Sometimes I get tired of meeting people. Really tired. I feel like it’s the movie Groundhog day and I simply have gone through the same introductions for 6 years now.
I know, I know – meeting people is fun. Yes – most of the time it is. But imagine the new people you may meet on a 2 week vacation and now imagine that for 50 more weeks year after year. It kind of makes your mind spin.
Most of the people I meet are in the category of social nicety. You exchange a bit of information and maybe even hang out for a few days and then it’s done. A short-term friendship. One in which you only scratch the surface and you are never really allowed to let you deeper self out.
Then sometimes you make a weird connection that can’t be predicted, You speed through the niceties and go deeper. You have thoughts, experiences, and beliefs in common. You feel close immediately, you share more, and you care more, you click.
A tango dancer, Spanish student, writer, dress designer, personal trainer, and taxi driver – meet over dinner in a bed and breakfast in Buenos Aires… No this isn’t the beginning line to a raunchy joke, but it is the way I made some great connections in Buenos Aires. It was all thanks to a decision I made when planning for my 3 weeks in Buenos Aires over the holidays.
I sat on Airbnb.com and tried to decide – do I get my own apartment and stay alone for 3 weeks and concentrate on writing, or do I stay in a shared house where I’ll have my own room and privacy, but others will be around to converse with when I want. Since it was the holidays and I knew that I may mentally self destruct if I was completely alone for Christmas, I chose the shared home in the Almagro neighborhood.
The home was run by Bettina and Irina (mother and daughter) and was also occupied by Bettina’s boyfriend, Emiliano, and a couple of cute dogs and cats. A perfect family feel for the holidays. Bettina and Irina spoke a little English, so I knew there would be a few challenges for me in communicating – but it would be worth it.
The home was creatively designed, quiet and spotless. Immediately you knew that Bettina took the role of being a host very seriously. When she found out I didn’t have any plans for Christmas Eve she invited me to join in the dinner she was making with friends – perfect – it wouldn’t be a lonely Christmas after all. Over that Holiday dinner I met 2 of the other visitors in the house – Angela and Ute. Both solo female travelers like me, and both in my same agegroup – which is quite rare that I find/meet people in their 40’s traveling alone.
Angela and Uta were like Christmas angels sent to me by the entity in the universe who takes care of solo travelers – yes – I’m pretty sure there is one. We all three immediately clicked. We each had our own responsibilities during the day. I had to write and do photo editing, Ute (a tango dress designer) had appointments at boutiques, and Angela was taking Spanish and tango classes during the day. That meant each night the 3 of us would meet after our work, open up a bottle or 3 of wine, and sit and enjoy each other’s company. Angela would cook up an amazing steak and salad and we would sit for hours talking and laughing about travel, careers, men, politics, and cultural differences. Some nights we opted to go out for dinners but my favorite times were hanging out at the house completely casual. It felt like a normal life to me – someone who’s life is far from normal.
Some nights we’d accompany Ute to milongas (tango dance halls) where she was doing business. Angela would be her model and I’d be her photographer – a perfect trio! And finally some nights we would stay in and cook a big dinner with Bettina, Irina, Emiliano, and Jorge (another family friend who was a taxi driver who escorted us around the city late at night). The last night we were all there together we made a big feast to celebrate our new friendships and the beauty of shared homes, solo travel, and local living.
Even though your may be traveling solo, it’s your choice to actually BE solo. It’s not difficult to find situations where you can meet others and staying in places like Casa del Sol is a great start. You can decide if you want to put yourself in social situations or not and how much you want to socialize. Lodging choices are a very big part of that decision. However I do admit that after 6 years of solo travel, it’s rare to find/make friendships like I did in Buenos Aires – that’s just luck.
By Kay February 5, 2013 - 6:29 am
Thanks so much for writing about this. I agree. The biggest challenge for me as solo traveler isn’t courage to go alone – it’s finding accomodations that fit my budget, give me some privacy, and create situations where I can meet people. Thank you for posting a link to your host’s airbnb page. I’m thinking of going back to Buenos Aires, and I might just stay there myself.
By Jodi Henderson February 5, 2013 - 1:52 pm
I think you hit the nail on the head – that you’re meeting people that won’t be in your life but for a very short time and, therefore, it’s more small talk and surface stuff. I’d rather spend my time alone than have to make small talk with people. With that said, there’s no way to know if you can make a deeper connection with someone until you do the surfacey stuff first.
Part of me likes the idea of putting myself in the kind of housing situation you describe but I’m so reluctant! I am in the process of deciding on an itinerary for my trip to Norway in April, so I’ll have to give it some thought.
By Sherry February 7, 2013 - 2:57 pm
Try it!! What in the world do you have to lose? If you don’t get along with the people, then don’t hang out with them – no worries. I am actually going to see the women I met in Barcelona again when I’m in Berlin in March…so now I have a connection in other cities too!
By Walter Lustig February 6, 2013 - 5:14 am
Thanks Sherry, I liked that story.
I am a passionate solo-traveler myself, often trying to avoid socialising situations for the reasons you describe. But ever now and then it happens that one meets great people who leave a their permanent positive mark on your travels.
On my recent 10-month trip through India, Thailand, Borneo and China, I met a lovely young couple from Chile on a tour to the Niah Caves near Miri in Sarawak and a great older couple in a small town in Borneo who ran a local coffee shop there.
I also have to say that after having lived in Latin America for some time in the past that I find the people there extremely welcoming and easy to get along with. They have this talent of immediately integrating you into their surroundings and sharing their slices of life with you.
BTW, switching back to SEA, I found Malaysians and in particular the people in Borneo, one of the friendliest and nicest I ever met.
By Jeremy Ginsburg February 6, 2013 - 7:11 pm
People always seem cooler and more interesting when you travel! It’s very important to put yourself in situations to meet others that have great stories to tell, otherwise, you’re truly missing out.
I haven’t been to Argentina, but this makes me want to go really badly!
It’s also important to remember that living with people definitely forces you to go through the friendship stage faster. Ah! I miss traveling!
By Leslie Horning February 15, 2013 - 1:09 pm
It sounds like you are much more social on vacation that I am. Most of the time, I’m going to get away from all the hustle and bustle, and I just want to relax by myself. I of course still talk to people, but I certainly wouldn’t say vacation is my most social time.
By cyle odonnell April 20, 2013 - 8:00 pm
Thx for tweeting this recap on a memory. Makes me wanna travel solo and meet cool ppl in B.A. Not so much 3 bottles of wine per night, though!
By Jhon Miller February 12, 2016 - 1:13 pm
Wow congratulations on the post, well I’ve never been to Argentina, but do not have to see this post and do not feel like going kk, the end of the year I will organize with the family! same obligation
By Rodrigo Cardoso December 12, 2016 - 7:45 pm
By Bruna Rodrigues January 12, 2017 - 4:29 pm
Very Good I agree with you! I love traveling too, but I have not traveled alone
By Nilda March 15, 2017 - 11:03 am
Great content Thank you so much for such quality.