomorrow, Gentle Reader, for a hop across the Pond, and a visit to Manchester and Bath, UK. I am both nervous and excited. Nervous, because I always get nervous before I travel, especially when I travel alone. Excited, because I am doing what I love to do: research and writing. Especially since I am researching and writing about my two favorite writers: Elizabeth Gaskell and Jane Austen.
But the nervousness usually overwhelms the excitement, particularly for This Humble Author. I never like traveling by myself, even though I do it so often. Even though Manchester is home to the Nicest People In England, and even though Bath is stunningly gorgeous, I find myself at a loss. I end up spending my non-research hours in my hotel/bed and breakfast room, stifled by my lack of adventure and sadly flipping through Facebook for friends’ posts and updates.
I am not an adventurous person. I don’t know how else to say it, except that adventure is often thrust upon me and I hold up my hands, waving it away. I often joke that being a writer, especially Me as a Writer, is “raging egotism coupled with crippling social anxiety,” but really, that’s almost exactly right. I am probably the most outgoing introvert you’ll ever meet, or the most introverted extrovert you’ll come across. I love people. I just love them more from the safety of my own home, with my Darling Spouse and Darling Pups. I don’t look at travel as an adventure, but rather, as a means to an end. I have to do research in England, I say, so I go to England. I just try to be as unobtrusive as possible when I do.
That’s not altogether true, not always. I have found myself in situations that are fascinating: once, at dinner in London, I, at my table for One, sat next to an elderly gentleman at his table for One. We began chatting and spent 45 minutes discussing what life was like in London after the Blitz. Once, in Chicago, just this past January, I met a woman in the train station and went to lunch with her. We discovered we were attending the same conference, after all, and rode together from the airport to our lunch spot. But those experiences are few and far between.
Writing and Research are such solitary activities that it’s hard to justify doing anything so crass as enjoying social endeavors while conducting them. Because no matter our environment, whether at a public coffeehouse or a quiet desk, we are, essentially, alone with our thoughts. The book or article is ours until it is not, and even then, it’s our baby, stumbling out into the bright light until we, like Anne Bradstreet, want to rub the dirt off its cheeks and straighten its clothes.
The Solitary Tourist is essentially a Lonely Tourist. Even if she doesn’t realize it.
More thoughts soon, Friends, as my trip commences. I appreciate you coming along for the ride, and making this Lonely Tourist a little less lonely.