On my travels, I have met and connected with many many wonderful people–both locals and other travelers. While forming connections with locals is somewhat difficult, it is especially easy to connect with and relate to other travelers as it takes a certain breed of person to travel, particularly when someone travels solo.
In general, travelers are curious and open-minded individuals who enjoy the stretching and twisting of the mind and self that occurs when one is exposed to new and strange cultures and environments. They are often seekers of knowledge and experience and use travel as a means to expand, explore, and satisfy curiosity. It takes a certain type of person to travel, especially when one gets off the beaten path of the average packaged-holiday-tourist. Thus, when fellow travelers meet, they often have an instant, if somewhat limited, understanding of each other. After all, something drew each traveler thousands of miles away from their comfort zone to the same remote place.
While it takes a certain type of person to travel, the solo traveler is a whole different breed of person. They are fearless, and especially not afraid to be alone–quite the contrary, they relish it. They may love the company of others but traveling is almost a selfish act–and for the solo traveler–it must be. Others sometimes don’t understand us and, on many occasions, they feel sorry for our aloneness. I have been asked hundreds of times why I travel alone–as though my aloneness is perceived as a bad thing. I try to communicate my insight, telling them that traveling alone allows me to be selfish in a good way–I never have to compromise and can easily get whatever I want out of my travels. This explanation misses some of the reasons we travel alone but offers a glimpse of our mentality. However, other solo travelers understand and require no explanation. Thus, we have an instantaneous, mutual, and somewhat deep understanding and respect of each other. When I meet other lone travelers, I often feel like I’ve found kindred spirits.
In contemplating my “aloneness”, it occurred to me that I have never really thought about traveling with others simply because it has never occurred to me. (Despite having a blog, I am a somewhat private person. I love people, but also love retreating to my stillness.) My first trip abroad was to Spain when I was seventeen to study Spanish for six weeks. My sister participated in a similar program in the same city but I barely saw her. I have also always been somewhat of a loner and so while I did connect with a few of the other foreigners in my program, I preferred to spend my time alone, wandering through the streets practicing my Spanish. I loved the freedom afforded to me by my aloneness. If I wanted to, I could sit all day in front of a Dali painting and no one could complain. And I could also simply sit in uninterrupted silence and contemplate my life and self in new and changing surroundings. I quickly found that I could connect with and experience people and places in a way that would be inaccessible to me if I traveled with a group.
Addiction hit (rather hard) and seven years, later my passport is now full of stamps and visas of places that I have visited mostly alone. I’ve met many, many beautiful and wonderful people and my only regret is that they cannot all live in Portland.