The Lone Rangette: A love of solo travel
I’m a little sick of all of the solo traveler articles giving advice on how not to be lonely and how to meet people while on the road. The best thing for me about meeting people while traveling is that I am under no obligation to stay with them at the end of the day or to accommodate their quirks or needs. I do love traveling with friends and family, but I make no apologies for enjoying my own company in equal measure.
Two years ago, I quit my job, sold my apartment, and cut the albatross boyfriend from around my neck. I then spent three months by myself in Europe. By the end of it, I was more than ready to shower regularly and talk to people again, but that time on my own was an essential part of the happy transition.
Of course, I still had a fair share of human contact, even beyond the service industry. I was able to e-mail a core group of friends daily, and I even let the albatross call me sometimes. And if you are a woman traveling alone, the kindness of strangers is always good for a dinner, a few drinks, a story or two. I had a really long conversation with a Moroccan tile salesman in Bologna one night and another with an older German woman in a cafe in Munich, both of which guided me to the next part of my life, but neither of which would have happened if I had followed some article’s tips on how to desperately force social interaction.
To all those ladies who romanticize love on the run with a stranger, my take on it is this: if the guy is safe enough to bring back to your hotel, the experience probably wouldn’t be anything to write home about. Once you hit your thirties, it’s not worth worrying about your wallet going missing (at the very least) or translating “it burns when I pee” into Portuguese. Yes, Luigi will act heart-broken when you leave him on the street at the end of a pleasant evening, but you’re representing America, missy! Our rep is already pretty bad in Europe due to college exchange programs, so it’s best not to contribute to the impression that leads European men to treat us rather differently than they treat their own women.
Also, often you find yourself with friends on the road who are more persistent than you’d like. During a week’s stay by the beach in Lerici, Italy, I found myself peering out of the lagoon, only my nose, sunglasses, and hat visible above the surface, watching as the guy who bought me pizza the day before stalked the shore looking for me. While it was amusing to feel like I was in some combination of “Ferris Bueller” and “Weekend at Bernie’s,” it wasn’t fun to be looking over my shoulder throughout the day trying to avoid unwanted attention.
In general, there’s no need to feel pressure to meet people when you travel. It’s largely unavoidable and will happen organically no matter what you do, so I’d recommend avoiding the experts who tell you to eat at the bar laughing to yourself over a book. If you get a take-out pizza in Rome, the guy making it will ask you out to a club that night, so finding new friends is not something to stress about in your vacation preparation. And there is no shame at all in spending the entire trip wrapped up in your own thoughts and your own conversation with the landscape, the art, the music, and the history of a new city. After all, there are people everywhere.6 comments