In a few days I’m leaving on big trip: Ten days in Hong Kong. Matt and I are visiting an old friend of his, who’s been living there for a few years. I’m so excited, though I must admit that all this summer travel has really kept me away from my new friends. I encountered this problem last summer too. When you’ve got weddings, family reunions and vacations galore, there’s not much time left to nourish new friendships, which are the very ones that need the extra love (versus the old friendships that pick up where you left off, cliche as it may be). I’m not complaining–I know I’m lucky to take such trips–but lack of PBFF time at home is the one down side. And every time one of my new friends says “where are you going this time??” after extending an invitation I have to decline, I feel a mix of guilt and regret.
Since it’s summer, I’m not the only one off gallivanting around the world. An old friend left this morning for a week in Nicaragua. Solo.
I’ve always been intrigued by solo travel. I once signed up for a yoga retreat by myself. I flew to Tulum, Mexico, for a week of stretching and sunning on the beach with other yogi wannabes. It was a good way to wade into the solo travel waters, as I wouldn’t be with a friend, but I’d be in a specific program with others who signed up for the same activity. I’d meet like-minded people! We’d bond in downward dog and be connected for life!
For me, it didn’t quite work like that. On that first night, Matt showed up, surprised me, and proposed. (I know. Not too shabby.) It was a perfect day and a perfect trip, but it wasn’t the solo travel experience that I had mentally prepared for. I still wonder if I could hack it in the on-your-own world touring. It’s said to be the quickest way to make new friends. I have a friend who travelled alone around South America and would send emails like: “Just met two great Canadian guys on my bus. I’m joining them tonight on the top of a mountain for some camping out and bongo drumming.”
I mean, what?!
When two strangers in a strange land cross paths, it makes sense that they would team up. What makes finding new friends so hard when you move is that everyone else is already settled. They have friends, favorite coffee shops, and full lives. Travelers, if they’re alone, are in the discovery phase, just like you. It’s the perfect breeding ground for friendship. Plus, travel is one of those friendship accelerators. If you travel with someone for one week, it’s as if you’ve know them for one year. On top of that, solo travelers are a self-selecting group of like-minded people, so there’s a good chance you’ll hit it off.
As I write this it occurs to me that perhaps I regret never having experienced the travel-for-one adventure my Nicaragua-bound friend is about to embark upon. As a friend-seeker (I just made that term up but it makes this sound like an actual job!), it feels like a missing piece of the puzzle.
Have you ever travelled alone? Was it the romantic, friend-finding adventure I envision? Or are you, like me, a summer traveller who suddenly loses an entire season with the local friends? Got any tips for picking things up where we left off when I return?