When traveling alone, it makes sense to keep up one’s guard — to avoid interacting as freely with strangers as one might do when one is with companions, or in familiar surroundings. This is especially true for a woman traveling solo. Best to evade situations that can bring unwelcome attention or uninvited company.
But meeting people is such a significant element of travel. A person who becomes too guarded can miss out on valuable connections with others — connections that not only enrich the place where you are visiting, but can change your perception, add to your knowledge, leave a lasting impact on your character.
Getting to know the locals, of course, fosters a better understanding of where you are visiting. Equally valuable are fellow travelers who find themselves in the same place and time as you. Through universal human experiences — love, loss, death, humility, gratitude, hopefulness — we find common ground with others, even those who may have had very different backgrounds and life stories than ours. This can nurture the beginning of a good friendship, maybe a great one.
Some places seem to attract people worth knowing. I think Zipolite is one of them. Its locals are warm and open, its beach is magical, and interesting people seem to converge here as a result. When combined, these are great catalysts for making it safe to drop one’s guard; for making it okay, or better, to let oneself become disarmed by a stranger with a disarming smile.
It’s easy to get caught up in the scenery while traveling, and far more difficult to take that leap and make a good friend. But, oh, it’s absolutely worth it.