Solo Travel: It Doesn't Have To Be Lonely
Between 2000 and 2006, I took three trips to Europe happily on my own. I drove all over Ireland, then journeyed to Venice & Florence and finally fulfilled a dream of going to Paris. Some things I learned:
Even though I was a fiercely independent traveler- in retrospect- I wish I would have done some parts of each trip as tours - a half day bus tour, a walking tour, maybe a guided tour of the Louvre. That would have given me an opportunity to meet some traveling companions and get the inside scoop from a knowledgeable guide.
I really do suck at learning languages. I wish I'd had a translator app and a smart phone! I did manage to learn a few useful phrases -it does go a long way in warming people up to you. I found an Irish pub in Paris (really!) filled with Aussies and some Brits so I got a dose of English most every night before heading back to my hotel. In Italy, I hung out in the centrally located piazzas every night -they're always filled with people out for a stroll and socializing, sort of like hanging around Camino Capistrano in San Juan in the early evening - I almost always met someone who spoke English to chat with for awhile.
People in Ireland live up to the hype about Irish hospitality -pick one of the plentiful pubs -sit at the bar (even if you're going to sip a soft drink) and in no time- you'll find a friendly conversation. Riding the city tram in Dublin led to several enchanting conversations - I chatted with a group of teens who had me laughing so hard it hurt, or as they said, they put me "in stitches." On another tram ride I enjoyed a lively conversation about my Kindle with a curious elder.
At the Dublin airport, waiting for my plane home, I met the "Seven Widows." I had left a book, Anam Cara by John O'Donahue, on my bar stool in a packed airport pub, hoping it would still be there when I got back from a restroom stop. When I got back to my seat, the Seven Widows were surrounding my stool, cooing over the book. Turns out they loved the author too. They told me their story: each was a widow and they traveled frequently together. They were on their way to the Canary Islands. They insisted I join them in drinking Guinness and blackberry brandy and in no time, we were truly Anam Cara which means "soul friends."
The joys of traveling alone include doing what you want, when you want, while offering plenty of opportunities to meet new people -both fellow travelers and the locals. If you've been dreaming of traveling -don't put it off because you're single. Pick a destination, choose a date and start announcing to everyone you know that you're going. Now you're on the way to turning your travel dream into the experience of a lifetime!
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