Traveling Solo, Meeting Men

Traveling on your own isn’t just good for finding a romantic rendezvous. You could also end up finding a whole lot more.

By Randy B. Hecht

olo travel is like public speaking: A universal fear. If you’ve never done it, it probably conjures images of days spent sightseeing in solitude followed by dinners shamefully consumed at a table for one in restaurants where you become the object of universal pity.

Which pretty much sums up my image of solo travel five years ago. But that was before Joaquin. And Karl-Erik. And Isaac. And Pablo. And a supporting cast of extras, ranging from a very cute veterinarian in Oslo to an adorable and accommodating presidential-palace guard in Santiago.

It’s not just men, of course.

A chance encounter at a bus stop north of Copenhagen started a friendship
Carol and I hit it off while admiring the archaeology and artesanias of Oaxaca.
with Monica that stands at five years and counting. Nadia, her sister Nassim and I connected while hiking about the Galapagos; Carol and I hit it off while admiring the archaeology and artesanias of Oaxaca; and my next trip to Mexico will be a veritable riot of connections and reconnections with dear friends… both those I’ve met and those I haven’t.

How’s that, again? Dear friends I haven’t met?

Absolutely. It’s amazing what you can do with the Internet these days. In fact, I might never have screwed up my courage and taken that first solo journey if I hadn’t made virtual contact with some locals in advance of the trip. I found Karl-Erik by doing a search for Swedish writers, and the cross-cultural exchange we began by email had blossomed into full friendship by the time we had dinner together on my first night in Stockholm. Pablo and I were separated by some 5,000 miles but brought together by membership in the same online dating service. And my first contact with Maru was in the form of a journalist’s query about the Mexican singer and composer Alejandro Filio; I’d admired
This is a good policy for your first meeting with anyone, under any circumstances.
his music for some time, but I had no idea I’d wind up adoring his manager.

Tempted to give it a try?

I recommend it. Get out there (both in the world and right here online), connect with people, and you’ll be amazed how much you can discover about other cultures — and about yourself. Here are a few things to remember as you break your mother’s rule about not talking to strangers:

Meet first in a public place
This is a good policy for your first meeting with anyone, under any circumstances. It’s the smart, safe thing to do — and that extra measure of security will help you relax and enjoy getting acquainted.

Respect cultural differences
Remember: Customs regarding appropriate conversational topics, humor, styles of flirting, “innocent” physical contact and even eye contact can be different from those you know. When you’re visiting another country, be a good guest.

If you enjoy travel and making friends in other places, consider joining an organization like Servas, which gives you the chance to be both guest and host with a group of international friends.

But whatever you do, don’t just sit there wishing you had a great travel companion. You do — you’ve got you.

Randy B. Hecht is a freelance writer who frequently contributes to Happen.
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