One of the things I find the most difficult about budget travel is the lack of privacy. There usually isn’t a place you can go to just be alone for awhile, especially in the sort of countries where travel is cheap. In Canada, I enjoy being with people and often do solitary work like writing in coffee shops where I can still be social while working alone. Here, though, every now and again I like to have some time to myself, which is very hard to procure. On the road, I don’t have my own private space in the form of a bedroom. Ellen and I are sharing a room in a cabin here at our cousin’s place. The bamboo cabin is divided into two open-concept rooms, with two of our cousin’s theatre colleagues sleeping in hammocks on the other side of a curtain from us. The children like to play in the cabin, so although we have some degree of privacy we are never far from others. In hostels, we are usually in the dormitory, and the farm we volunteered at was similar. Private sleeping space is at a premium, and we’re travelling on as few dollars a day as we can get away with. Surely, though, surrounded by nature, I could find a place to get away from it all? I’m in the mountains, surrounded by valleys, trees, and streams. Still, this is farming country, and people abound no matter where you go. I suppose I’ve been spoiled by living in Canada, with what might be the fewest people per square kilometer of any country on earth. Here the mountains are dotted with houses and farms, and when Ellen and I go for a walk, we have to smile and greet people every two to three minutes – we are never alone.

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This quiet little mountainside is surprisingly bustling

I count myself incredibly lucky to be travelling with my sister. Ellen and I read each other fairly well, and we get along well accordingly. Ellen likes to say that we don’t have disagreements over our travel plans because we never made any agreements in the first place. With Ellen, I can sit by the side of a quiet stream and not say anything for half an hour without being considered rude. Today we are in the city to pick up a few things we need before we move on to our next volunteer project tomorrow, and I’m sitting in a quiet coffee shop or bar and not saying much at all, and revelling in our anonymity. With Ellen, I can say, “I’m just going to get up and wander into that shop across the street” and skip off on my own without fear of offending her. When Ellen went off with a different group of friends the other day, they didn’t return her for a little over 24 hours. She left a note in our room so I’d know not to expect her, and went off on a little adventure. Neither of us really had any idea what our respective groups of friends had planned for the day; we were just along for the ride. It occurred to me this morning that in over two months, that was the first time we’d spent any time apart. I love my sister, but it was an excellent feeling. Privacy is something I’ve learned to cherish on this trip.

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