One of the things everyone else seems to worry about when you travel solo is if you’ll be alone, if you’ll be lonely. Yes and no… no and yes. Unless you find yourself in the middle of nowhere there will always be people around, someone to talk to if only for a few moments. And by not traveling with others it’s easier to find down time, time to be alone, to edit photos and to write. You need the down time if you don’t want to burn out. Being always on, exploring and absorbing new places, sights, sounds, smells, tastes, it’s exhausting : it’s why people need vacations from their vacations.
Traveling alone though, you always wonder who you will meet. Will they be nice? Will there be trouble? You wonder if you will find yourself eating alone at night or if the other backpacker in the kitchen will feel like chatting. Of course, some nights you do, but often, being alone when traveling solo seems to come by choice. And even when you aren’t eating with others that doesn’t mean you aren’t surrounded by others. I like being alone around people. Yes that’s how I like it. – to quote my favorite musician*
I’m an introvert by nature but I find it easy enough to make friends despite also suffering from insufferable shyness. It’s easy enough to make a friends, an amiable companion for an hour or two or maybe only 15 minutes. When there’s a strong chance you’ll never see them again, suddenly it doesn’t seem to matter what they think when you just be yourself. Maybe these connections are little more than superficial, but the conversations aren’t the stuff of small talk re-hashed, the things every traveller developed a stock set of answers to.
So far this trip I’ve made several friends for an hour, people I’ll likely never see again. It wasn’t wasted time, each experience was unique and gave me an insight into how other people live.
- On a tour of The Rocks in Sydney I met a red headed, freckled English lass who had majored in African Studies. We swapped hostel horror stories and talked about our favorite places. At the end of the tour she wrote me a list of places to visit in Cairns, as she had just come from there and that was one of my next stops.
- Learning to surf on Bondi Beach I met Hope, a blog girl from Texas with a thick southern drawl who studied medicine, lived in Sydney and spoke Arabic. We bonded over pointing our toes (she’s a cheerleader, I’m a dancer), seeing who had the better balance, and trying to catch waves on a nearly flat day. We then went and devoured massive plates of Thai and didn’t so much as Facebook each other.
- On a ghost tour I met an aging lady from the west coast of Australia with an accent so soft it sounded like rubbing your hand through fur feels. She disliked traveling but was doing a tour with her husband who loved it and was dying of cancer. We chatted about the brevity of life, finding your passion and how technology has forever changed travel – in many cases opening it up as a possibility to some.
- In the hostel in Melbourne, sitting in the TV room one day, I chatted for hours with a guy about social media and how society is changing. He insisted on reading at least part of my master’s thesis and we argued the merits of being always connected.
- On a hike north of Sydney I ran across a Swiss immigrant who showed me a hidden beach that wasn’t listed on the maps.
Friends for an hour, an afternoon or maybe only 15 minutes. The fact is, if I don’t want to be alone all I have to do is say hello.
*lyrics from Do You Swear to Tell the Truth…. by Amanda Palmer