When you travel alone, you are your own best friend. Often times, you can go hours, maybe even days, without having a real conversation with another human being—and not just a “hola” or “merci” or “how much does this train ticket cost?” Sometimes, when I do start talking I don’t even know what to say—or what language to say it in. And then, I realize it’s been so long since I’ve spoken that I end up talking really fast and to anyone that will listen.
Most of the time, this works out just fine. You choose a restaurant and sit down to eat at said restaurant and spark up a chat with the couple from Glasgow eating curry to your left and next thing you know you’re taking shots with them at a random bar playing Lady Gaga. Or the couple from Ireland who eyes the menu at the hamburger joint you’ve just eaten at in Lagos to which you confirm, “It’s good” and hours later you’re sharing a pitcher of Sangria together. Of course, there are other times you wish you never opened your mouth at all, like while waiting for the Tour de France cyclists to arrive at the Tuileries. You think you’ve found the perfect spot to watch and so you strike up a chat with the kind, chubby, gap-toothed Aussie to your right and then he doesn’t stop talking. And there’s another two hours to go.
For the most part, though, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for these little blips of blab. Some of the connections I’ve made were more substantial than others; some will last a long time and others I may not hear from again. Though, I suspect may of them may occasionally “like” a photo or status update or two, as the first thing you do when you’re parting ways from your new pals is find each other on Facebook. But whether we’ve formed true friendships or they just served a very basic purpose—taken a photo or given directions—connection and communication is often what makes a trip all the more memorable. Especially for a solo traveler.
It’s freeing, yes, to be able to decide the What and the When and the How of your trip on your own. But selfies only preserve so much of what you actually see. Asking someone to take your picture not only gives you a wider composition, but someone to share the view with.
Without further ado, here’s just a few of the homies I met along the way and a “thank you note” to each:
LUIS, the writer from Venezuela, who I met in Cordoba, Spain on a free bike tour of the city.
THANK YOU…for putting up with my indecision in trying to find a real local place to sit and watch the absolutely terrible World Cup match between Brazil and Germany—especially since we missed all the action as a result.
SAVANNAH, the tall blond student/teacher from Tennessee, who I met in Granada, Spain, while watching another World Cup game.
THANK YOU…for the gelato and just being an all around doll. And for introducing me to BlaBlaCar, which I used as my main form of transport for the remainder of my trip!
NICK from Wales, who I met in Sevilla, Spain, while—you guessed it!—watching a World Cup game.
THANK YOU…for starting the conversation—just as my food arrived! But really, thanks for some good quality chats. Travelers for life, my mate.
EDELE from Ireland, and her new husband, who I met “not honeymooning” the day after their wedding, in Lagos, Portugal.
THANK YOU…for sharing your pitcher of sangria with me. I was getting tired of looking like the lonely single sap picking the fruit from the bottom.
OLGA from Canada (who lives in Berlin), that I met on the beach in Lagos after she asked me to watch her stuff while she went for a swim.
THANK YOU…for taking my photo so I could prove I was actually there, and also for suggesting a few tips for Lisbon.
JEN and TRACY from Glasgow, who I met over Indian food while killing time before meeting my AirBnB host in Lisbon.
THANK YOU…for just being awesome and my new BFFs for two days! I’ll never forget running to a cab in the rain after the Mandela concert and then taking shots at that super random bar in Barrio Alto. Also, THANK YOU for suggesting Park Bar. It was the best spot, which could’ve only been made better if you were still there!
RANDOM GIRL from the UK, who I asked to take a photo of me in Cascais, Portugal, after seeing her do the same.
THANK YOU…for not stealing my camera and for being patient as I got into a yoga pose. Turns out, this “in between” movement “pose” is my favorite.
SUZETTE from Los Angeles, and MIA from Lisbon, who I met at Park Bar in Lisbon because I was hovering near them while sipping on a mojito…alone.
THANK YOU…for asking me to join you for drinks and for introducing me to the owner of Park (as the story may work out!) and Mia, for being “available” for feedback a few days later during my mini hotel crisis in Porto.
RANDOM GIRL from Korea who I asked to take my “princess” photo in Sintra.
THANK YOU…for also not stealing my camera and letting me get my princess on. It was magical!
TIAGO from Porto, the owner of the guesthouse I found after slumming it for a night elsewhere.
THANK YOU…for being so kind and helpful and for suggesting the restaurant next door where I had the best dessert of my life, and also for bringing me to the “other side” of Porto by the beach! Oh, and for dropping me off at Casa de Musica and for walking me to the train station and carrying my bag down the steps.
The couple from Hong Kong (via Canada) who I met on the really long queue at the Porto airport.
THANK YOU…for watching my bag while I got a bottle of water. (On second thought, thanks also for showing me how to GET the bottle of water from that odd vending machine.) Also, for making that really long line go a lot quicker and also for letting me go ahead of you on the security line after a bit of a ticket debacle.
MICHELINE from Paris who I met, along with her boyfriend and their two friends, while waiting for the Tour de France cyclists to show up.
THANK YOU…for being the only people to let me squeeze in next to your group by the barracades so I could see the cyclists ride in. And for buying me a water and for entertaining my poor French and for making the two-hour wait something I’ll never forget. In a good way. (As opposed to the aforementioned talkative Aussie who drove me nuts faster than the cyclists themselves!)
DAVID from Paris, who I met via Tinder. (Yes, this is the date and it’s all the info you’re getting!)
THANK YOU…for taking me on what was, quite possibly, the most humiliating, but memorable date I’ve ever been on. (See: embarrassing video below.) And also for proving that even a gloomy, cloudy day in Paris can be tres magnifque.
ANNA from London (via Russia) who I met at a typical Parisian cafe in the 6iem, an hour after we’d been sitting/eating next to each other. (And then again some time later in Bon Marche!)
THANK YOU…for the lovely chat and for inviting me out to Wanderlust/Nuba/Flore/Weird Swingers Club and introducing me to your friends! It was a GREAT Paris night and I hope to have more of them together.
CHRISTINA and SASHA from Brooklyn (holla!) who I met after a yoga class in the 11iem.
THANK YOU…for suggesting we picnic together in Buttes Chaumont. After having resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to picnic alone in Paris, it was such a treat to get to spend the day with such a lovely couple. The wine and cheese and salad and scenery were The Tops, but most of all the company was parfait. I am looking forward to more picnics and drinks at Rosa Bonheur and beyond when we all move to Paris. (But let’s hang out in W-burg first when you get home, yeah? We’ll plot our escape.)
RANDOM GUY next to me on the tube in London who I struck up a conversation with because I saw that he, too, was reading “A Moveable Feast.”
THANK YOU…for providing yet another sign that I should move to Paris.