My first “real” solo sojourn, under my own power, took place 10,000km from my sunny Singaporean home.
It was my first time on the so-called Old Continent, Europe, as part of a university semester on exchange, in the beautiful Dutch city of Utrecht (more on that one day). On only my second weekend in The Netherlands, I decided to head south, to the capital of Belgium. Brussels struck me as a dazzling city of vast avenues and quiet streets, of deserted, almost post-apocalyptic-esque business districts and breathtaking churches.
It was only my second European metropole after the pungent narrow streets of Amsterdam. Unlike Amsterdam, there were not many canals here, but I had an amazing day fast-marching from one church to another going WAAAAOOWWW at the intricate and majestic architecture of the numerous churches and monuments in this nice city; then pigging out on fries/waffle(s)/escargot when the whim took me.
Travelling solo is exhilarating. You plot your own course,without the fear of bruised egos or frayed tempers. Yet nearing the end of one long day just tasting the streets of this beautiful place myself, I was gripped by a desolating sense of loneliness and melancholy – no one to argue or be irritated with, but also no one to share and marvel and romance with either.
It was easy on this short jaunt to see why people fall in love with Europe. I feel almost guilty for luxuriating in the abject peace of cathedrals; in marvelling delightfully at the endless spires that crown this old city. Your first day in Primary School, the scratchy feel of new socks in chalk-white shoes. Your first kiss, in an echoing underpass as a torrential downpour traps you in a moment that goes on forever. Your first practical driving lesson, and the car spasming crazily as you kick it into the wrong gear. We rarely forget our firsts, even as we make memories from the subjective vantage points of the present. Many more crown jewels in Europe awaited me, but late in January 2015, Brussels became another name, another place to put in my heart.
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” | Robert Louis Stevenson