When you travel alone and choose not to stay in a hostel it can actually get a bit lonely.
Most of the day you spend by yourself and while I am the kind of person who needs a lot of alone time I cannot spend every day in silence.
To survive in solitude you need to have a routine where people recognize you. I did this in Cuenca and it made me feel a bit more connected there.
I try to create a travel routine, I often do the same things every day so that people begin to recognize me and when they look up there is a flicker in their eyes of oh it’s you again.
I often introduce myself and tell them I’ll be back the next day.
And while I consider myself a food hunter, constantly searching for the best, I often will go to the same place even if I know it may not be the best.
Janet runs the corner stall at the market. The first day I visited there were two Germans who did not speak any Spanish.
They were trying to ask her what an item was (it was peanut butter) and they kept repeating the question in English even though it was clear she spoke none. I intervened and asked in Spanish.
Since then I have visited her every other day and have met her daughter.
Janet is definitely not the cheapest vendor and I am positive I pay more, in fact one day she jokingly asked if I would pay $1 for a small bag of spinach.
I laughed and said no, she was pushing it too far. But I like having a chat with her and she is always very nice.
Gloria sells meat on a stick for $2 from 3pm onward every day. My first day I asked what the chicken livers were, she explained and offered me one to try. I am not a fan of organs but I tried it and hated it but never let her know. She is such a nice woman and all the other meat is fantastic.
Cormon sells hamburgers each night for $4 on the corner of my street. I will go see him when I cannot bear to eat more rice at a meal.
The nice thing is that so many people hang out waiting for their burger that I end up speaking to many of the other customers, especially when they hear that I don’t want egg or bacon on my burger (I know it’s shocking but the bacon here isn’t great so I’d rather not have it).
Cormon makes amazing jalapeno marmalade for his burgers. It’s the reason why I keep coming back.
I am not a huge fan of fried food but nearly every day at 3pm I stop by the market to visit the women selling cheese empanadas for 60 cents. We don’t really speak much but they are always really kind to me.
Although I have eaten lunch at many places, my go-to place is one that frequently has fish. I am there almost every day and every time I have fish there I always tell them how much I like it.
Believe me it’s not lost on me that all of my daily habits are related to food, but it really is the best way to get to know people. The best kind of conversation starter is over a shared loved and what better to love than food?