Take the road less travelled and savour every experience to the fullest – words I lived by on my recent solo trip to Europe. I tried everything unconventional and one such was using Tinder Passport to find local connections who could help me experience the destination authentically. And trust me I met some amazing people ranging from a tattoo artist to a bull trainer.
Contrary to popular belief that solo travel might be a solitary experience, the beauty of it lies not only in the footsteps you leave but also in the friends and connections you collect along the way. The opportunities to meet people is everywhere – from hostels and buses to pubs and festivals. Just keep your ears piped and your mind open - it will lead you to like-minded explorers on the same path.
Let me share a few of those memories I collected on my month-long journey through the Iberian Peninsula …
In Madrid, I met a travel guide - who was a history professor – he took me to the private chambers of the king and shared the secrets that resides in the nooks & crannies of the royal palace. I wouldn’t have thought visiting the private chambers of the king was possible even in my dreams when I set out on this trip.
When you travel solo, especially for a foodie like me, eating out in Europe is a big challenge since the meal portions are too much for one person. So, I fired up my Tinder and swiped to look if anybody in the vicinity is looking to explore food joints. And I was surprised to find a lady who mentioned in her bio that she is looking for a partner to go on a chocolatier tour and shopping spree. I swiped right and voila it’s a match. Also, it turned out that we were in the same road when we matched and we also bumped into each other in one of the morning tours. She was a young Brazilian diplomat on a solo Europe trip just like me. For the next two days, we went on a treasure hunt across the city of Madrid searching for the best places to eat, drink and party. We even met a local ham slicing champion who showed us how to get that perfect slice of Jamon Iberico!
In the Basque country, I swiped to match with a local tattoo artist who took me dining at a fabulous seafood restaurant – my first Michelin star experience! The food was more of a poetry on plate – the chef describes at as “your eyes must eat before your mouth does”. Similarly, in San Sebastian I met a chef whose dishes are as gorgeous as her.
Barcelona has one of the most happening party scenes in Europe and I was looking forward to experiencing it. As luck would have it, I matched with a girl from Dominican Republic who is studying dentistry and works at one of the hippest pubs in town – imagine the amount of underground party scene I got access to. I also met an award-winning lady barber from whom you never get a bad cut or colour, never feel like you have less than the hairdresser’s full attention and you never get a higher bill than expected!
In Granada, I went on a date with this gorgeous local beauty to a place where Salman Rushdie wrote most of his Satanic Verses – one of best views to dine with in Europe. On my way to Cordoba, I met a Croatian educationist who loves her truffles and we went in search of an old Cordobian restaurant, got lost in the town, indulged in molecular gastronomy & found the perfect kissing spot over a 15th century aquaduct.
Surprisingly in Seville, I matched with a lady bull trainer who taught me how to ride a bull like a true Spaniard. Another such instance was at Sagres, Portugal where I met a marine biologist who took me scuba diving in the morning and we ended up discussing ‘cuteness’ of dolphins over a dinner date.
While strolling through the city of Porto, I met two lovely ladies who were busy appreciating the street graffiti. We quickly became good friends bound by similar passions - food, travel, art and power of ideas. We sat down at the iconic Café Piolho, drank a lot and had amazing conversation ranging from International politics to future of food to tech-tools that empower people and the life span of an elephant! In the end we concluded that like most gallivanters, we have seen more than we remember, and remember more than we have seen.
For many others, I met on this trip - I cooked for some, adventured with some, made some smile & laugh, inspired some to follow passion and influenced some to choose India as their next travel destination. I hardly remember these people’s names but their faces are etched into my memories and photo albums. A fact I realized over time is that the memory of the people I’ve met will eventually outweigh those of the destination itself. While you are still searching for your own reason to travel, I suggest you try traveling for human connections.
So, what are you waiting for? Go take that road less travelled in search of new sights and city secrets… #SwipeRightToTravel