The Sunday Times Magazine: Travelling alone ain’t all it’s cracked up to be

01_05_glasshouse_g_1203477kThe last time I came to Berlin, I was dating a party-crashing psychiatrist I’d met at the Cannes film festival. I thought it was love. For the first two months, I always do. He lived there. So, from the moment I arrived, he had ferried me around, showing me his life. This time I came to Berlin alone.

When you spend time in a city with someone who knows it, you slip easily under its skin. You swerve tourist traps, going supermarket shopping and eating local instead. But this time I wanted to experience Berlin as an outsider, to be an alien and alone.

I love travelling on my own; love how in a foreign city you’re stripped of your usual markers, the cues prompting you to be who you’ve become: your family, friends, job, relationship, full wardrobe. Sometimes it’s good to leave yourself behind.

When I’m physically far from my normal life — somewhere my editors can’t get me and my friends can’t turn up, where everything is unfamiliar — I love reinventing myself, trying things on for size. I do all the things I don’t do in my real life. I eat food I don’t recognise and wander around in a holiday wardrobe, making weird friends I won’t keep, discussing subjects I don’t think about at home. I spend ages in museums, because I never have time for them in London.

Often my breaks are filled with good intentions. I’ll get up early, eat healthily, read, or just get drunk and, at 3am on a beach, resolve to change my life. I think this is why I especially like to go away around the new year, which feels like the perfect time to reassess your life.

I Googled a hotel from the airport, wanting somewhere random. Then wandered along wet streets, past cafes decked with multicoloured fairy lights. I found a bar and ordered in bad school German, unsure about what would arrive.


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