Curiously, I’ve often found I meet more people when I travel alone than I do when accompanied by others.
A few years ago I headed off on my own to the Maltese island of Gozo for a few days of ‘chillaxing’ with a book by the pool.
I’d been aware of a group of British painters who were staying in the same hotel, as it was hard to ignore their easels propped up all around the grounds each day.
That evening in the bar I got chatting with the group’s teacher, an older white-haired gentleman called Ley Kenyon. He was coping well with students who’d arrived for his course with a wide range of abilities.
The more we talked, the more I learnt about him. He wasn’t only an accomplished painter, but also a diver who’d worked with Jacques Cousteau and taught the Duke of Edinburgh to dive.
But there was more. Ley was a Prisoner of War in Stalag Luft III at the time of the Great Escape in March 1944 and – he explained – had been asked by the British commanding officer to make a visual record of the digging of the tunnels. So he’d gone underground himself to draw.
‘Where are your drawings now?’ I asked, sure they’d be safely locked up in a museum somewhere.
‘Oh, they’re upstairs.’
What? Yes that’s right, they were in Ley’s suitcase, in plastic sleeves, and a couple of minutes later they were down in the bar where I inspected them incredulously.
Extraordinary pieces of history, right there in my hands.
I honestly believe we wouldn’t have ended up chatting if I’d not been on my own, and it’s an powerful reminder that it’s often possible to forge human connections in the least expected circumstances. Human connections are so important when it comes to our wellbeing, but connections are much less likely to happen if you don’t step outside your front door.
So, perhaps, rather than bemoaning the fact that you’ve got nobody with whom to go somewhere, head out on your own, tread boldly and keep an open mind.
You never know who you’ll end up talking to.