There’s a couple of moments in this journey that are like a story inside a story. And one of them is the man’s attitude to what I do.
It’s not that women do not admire or like or question my trip, but for some reason most of the people I get to interact with during the trip are men. Men usually give me a ride: be it me flagging them down on a lonely highway near Abalak or outside of Khanty-Mansiysk, or them kindly driving me around like Andrey did in Surgut or them being my driver when I call a cab. Men take away my 20 kg backpack and carry it for me on a railway platform, they offer me a vodka shot on a train ride or make me a coffee in the hostel, they come over to me and tell me their stories on the bus stops.
And be it over a midnight beer or a morning cigarette they usually ask one and the same question ‘why are you alone?’ The second most popular questions are ‘aren’t you lonely?’ and ‘aren’t you afraid?’
When a young snowboarder Vlad, whom I met on the hill near the church in Khanty-Mansiysk asked me if I’m not lonely I wanted to give him a huge hug. Cos when men ask me such questions it’s not a small talk thing. They actually look puzzled and a bit worried like: how come? that must be tought!
They ask for my number and ask to keep in touch, they joke that they’ll keep checking on me and a bit later do call and ask how am I, they promise to beat up the person who’s gonna harm me and I believe that they will actually do even though we’ve met by chance just for a bit.
Excluding the business trips I dont think many people travel alone in Russia let alone Siberia. But just the simple fact of me standing alone with the 20 kg backpack on that highway builds a certain respect in the hearts of these taught Siberian man. And there’s nothing to be afraid of when there’s respect between people. And you never feel lonely when most of people meet you like an old friend.
I’ve already been told some ‘mind blowing’ stories about that one woman who was traveling alone. ‘She was traveling all alone’ told me Anton at the museum yesterday. Wonder if people will be telling such stories about me as well?