In some ways Cuenca was the most ordinary experience I’ve had on my travels. Because it was so everyday, I’ve put off writing about it. It seemed that I couldn’t really say anything interesting about it because it was really just a week in a pretty ordinary (if nice) colonial city, in which I had no real adventures or insights.
There is one way in which Cuenca was different, and that is that for the large majority of my time there I was alone. In our first and only split other than the night we spent apart in the north of Colombia, Rav and I were going our separate ways as she and Amber spent a few nights in coastal party town Montañita and I remained over in the Andes.
I’ve occasionally wondered what I’d be like as a solo traveller, and I’ve definitely come to the conclusion that I way prefer having someone else around. You make sure each other do things, always have someone familiar to talk to, and generally motivate each other when it starts to seem like a lot of effort to get going and experience things.
This is just a few observations from the time on the subject of being solo for a few days:
1. I did a lot more aimless wandering. When there are more of you for some reason it feels like you have to have more of a plan, or at least not just be completely spontaneous. My legs killed after a few days, and I got absolutely and completely lost on more than one occasion (having no sense of direction whatsoever) but I feel like I got a good bearing of the city, which was pleasant enough just to walk around
2. Eating becomes a lot more of a chore. One thing Rav and I have in common with our travelling is that we enjoy going out and getting good food, and we have eaten out at a lot of nice places. Eating out feels awkward alone, and cooking for one in a poorly stocked hostel kitchen is a bit depressing. It was a bad few days for eating. I suppose I could have put more effort into the cooking but there wasn’t loads to work with.
3. Little things to treat yourself are easy to come by. You can be a bit spontaneous with this and one evening I just decided to hop in a taxi and go to the cinema. After not having been to one for so long, I had a great pamper evening to myself watching Deadpool and eating vast quantities of popcorn on a row to myself in the screen (the English showing with spanish subtitles wasn’t the most popular viewing). Cost of taxi there and back plus ticket plus popcorn plus drink plus frozen yoghurt was still less than just a ticket costs at home as well.
4. It’s pretty easy just to lie around and do nothing. After all, who’s going to know? (Besides the 9 strangers in your dorm).
5. Speaking of those 9 strangers, it’s also easy not to talk to any of them. I imagine if you’re an actual solo traveller without a friend coming back to you you might actually have to chat with these people. But you can also just be in a room full of people you don’t really click with and then you might just be stuck without anyone for a while. Which is fine but…
6. It was ok for a few days, but I was definitely happy to be reunited. A few ordinary, quiet days were probably just what I needed, but the whole travelling experience is just more fun with someone to share it with! Amber and Rav joined me for a last day in Cuenca, then we went our separate ways: Rav and I to Lima via Loja, and Amber back to the beach in Mancora. Goodbye Ecuador, hello Peru!