If she’s being honest, every woman who travels on her own will admit there are times when her solo status on the road is not the awe-inspiring, joyous, freeing experience that many bloggers make it out to be.
This happened to me on Sunday night.
Two of my Wakayama University hosts had suggested we meet for Sunday dinner. Then, they got held up by the aftermath of their university’s open house and dinner became coffee. So, what to do on my own for my Sunday evening meal?
I decided to go back to an Italian place near the hotel where I’d had really good pizza and beer for lunch earlier in the day (I’ve discovered that Japan does surprisingly good Italian). I’d eaten in the bar but noticed there was a much nicer upstairs section, so when I arrived for dinner, I asked the bartender to be seated up there.
“Only one? Better here,” he said, and motioned me to a bar table near the cash desk.
If I’d been in Canada, I would have argued with him. It annoys me when I’m relegated to a less- than-quality table just because I’m dining alone. But realizing cultural sensitivity was the better part of valour in this case, I plopped down, ordered pasta and a glass of white wine, and hauled out my phone.
When I looked at my Facebook feed, I realized that everyone I know and care about back in Canada was fast asleep, and I suddenly felt very alone. I even posted a message to see if any insomniacs might be awake and online. No one answered.
There was only one other table occupied in the bar, a pair of Japanese women chatting over a bottle of white wine. When I glanced over, the older of the two smiled at me and raised her glass. I raised mine back.
“Do you speak Japanese?” she said. Not for the first time this trip, I wished I did.
“Why did you come to Wakayama?”
I told her about my work at the university and that I was moving on to Kyoto in the morning.
“Kyoto is very nice. Where are you from? Oh, Canada! I want to go there one day. My niece lives in Toronto.”
When my meal arrived, she toasted me again in Japanese. Just as I was about to say “Cheers!”, her younger dinner companion, smiling but silent until now, said it for me.
As I dug into my pasta, I realized I didn’t feel alone anymore. When I left the restaurant to meet my coffee date colleagues, both women hugged me goodbye. These are the moments that every woman who travels on her own recognizes as the reason that, in spite of the inevitable lonely moments, she’ll be booking another solo vacation soon.