I came to La Rochelle alone to get some personal head space and to think.
Traveling alone to foreign places is not something I would recommend for everyone. It takes a certain temperament and a clear purpose to make it work, especially if one is of an age where youth hostels and hooking up with other travelers are NOT of interest. Here are some ways that I’ve found to make it work for me.
Sandwich the alone time between familiar surroundings: I started my trip in Paris where I was in familiar surroundings with familiar people. My three days in Paris were a big reunion full of social interactions. I will end my trip in London, where I’m even more familiar, having worked and lived there in the past. In between, I’m in La Rochelle for 10 days really focused on honest self-reflection and setting my future goals.
Daily routine: While my goal in La Rochelle has not been to make new friends and to be social, it is important to have some interactions (at least for me). The best way for me is to try to get a routine within my daily functions, rather than at touristic places. So now, I’m pretty friendly with a couple of the trainers at a local gym. I spent 45 minutes talking to a retired French gentleman in a laundry mat, helping each other figure out the “system”. I go to the same bar for a nightcap most nights, and the bartenders started recognizing me, refilling my tequila shots for free on occasions.
Tandem app: I recently discovered this app for language exchanges. At first, I signed up listing French, Spanish and Vietnamese as languages that I wanted to learn. That gave me a lot of results for young, pretty female Spanish speakers which made me suspicious. I recalibrated and just listed French, and found a lot more age-appropriate and serious language learners. The app also lets you find matches within your location. So, I’ve actually met a young French couple for drinks and had a blast learning about each other. I also got to meet someone who wanted to practice Korean with me in exchange for a conversation in French. Another 60-year-old gentleman befriended me on Tandem and gave me specific instructions on things to do in La Rochelle, although we never got to meet in person.
While I’ve had a few sketchy interactions, the majority of the encounters have been from legitimate people wanting to improve their English or learn Korean.
Writing: If you are interested in self-reflection and setting uninhibited new goals for life, it’s important to write so that you can give continuity and rationale to your thoughts. The result should be some grounded clarity of thought on your purpose, with goals that can be measured at intervals of time.