(End of June 2017)
Soundtrack: Hold on Forever- Rob Thomas
“And if I seem preoccupied, I’m wondering what to do
So here’s my recipe for you
First thing, we make you feel better
Next stop, we pull it all together
I’ll keep you warm like a sweater
Take my hand, hold on forever”
I say goodbye to my mum at home and my dad drops me off at the airport. I try to keep the goodbyes short and efficient because I know they are sad to see me go and I am afraid I am going to have a meltdown and refuse to leave if they last too long. So I just look straight, check in my suitcase, board my plane and fly to Canada. Easy as that…
By the time I get to Montreal, I am really tired and feeling a bit sad. On my way from the airport to the city I start asking myself why I am here. I always felt very strongly that travelling solo was not something for me and now that I am here, I wonder why I decided to do it. Was I trying to challenge myself, to prove something? Did I feel like I had to do it or was it something I really wanted because I am a different person now?
At times, I get this really strange feeling that I am a spectator to my own life. As if I was witnessing it rather than living it. I go through my days in auto pilot, following directions that I set for myself for the wrong reasons. This is how I feel about this trip right now. I planned it and even started it without experiencing the excitement that should come with it. As if I planned it because I felt I had to, more than because I wanted to. Because I felt It was expected of me since I had been talking about it for so long. None of these reasons are valid reasons to go on such an adventure and right now I really cannot say for sure what really drove me to come here.
I decide to spend my first day inside, resting, watching Netflix, sleeping early so the feeling of being here can sink in and the sadness go away. I can start the real trip tomorrow. This trip doesn’t seem to begin on a really good note but I try to stay hopeful and remind myself that I always feel like this when I am somewhere new. It will pass. And if I need some time to adapt than I should take it.
Eric, my airbnb host meets me at the metro exit and while we chat on our way to the apartment I start feeling a bit better. He asks me about why I am here and even offers to help me out with my job search. He is very kind, welcoming and funny and I start thinking that if I stay open minded and positive, I will meet other people like him along the way and my trip will be amazing. So I decide to change my plans. In my room, I unpack everything I brought because I know I will have to sort through everything to decide what to bring in my backpack and what not. I take a nice shower to wash away the plane ride and head out for groceries. I walk by a few nice coffee places that remind me of why I loved Montreal when I first came last year. I don’t dare to enter in the first ones because I feel weird at the idea of sitting there on my own but I finally decide to have a drink in one of them. I sit alone at a table and write this very words in my journal.
I feel a bit better afterwards but still decide to go to bed early (after all it is the middle of the night in France) and start fresh tomorrow. I try to convince myself that this solo trip will be great for me and it works a little. I decide to take it one day at a time. It is a holiday after all, no commitment, no obligation, I can go home anytime if it gets too difficult. But I know deep down in my heart that I won’t. Everything will be just fine. Because I decided to be here. I and only I, and I can do this. Tomorrow. Right now if I stay on my own for too long, I start feeling sad again. For the purpose of full transparency, I have to say, this solo trip so far feels quite lonely.
The rest of my stay in Montreal goes smoothly. When I wake up in the mornings; I feel a bit anxious and lonely. I don’t want to be where I am and I get this “I want to go home” feeling. But I decide that I can’t feel sorry for myself and that I need to make the most of my time here so I get ready, every morning, and get out of the house, and as days go on, I start feeling better and better. I tell myself that If I cannot enjoy my own company, nobody will. So the second day, I walk alongside the Canal Lachine, stop at the Atwater market to buy a mocha and strawberries and walk in Little Burgundy. I walk all the way to the Old Port and eat lunch in a bistro with a pianist playing. I eat alone but I don’t really mind. I read and enjoy the old songs that the pianist is playing, I try to recognize as many as possible. After lunch, I keep walking to head back to the airbnb. I walk 16km that day, with shoes that are not appropriate to cover such distances, and by the time I get back, I can barely stand on my own two feet. I spend the evening quietly inside, planning some new steps for my trip.
The next day when I wake up, I feel like I have been hit by a car. My body is so soare, but it doesn’t stop me from going out some more. I go for lunch in The Plateau and prepare my backpack for the rest of my trip. I meet with Sandra, a friend’s girlfriend who will keep my suitcase for the summer. She is super nice and friendly. We talk about Canada and Germany and starting from scratch. We are at a similar crossroad in our lives. After leaving her, I walk some more in the city. I fall in love with Montreal all over again, the charming houses with the outside staircases, the lively streets full of restaurants and cafes. You can really find any type of food here and I like this diversity. I stop for Poutine before heading back to the apartment.
I live Montreal on Day 4 to head to Trois-Rivières. My backpack is huge and I realize I probably took too much stuff. But I’d rather be safe than sorry. I cross the whole city by metro but nobody seems really surprised or intrigued to see me or to even notice that I am probably carrying my own weight in luggage. I take a carpool to Trois-Rivières and Martin, my driver is really nice. After dropping off the two other passengers he gives me a quick tour of the city to show me the nice spots. Everyone I met in Montreal was surprised that I would even visit this place but from what I have seen at this point, it seems quite lovely. Martin drops me off at my hostel and offers for us to meet again later if I am alone. I have some reservations but agree to email him if need be. In the end, we won’t meet again.
This is my first stay in a hostel and I am a bit nervous. This is where I am supposed to meet other solo travellers to bound with, which will require for me to be open minded and brave and go talk to them. I am not sure I am that type of person. I check in and when I ask the employee at the counter if there are other people staying here at the moment, he answers “only one other person“. My luck! But this is how I meet Lorna, a retired woman from British Columbia, travelling on her own too. I brace myself and ask her if she wants to join me for dinner. She agrees and we end up spending the rest of our time in Trois-Rivières together. She is really good company and together we visit Baurealis, the museum of paper and walk along the waterfront and in the city center. We make it to the Parc de L’île Saint Quentin and walk quite a while. Mosquitos are attacking ferociously. We have lunches and dinners in the city and I really find it quite charming and lively. The hostel organizes a barbecue for the Saint Jean celebration (Québec Day). So I spend some time with the young people working there and spend my last evening walking around town alone to see the festivities.
At the beginning, when things go fine, I surprised myself thinking “This is ok, you are doing good”, as if this trip was something that I had to do, a test of sorts, that is going better than expected. Not the best mindset for sure, but still better than wanting to go home right? Baby steps. But by the end of my second day in Trois-Rivières with Lorna, I realize that I feel quite content with how the trip is going so far. I switch from feeling like this is something I have to do to something I enjoy doing and am happy with. It is almost time to leave now and I use my last evening in town to write these words in my journal. Everyone is sleeping and I am about to do the same.
Tomorrow I leave for the Parc de la Mauricie, and the adventure continues…