“Won’t you get tired of being alone?” was a question multiple friends asked before I left for my trip. Alone was never one of my considerations. It’s not like I’ve done a ton of solo travel before this, but I think it’s fair to say I’m pretty independent, and from the heaps of by-myself activities I do on a regular basis, I know how easy it is to meet people when you’re on your own in a new place. It’s much easier, in fact, than when you’re at home.
Yesterday morning, I did a walking tour of Paris’ Latin Quarter, which happens to be just a few blocks from my front door. I saw Shakespeare & Company, Notre Dame, the Church of Saint Julian the Poor, the Pantheon, a church where Cyrano de Bergerac lived, and back streets with architectural and historical jems. It was nice but impersonal.
Afterward, I met up with a bunch of CouchSurfers for lunch, and then the real tour of Paris began. There were probably 18 of us eating; 12 or so stuck around to wander the city after lunch, and by the time all was said and done, eight of us–from Paris, just outside Paris, Canada, Australia, Germany and the U.S.–ended up spending seven hours getting to know Paris and each other.
The locals in the group lead us from central Paris into northeast Paris, through the Louvre and ethnic neighborhoods, pointing out their favorite places, telling funny stories, and letting the rest of us ask questions about the city they adore. This wasn’t an organized “tour.” They made it up as they went along, getting more excited about what they could show us next as every block passed. It was my favorite (non-) tour of any city yet.
The eight of us grumbled about the unforecasted rain; avoided the rain for a bit in a bar; laughed as one member visited every bakery in a three-block radius for treats; sang; got beverages, produce, bread and cheese for an improptu picnic under a tree (it was raining again) along a canal in the neighborhood where one member believes Amelie was filmed; shared stories of our travels and our homes; and became each others’ seven closest friends in Paris for the time.
I’m not the only solo traveler out here, and when solo travelers get together, great things happen. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon and evening with what were my seven closest friends in Paris, very much not alone.