One of the biggest questions I get from people about my solo travels is also one of my biggest issues - "don't you get tired of being alone?" To which I reply one of two ways:
"Sometimes, it's nice to get away and just sink into the quiet isolation and be with myself." Or "Yes. Totally. But at least my dogs are happy to see me when I get home."
What's interesting to me is this: wherever you go, unless you're headed to yurt on the side of some mountain somewhere to sit in intentional isolation, you're really never alone - are you?
On all of my trips, I am greeted by someone at an airport. I hand my boarding pass to someone. A waiter takes my order at a table. A sales clerk accepts my credit card for my book purchase - and there are other locals and travelers and tourists in that shop, too. Everywhere I go, I am surrounded. So what lies underneath it is that "thing" that so few of us seem to possess anymore, with the advent of social networking (how ironic it's called "social" when you never have to leave your house) - starting a conversation.
So for all you folks out there who are facing a solo travel adventure and worried that you'll be taking an unintentional vow of silence to do so, here are my tips for starting those conversations.
1. Carry gum or mints
Whether you are getting on your flight or taking your seat at a conference, gum and mints can be an instant way to begin a conversation. Simply asking "would you like some?" can break the ice into a conversation with the people around you.
2. Carry a (gasp!) newspaper
Yes, folks, newspapers are alive (even if their wellness status is arguable), and while they can seem to be an unwieldy airplane companion and an even stranger meal companion, they're brilliant for starting conversations. Not only do you have an instant topic directory, you can also use the gum trick with them - "would you like to read one of the sections? I can't read them all at once" is one of my favorites. Don't bury yourself in it. Leave it out on the table or only casually peruse it and make yourself accessible to those around you. A Kindle, iPad, or other electronic option is not conversation friendly - unless the person next to you has a model that you're curious about.
3. Don't sit at a table. Sit at the bar.
When you're in a restaurant alone, you are most likely uncomfortable anyway. If you sit at the bar, odds are, you'll be near someone else who may be sitting alone, too. Then, you have a bevy of things at your disposal to bring up:
-- Have you eaten here before?
-- That's a great bag/briefcase/etc.
-- I noticed you have a (name the phone) - do you like it?
-- Comment on what's showing on the TV
-- Or just smile and say "hello, how are you?" You'd be surprised at how that can work.
So if you haven't gone solo in a while - or ever - because you're intimidated about being "out there" remember what Eleanor Roosevelt said - "Do one thing every day that scares you."