Solo travelers do things their own way, and Janice and I are no different. While we both have a passion for traveling alone, we have some varying preferences and approaches.
How we meet people while traveling solo is one of them.
On trips in different countries at different times – Janice in New Brunswick, me in Bermuda – we met strangers in contrasting ways.
Here are our stories.
Janice Uses the Harley Haggerty Technique
He was due for his annual hair cut. Yes, his white hair was past his shoulders and his beard was down to his chest. Definitely a character. I walked up to him and said: “Mr. Steel, I understand that you’re the person I have to meet”. He was somewhat surprised but not really taken aback. He seemed to know that he was the unofficial cultural liaison for St. Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick.
Jamie Steel is the type of person I look for in every small town I visit. He is one of the reasons that small towns make great destinations. He’s an outlier. Jamie is exceptional for his role in the music scene. The important characters of other towns may stand out for their age, the stories they tell or their unofficial political role.
These are people really worth knowing but they are rarely tripped over. They are typically found through others. I find them by simply asking.
My assumption is that the person I find to chat with easily, the chance encounter in a coffee shop or a clerk at a Visitor Information Center, is not the most interesting person in town, but that they know who is. So I ask: who is the person that I just have to meet?
On my trip around the Bay of Fundy, I met many fascinating people but there was one who got away: Harley Haggerty of Parrsboro, Nova Scotia. I learned of Harley simply by asking the young woman serving me a coffee at Tim Horton's (a Canadian institution when it comes to coffee). She told me where he hung out in the evening but, in spite of taking the long walk to his preferred watering hole, I missed him. It happens some times.
But in St. Andrews by-the-Sea, I was lucky. This is a quaint town that thrives primarily on tourism. I was in a tartan shop (there is a rich Scottish heritage in New Brunswick) chatting with the owner, when I asked her the question.
She thought about it for just a moment, then said, “Jamie Steel.” When I asked where I would find him, she stepped out of the shop to point out the pub I should go to that evening and there he was, walking in, at that very moment.
Off I went and, as I told you, I walked right up to him and introduced myself. And what good fortune that I did. Jamie Steel was not only the executive director of the Sunbury Shores Arts & Nature Centre at that time, but also the person who booked all the musical talent in the town. He invited me back to the pub that evening to see Adam Olmstead, a local boy who made good in Nashville and was on his way through town to play at a festival in Nova Scotia. He would play at the pub that night with the Nashville String Band that includes a number of Grammy Award-winning members.
I returned after dinner that evening, listened to the music, and met the entire band. I don't usually play the groupie but this was a fabulous evening!
We don't always meet the Harley Haggertys of the world but sometimes we do. How fortunate I managed to do so in St. Andrews by-the-Sea.
To Meet People While Traveling Solo, Tracey Sits Still
As a solo traveler, sometimes you can have the most interesting experiences just by sitting still.
While visiting Bermuda, one day I decided to take advantage of the weather and some free time and eat my lunch in a small park at the water’s edge in St. George’s.
Earlier that morning, I had taken a walking tour of the town led by Allison Outerbridge, a descendant of one of the oldest families on the island. Her knowledge of the area is seemingly encyclopedic. St. George’s is lovely, and in fact, the entire town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I joined a group that followed our guide from King’s Square, through Somers’ Garden, up and down streets lined with whitewashed buildings and houses painted in pale pastels, visiting St. Peter’s graveyard and passing by local shops and restaurants.
Following the walking tour, I had watched a re-enactment of The Ducking of the Wives, a tradition that involved punishing women for gossiping and nagging by humiliating them in front of a huge crowd in the town square, then plunging them repeatedly into the harbor. Although the performance is presented in a dramatic and humorous way, it does leave you with some food for thought.
So off I went for some quiet time by the water. I found a bench under a tree and sat soaking in the beauty of St. George’s Harbour, enjoying the breeze, and sharing my lunch with the birds. I was soon joined by a woman decked out in so much silver jewelry that I became aware of the sound of her clanging bangles before actually seeing her. We chatted for a few minutes. I discovered that she was on her first solo cruise and had just disembarked from the ship to have a stroll around town. Solo travelers are everywhere!
I don't generally set out to meet people while traveling solo, but often, opportunities just fall in my lap.
A short time later, along came a four-legged local and his two-legged companion. I was pleased to make the acquaintance of the apparently famous Smokey the Dachshund. Smokey is an award-winning show dog, and his owner told me all about his many accomplishments. He also shared his theories about 9/11, the financial collapse, American politics, China, and the internet. It was a pretty wide-ranging discussion – well, more a monologue, really – but incredibly entertaining. Paul is rather suspicious of the internet, so he wouldn't allow me to show you his photo, but Smokey was very accommodating in posing for a few shots.
I'm so glad that I plunked myself down in Bob Burns Memorial Park that day. After exploring the town on foot with a group, by sitting still on my own in a public space, I opened myself up to meeting new people. In this case, I met both another traveler and a local, which not only added some color to my day, but also makes my memories of my visit to St. George’s a little more special.
Do you set out with purpose to meet people while traveling solo, or do you just enjoy random meetings as they come?