I had lunch alone again.
I was sat in a little Vietnamese restaurant in Paris, staring at my pho and contemplating why I keep on doing this. Why I continue to put myself into uncomfortable situations.
Coming from a country with strong social ties, traveling is done with family or friends. Traveling alone is unheard of–especially for a (gasp) young female on a quarter-life crisis.
Who’s going to eat lunch with you? Who’s going to make sure you won’t get lost? Who’s going to take your pictures?!?!?!
It all felt liberating, to be able to do everything on my own. Eating alone and mastering selfies were the easy part of the equation. But having the patience of a small bladder, I found bearing through long queues alone the hardest. To occupy my time, I often engage in idle chitchat with other tourists in the queue. I’m usually lucky enough to have an American in front or behind me, as they are usually the most talkative and do not hesitate in telling me their life story a few minutes later.
So, really, why do you travel?
I am chasing my dreams, pursuing my happiness, I tell myself. Traveling will enlighten me. Traveling will make me happy. I do not need superficial and material possessions to validate my being.
And yet I know this is not totally truthful. I, just like most travelers, am sold to the myths of travel. No studies prove that traveling makes any of us happier. Our desires are shaped by romantic consumerism–they are neither personal nor natural, but ideas shaped by modern Western thought on humanist, capitalist and romantic myths.
Traveling is the new vanity. Traveling entails cost, and thus, it is a commodity–the hottest in the market of beard-growing hipsters today.
If I was Lisa del Giocondo, wife of a rich Italian merchant, in the 14th century– which will make me adore my husband more– a trans-Atlantic cruise or my oil portrait painted by one of Italy’s greatest masters? Similarly, an Egyptian royal would never think of going on a holiday to satisfy his desires. He would rather dedicate his life to building himself a pyramid.
We are all in the bandwagon of experience-based consumerism and it’s so hard to get out of the fluff. The tourism industry ought to thank our new freethinking philosophy. The capitalists we hate so much are earning so much from us, as well.
After engaging in a ten-minute monologue, I am brought back to reality of my piss cold pho.