You are no marriage? No childrens?
You are alone?
Alone! Very brave, you. Very strong girl!
I understand, of course, that folk in developing countries can’t quite get their head around the idea of a single white female travelling alone. The older generation still stubbornly believe that a woman’s place is in the home; popping out sprogs, scrubbing the kitchen floor, doing the dishes. Massaging her breadwinning husband’s feet when he gets home from work each night.
But I don’t mind being called brave, or strong. In any case, what they’re really thinking is stupid girl! Reject girl! Girl no man want marry!
They can think what they like. I’ll go on drifting.
The first-world folk don’t ask these questions. Most of the ones I meet are themselves drifters: couples, gap-year teens, students, divorcees, teachers, strident feminists.
The rest, more or less, are digital nomads, who fit into no particular category. Or all of them.
Me, I’m not really any category either. Though I [now] refuse to call myself a digital nomad.
I’m a drifter. A loner. And, sure, a reject girl. Why not.
This lifestyle is no longer original. There are zillions of us out there. Odd, misshapen human beings who don’t quite fit into society, into any society. So, we go on roaming. Slowly, quietly, aimlessly, like the mangy dogs that people biff down sideroads in west Auckland.
But don’t you get lonely?
Mostly, no. Mostly, I like being on my own. More than two hours in the company of someone else and my brain begins to tire; more than three hours and I’m requiring a beverage of sorts. A stiff one.
I’m not a people person, I’ve been told. And maybe that’s true, because I don’t want to be on anyone else’s time, and I certainly don’t want anyone else to be on mine. We can chat, sure, but then I’d like you to go away, thanks.
Because there are times when being alone sucks a little. Times when alone becomes Alone, and Alone is so mindbendingly lonely that the world suddenly seems very, very large, and the people you need are on the other side of a great fucking chasm full of crocodiles and yappy dogs and leering men, and there’s no bridge and no rope to get across, and the shitty bit of earth that you’re standing on is dissolving into lava, or shit, or quicksand, and then you’re like that horse in The Never Ending Story, but without the cinematography, and most certainly without Bastion trying to pull you out.
Or something like that.
Aren’t you lonely though?
Ugh, I hate the question. Fine. Yes, sometimes.
I’m lonely when the bus I’ve been patiently waiting for never arrives, and nobody can explain why, or they do explain, it’s in Hindi/Thai/Vietnamese/Spanish and I don’t speak Hindi/Thai/Vietnamese/Spanish.
I’m lonely when the taxi takes me to the domestic terminal instead of international, and then I have to find a goddam bus and time’s running out and shit-oh-shit I know I’m going to miss my flight and then it’s delayed anyway, and the wifi doesn’t work, and I have nobody to yell about it with.
I’m lonely when every other guest in the hostel or hotel is drinking or drunk, or going to the party or coming back from it, or eating chips and kebabs in the kitchen and talking about how AWESOME THAT SHIT WAS TODAY and all I want is sleep because I’m an ancient 33 and that’s not cool.
I’m lonely when the battered ATM in a hot dusty street tells me it cannot dispense my cash and then merrily deducts nearly $500 of funds from my credit card, and the bank next door is closed and nobody speaks English, or wants to, and Westpac’s call centre plays the most nerve-curling violin music in my ear for half an hour as I sit wailing on the footpath with families chewing tacos at the street vendor nearby.
Just those times.
But, that’s the trade-off, right? See the world, be my own boss, live on my own terms. You can’t have it all.
Perhaps one day I’ll get a dog.