As adults, how often do we actually make a new friend?
I mean seriously, unless you are constantly taking up different activities, starting new positions or working in a job that is people-facing, we actually just see the same people every single day.
I have been travelling for just under six months, four of which I spent with friends and nearly two of which I spent solo.
While it is obviously amazing to share your travel experiences with friends or partners, going it alone is a completely different experience and dare I say it, a slightly more fulfilling one (for me anyway).
Since travelling solo I have become my own biggest cheerleader. I literally celebrate every single accomplishment I have even if it’s simply going to a walking tour by myself or managing to get on the right bus to the right place with all my possessions intact.
My first week of solo travel was tough. I had to give myself little pep talks before walking down to the hostel common areas and sitting with groups of complete strangers. The thought of doing this six months ago would have sent a sense of dread into every fibre of my body, but now it is something that I just do.
When you have companions with you, it is easier to just stick to what you know, to stay in that cosy familiarity, rather than put yourself out there to speak to new people. When you are travelling solo, this is just par for the course.
However, when you do make that effort to talk to people I am often struck by the warm openness of people to get to know you and the ease with which it is possible to become friends with and even to become close with new people.
As I became at ease with the concept of being a solo traveller, meeting people become easy to the point where now I don’t even need to think about it.
At first it felt contrived; you feel forced to walk up to people and pretty much hope they will talk to you. However, when you relax, the people around you relax and suddenly it becomes the most natural thing ever.
Going out to a museum or on a tour with a total stranger is the norm. Striking up conversations with literally anybody anywhere is completely acceptable. Walking up to a group of people is less anxiety inducing as it is exciting.
I am not going to lie and say it was an easy transition because it was not. My first two weeks by myself I really genuinely struggled. I had ups that were euphoric and lows that were really hard. I became over-anxious at little things that were literally non-existent except for in my head.
But at a certain point, as you continue to travel, it just becomes your life.
I know it is a different environment, travelling and being at home, but I really want to retain that openness and willingness to engage with new people that I have developed in the last few months.
You can be surprised by what you will learn from people and you will be even more surprised by what you will learn about yourself.