Travelling alone does not mean nobody is with you. In fact, being alone does not mean you are free to move. To truly be alone in your wanders in foreign lands, you must be ready to be alone in your thoughts.

The sixth of June marked the end of my employment at a social media company. It became hard to tolerate the new tech environment, and I felt I had to find myself again. For a person to find themselves, they have to get lost first. So, I decided to liberate myself from my allegiance to the daily stressors in Paris.

My journey commenced with regular trips to chic Parisian cafes, restaurants and bars that, with the freedom of singularity, provided space where I people-watched and spoke to a few. People were overtly kind to me, like a mother who saw their children of a similar age in me. It seemed as if they felt sorry for me and wanted to help me, for in every restaurant seat, I was alone and often retreated to my phone when looking around any longer could have exposed my weirdness. Or at least that is what I, an anxious person, thought.

Travelling and wandering

Anxiety was, of course, my regular companion. When I was alone with the trees, in a mellow street – perhaps even in the safety of an Airbnb – I still felt anxious, like something terrible was about to happen even when nothing was happening. But a stroll along cobbled streets lined with cutesy restaurants reminded me that anxiety permeates every moment for everyone and induces itself when one is reminded it can return with a minor inconvenience. 

Travelling - Paris

By day three, I could have drowned a few sorrows while celebrating my beautiful moments in Paris. Instead, I ate a few crepes in a famous creperie in the Arrondissement Trois. The most peaceful moment arrived at the doorsteps of Honor De Balzac’s home. Nestled between two buildings in the 16th Arrondissement, the late Balzac’s home was more a monument to his writing than a place where he spent the night. The garden stretches from the cafe to the first window of the house, the room in which Balzac wrote. 

I sat in the garden with fresh juice in hand and, perhaps in insult to Balzac, started reading Proust. The words that flowed in his work, In Search of Lost Time: the Swann’s Way, begin the journey of unravelling time and memory as one recalls it. The time within the paragraphs changes rapidly, so it becomes hard to tell if he is referring to his childhood or a recent happening. I had to really concentrate on his prose, prompting me to concentrate on reality, which steadied my mind in the beautiful consistency of his words.


Balzac is reality, while Proust modifies it according to memory. The two merged in the form of a cohort of girls who moved the stuff that I left on the bench and decided to take my spot. Reality was revealed to me in the garden, and I remembered I was alone, that I could be pushed to one side without a tribe. Most likely, the girls thought someone had left their things lying around. However, this did not hinder any angsty reminders. 

Following an alcohol-induced reverie riveted on the beauty of Hausmann’s architectural design, I slept enough to awaken during my train ride to Darmstadt. The transition, owned by the European Union, is seamless. One cannot pinpoint the moment France ends, and Germany begins until the harshness of Germany permeates the air. 

Getting off the train after a long six-hour ride seemed harrowing, even compared to the trek I was to take to a friend’s home, where I would crash for the next few days. I made it out with daydreams, from which I was liberated at the site of the landmarks and architecture of the city. 

The city centres never attracted me, so I snatched a short glance before routing my walk through the greenery. The further away I got from the bustle, the more Europe’s fine history, intertwined with trees and green footpaths, offered me the steady alignment my anxious mind worked to avoid.   

Halfway into my route, I felt my natural attraction for such a city’s serenity really settles. Nothing but precisely that moment maintained my attention. Work, lack of meaningful relationships, displacement and disinheritance abandoned me. Of course, this was to be transient, as some of it began to nape from the beauty of my peace when I finally chanced upon my friend. 

We spent a few great days together, where we exchanged frustrations like any old friends. We contrived moments of pure detachment, one of which came near a Russian Orthodox Chapel, St. Mary Magdalene. 

Between the great Russian designs inscribed into the building and an opulent neighbourhood below, it hides a small patch of grass covered by trees. We heard some music emanating from the small forest and entered it in search of the source of the sound. As we got closer, we noticed that people were dancing and sharing drinks and to keep my allegiance to the vagabond’s code, I decided to involve us.

We sipped drinks in the calming electronic music meticulously played by the DJ. Two hours in, with the guidance of inebriation, I spoke to people. We exchanged numbers, had great conversations and found out the locals hated the parties in the ‘park’ so much that they had once poured acid all over the equipment. 

I would love to say that up until this point, I felt at ease and that anxiety left me, that I had started keeping a journal, that I had read all the books I arduously carried with me, that I spoke to a woman in the hopes to see her again, that I really had a whole day absent of severe anxiety. But none of this transpired.

As my time in Darmstadt began to take second place to my insecurities and become a blur, I made my way to Berlin. 

The Art of Travelling Alone  | Rock & Art

Unlike the rest of Germany, the capital contaminates one’s experience with dirt, decay, litter, noise and indifference. You may find an excellent doner kebab or a perfect vegan restaurant. Of course, since I know what you are thinking, you may also be blessed with a hipster cafe or bar. Nevertheless, despite being a necessary destination for any traveller, its pivotal function is to make you fall in love with silence again. 

Berlin still radiates with horrifying remnants of WW2. Less than half a kilometre from Checkpoint Charlie, the neighbourhood in which I stayed, you can visit old Nazi buildings where history’s most inhumane acts were designed. A few kilometres to the other side hosts the Berlin Museum of Judaism, which is a place so eye-opening that one would think it was created to display how lonely one can be in the depths of suffering. 

I did not come out of there joyful. Instead, it was a sobering experience that forced one to rethink how to relate to the pain of others and, through suffering, one can connect with the world as one human community. 

While surrounded by others exchanging thoughts around me, a lonely coffee in a cafe ceased to make sense. I knew I was about to embark on a two-hour search for the best dining experience in Berlin, whether it was East Asian food or a vegan muffin. I had to find another distraction to dispel the melancholic concoction of thoughts emanating from my lonely travels. 

I set my eyes on a pizza joint located a couple hundred metres from my hotel. The fungi pizza was lovely, and I could not help but tell others about it. Speaking to myself with the image of friends stuck in my mind did not negate the fact that nobody was there. 

I punctuated the remaining month by moving between different cities, walking footpaths that all looked the same but strangely always offered their kind of peace, one which I consistently lacked, no less than in the Parisian cafe where I conjured my final thoughts. 

Familiarity with others attracts peculiar and differing experiences. Solitude is indeed the mark of a decent mind, but it needs to be refreshed with the presence of others. Steady, consistent interaction with a milieu maintains the motivation to travel, perhaps sometimes alone, walking along the footpaths and experiencing the silence you know awaits you in the presence of others. For ultimately, what else is real but the quiet hum of existence?

Travelling alone for extended periods is never a moment that emancipates you from suffering. It is a period in which you learn it cannot, that nothing eternally liberating or elating will happen to you soon.