I’m about to board a plane in a far flung corner of northern China. I’m alone – again.
It’s not so bad – I’m from a large family so alone time is really quite a novelty. However, as I look up at the tiny six seater airplane, walk along the runway’s rocky asphalt and peer inside the ramshackle plane interior I can’t get the tune of La Bamba out of my head. Am I about to have a Ritchie Valens moment? Is this the end? Am I destined to be alone in my final hours???
It’s hardly a near death experience so I quickly talk myself down but it’s at this point I wish I had someone beside me. Someone to distract, reassure and laugh with me over my paranoia – or at least a supportive arm to grasp tightly if things gets bumpy.
Life is better with others
So as I try to divert my thoughts from the catchy Mexican folk turned rock and roll tune which is repeating in my head – I reflect upon the reality that life is better with others.
It’s a theme which returns to me over and over again as I continue my solitary travels throughout China. The Great Wall is spectacular yet I still wish for someone to talk to or snap photos with. I discover that although I’m enjoying this rare solitude, being a tourist is not as much fun on my own. I keep thinking – would it be better to have a companion to share not only the moment with right here and now but also, in later years, the memory?
I quickly discover that eating alone in China is also problematic. Being in a culture which treasures family life and togetherness, ordering for one just doesn’t work. Chinese meals are meant to be shared and eating solo doesn’t make sense. But it’s the reaction of restaurant staff which really drives the point home. I observe them watching over me with equal parts concern and intrigue as I sit alone devouring my banquet for one. I feel their pity and note their unease as they hover around me offering English newspapers and castaway novels, from other travellers, to keep me company.
I smile at their care and consideration and try to reassure them, in our non-verbal communications, I am ok. After all, a quiet reflective dinner can be a real treat. But their apprehension reminds me that as social beings, a strong sense of community and being surrounded by others who know our quips and quirks can be an empowering and rewarding thing. Life’s a charm when we’re sharing, even if it’s simply over a bowl of Gong Bao Chicken or the very last dumpling on the plate.
The 2013 World Happiness Report, found that happier people have a larger quantity and better quality of friendships and family relationships. And it’s not surprising to hear. Good times come easier in a crowd and laughter is always infectious.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with spending time by yourself as it’s equally important to appreciate moments of stillness and quiet reflection. But at the end of the day in those important life moments, or during a hairy plane flight, sharing is a beautiful thing.
About the author: Marina Barbaro is somewhat of a gypsy writer – roaming between projects and enjoying a spirited approach to the written word. Most recently she joined the team from a million smiles, where she will be sharing her extensive experiences travelling and living amongst different cultures. See more of her amazing work by following amillionsmilesmovie.com