This time last year, I arrived in Buenos Aires (BsAs), Argentina at the early hours of Christmas Day to begin my 2013 Epic Journey. After a restful sleep, I started early to explore the city – alone – on what is typically a day reserved for family and friends.
I know most people if given the choice, they would rather not be on the road during the festive holiday season – solo. Traveling alone can be challenging. Homesickness is common. I relate it to Valentine’s day, when I see lovey dovey couples together, while I’m spending Vday alone or with other single friends. I admit I am a seasoned solo traveler but I know traveling solo can be a daunting and pushing you out of your comfort zone. Personally, I think and know that when one choose to travel solo, one can end up gaining some new perspectives and unexpected experiences, if given the opportunity.I didn’t know what to expect. Would stores be open? Would I find food to eat? Would I be alone all day? What will I encounter? Who will I encounter? Will I be bored? What will happen on Christmas Day 2012??
Luckily the hotel I stayed in included a buffet breakfast. I was staying in Retiro, a beautiful neighborhood filled with gorgeous homes and close to the busy street. Avenida del Libertador. Well I found out soon enough, not much was open on Christmas day, though people were out and about.
I chose to do what I’m good at while traveling – Wander and Explore. I wandered over to the famous Cementerio de la Recoleta (Recoleta Cemetery) to pay my respects to Eva Perón, the First Lady of Argentina from 1946 to 1952, and many others who rests there permanently.
What happened was unexpected and fun. While at the cemetery, I started chatting with a couple visiting from San Jose, USA and we ended up exploring the city together. They even treated me to a lovely Christmas lunch together at the Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt. They had chosen to travel alone, while their kids where home in the States. We shared travel stories and life stories, while a quartet played beautiful music on the lawn.
I believe the Universe looks out for each and everyone of us. The saying “You’re never alone when you’re traveling solo” is also very true in my books. One of the biggest myths surrounding solo travel is that you are ALONE. It is furthest from the truth and reality. From personal experience, it is controlled by me, myself and I. How many people do I want to interact with. Who do I want to connect with and how much – is entirely up to me.
For the remainder of the day, I connected with more travelers and locals with my broken Spanish.
If you’d rather not leave it up to the Universe, take a proactive stance. Check into a hostel instead of a hotel. Hostels are not just for students on tight budgets anymore, so don’t let that stigma stop you. However, all hostels that I’ve encountered – expensive or cheap – are filled with travelers looking to connect with others. Many of them have notice boards with postings for people looking to connect and share experiences. I have done many activities with fellow roommates from hostels. You will meet people even if you check into a private room at a hostel. You have the control. It IS entirely up to you to define your solo travel experience.
Couchsurfing is a great friendly community, not just for budget travelers looking for a couch to crash. There are many forums on there for fellow CSers to meet and enjoy an activity together. Recently, on a trip to NYC, while I was staying with friends, I met up with CSers to enjoy the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade together.
You are never alone – trust me. Chat with the staff in a store. Comment on the weather with a perfect stranger sitting on the park bench. Ask someone for directions. Question if you’re standing in the correct line for the theater. You never know what that remark will take you. An innocent comment could make your day a lot more interesting than if you chose to keep to yourself.