Nora, who decided to remain anonymous for professional reasons, is 64 and had a life full of many different experiences. She’s a wise woman, very careful about what surrounds and lives inside her; sensitive to the continuous transformation as well as to being in the moment. And she travels. Well, now a little less than before, but she travels and, most of all, she solo travelled when it was not so common practice: in the 70’s she made her first travel alone to Florence, in the 80’s to Scotland, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, China and then India, France and many other destinations.
Which was your first solo travel?
When I was 26 I went to Florence where i didn’t know anybody. It was 1978 and I was a quite fearful person. Apart from having visited a city which is no longer existing, for me it’s unforgettable the way in which I managed there and the happiness I felt by doing that. I think I went far even if I moved just a few kilometres.
Was it difficult travelling solo and as a woman years ago?
It was just not considered an option. The solo travels I made have been easiest than my own fear. It was not a matter of “dangers” or logistic difficulties but of conception. There are many things that you don’t do just because you can’t think they’re possible and this not just applies to travels.
Have you ever felt fear or experienced something unpleasant?
I was very frightened and doubtful before leaving, and finally I always left just for self-esteem. But when I set foot outside, everything disappeared and a prudent tension endured until I reached the place. As of that moment the travel was pure joy, even when it came to efforts and pains, the best feeling of freedom I’ve ever felt.
I have never experienced something unpelasant. When I went around people thought that perhaps in some hotel or just some metres behind there was an husband or a brother, and it was very easy for me to let them believing it!
How has your way of travelling changed through years?
Well…not so much… I still like travelling in an informal, anti-touristic, not planned way. I never go with travel agencies. Now I don’t feel the need of solo travelling but the fact of having done it marked me in a very particular way. I no longer look for comfort but the style is the same. For example I hate wasting, anyway.
Some years ago I was making my bag with a few recurring things: money and documents divided into two pockets, a little notebook with a pencil (when it’s hot outside the pen loses ink and you can write just keeping it vertical), a pocketknife, rope and tape (it’s useful in so many occasions), just one book – carefully chosen – to read and read again. And the Lonely Planet guide, they were wonderful at the time. Something like: “In Delhi, in the X street crossing the Y street , the second front door on the right is the Joe Soap guest house: excellent, apart from the sheets which are not always clean and they cheat with the bread”. Confirmed. And today…I’ve my travel kit always ready in the wardrobe anyway.
Technology changed our way of travelling and living the travel. What do you think about that?
I don’t know….really? It changed the tourism for sure. Perhaps it simplified some things: planning, obtaning information.
I can swear you that without a mobile phone and relative photos you can survive as well. Having a look to the photos after a travel is nice, but it’s also something like hearth breaking, sometimes it’s even painful as you see something you’ve lost, or it’s strange for some detail. A vague memory instead is always alive, precious, yours. It’s impossible to steal or disvalue it.
Have you had some pregnant teaching by your solo travels?
Not just some, endless….The chasm of being between a traveller and a tourist. The right value of things. The importance of lightness. The roots that sustain without imprisoning. The size of limits and the unsuspected greatness of skills. The declination of loneliness, isolation, closure, opening, company, fear, bravery. The substantial generosity of the human beings. How good is a shower when you have soap. How is useful to lose your luggage and living perfectly during three months just with two pants and two shirts, including what you wear (ok, it was summer…). It’s not important where you go, you only have to go. So you can also stay here and travelling in a different way. If you don’t travel alone it’s difficult having so lucid insights, you’re too busy arranging on where to eat or arguing with your partner.
So what does travelling mean to you?
I know it could sound rethorical, but life is a travel and the travel is life itself. Travelling helps people to have contact with your life and life essence, with the harmony inside yourself and with others, even if you have to deal with any kind of obstacles, especially the interior ones.
I travel alone because by “sailing” I re-assemble in new forms. Sometimes we really need it.