Many writers have talked about the power of travelling solo and I’m not sure reading one more post about it will change your life. But what are personal blogs and social media if not an excuse to overshare in a kinda socially acceptable way? So here’s what this post is about actually. Fuck social media and get travelling. And go to Melbourne.
Do you remember that time you switched off your phone and just talked to people? Or looked at things through something that wasn’t a camera? No, I’m not 60 years old, I have an iPhone and a MacBook (albeit a 2011 one that crashes every time I try to watch Luther on Netflix) and no, I don’t have one of those social media feeds born to stalk and not post. I am, like you, an over-sharer of every fucking thing that I do. Cause that’s life now.
But what’s this got to do with solo travel? Well hear me out. I remember reading my favourite quote by Matthew McConnaughey on GQ US as I was flying from LA to San Fran a few weeks before the end of my two-month lone Couchsurfing trip. He talked about what happened when he felt uninspired, when his brain got lazy, unable to be creative. His solution was:
“I go off on my own. I’ll go take a trip alone. Just to get to the point where I know that, like it or not, I’m stuck with myself. That I have to go through this and figure out what the fuck it is that’s bugging me.”
Well that’s the thing about solo travel. If you do it right, if you see things rather than take a picture of them, you start thinking and understanding. And I understood that the state of things isn’t helping anybody.
Since I’ve moved to Australia, my anxiety about everything and everyone got worse. I cannot stay still or enjoy what I’m doing without falling into some sort of unjustified fear loop. Working and studying and doing both right while trying to enjoy myself sometimes drains me and I barely stop to enjoy and be thankful of the great things I have and the amazing place I’m in – so much that I’ve begun seeing myself in Filthyratbag’s cartoons:
I feel disconnected, helpless, waiting for something better and sometimes don’t realise what I already have. So I turn to social media, endlessly checking, almost implicitly thinking that something good will come out of my news feed. News flash: it probably won’t.
Remembering how Couchsurfing alone in the US at 21 did wonders for me and my mental health, I booked myself a trip for as much money and time I could afford: it was time to discover Melbourne. And what a discovery it’s been.
Disclaimer: this post is about random adventures and general vibes. The travel tips will come in future posts so if you can’t be arsed to read all of this skip and bye bye. I realise it’s already a bit late to say this after you’ve read all the above crap but there you go.
Unknowingly, I booked an Airbnb in the best area I could stay in according to my personality and interests, which is to say I like shops that sell unacceptable outfits and I enjoy eating my feelings out at restaurants. Just off Smith Street in Fitzroy/Collingwood, my Airbnb helped me do just that – it was more fun than it sounds, I promise.
Used to the pleasantly forced friendship born out of Couchsurfing stays, it was odd for me to communicate with hosts very little. It’s like: “Oh hey I’m staying in your house but you probs have a lyf and shit to do and you don’t wanna hear from me!” So yeah spent most of my time out exploring by myself.
The communication I didn’t get through Airbnb I got just by walking around. Aside from all of the recommendations I received from friends, all I needed was sitting down at a bar to hear more about Melbourne and start talking to randoms in the process.
Friday was basically a never-ending bar and restaurant crawl. At Gingerboy, Rob the Scottish bartender hand-wrote a bunch of suggestions for cool bars to visit. At Naked for Satan they told me to go to The Black Pearl, which was also recommended by Rob. At The Black Pearl bartender Sam also wrote me suggestions on a koala postcard because everybody knows I am a wannabe koala mum. He sent me to Little Hop for beers and in turn Little Hop peepz sent me to Bimbo’s for bagels.
On my return home a girl I didn’t know stopped to talk to me and offered to show me around the following day. Now I don’t know about you, but this hasn’t been happening very often to me in the past year. I don’t know if the vibe in Sydney is just different or I’m too busy posting bum pics on my Insta to actually interact with the wider world.
But solo travelling in Melbourne reminded me there are kind souls out there and that they don’t live inside your phone. It reminded me that going out dressed as an Insta influencer (which seems to be the go-to Sydney look at least in some circles) doesn’t mean having a good night. It reminded me of the healing power of travel and how being yourself – boring, a bit weird, soppy, whatever you are – gives birth to the best things, and that sometimes those things are a playsuit with loads of dogs which will make you look creepy in a sorta cute way.
In short, Melbourne has all the good vibes and the creativity you want. And hands down the best food I’ve ever eating in 24 years of travelling – better than Italy, but that’s because it’s experimenting with all cuisines and taking them to the next level. It’s evolving.
Melbourne reminded me to switch off my phone more. You wouldn’t tell, would you, judging from all the pictures I took. But I vow from today to live more in the moment because, realistically, y’all don’t care about my lunch.
Pictures: Carolina Are