Solo traveling has a certain allure to it, doesn’t it? Being in a different city or country, away from the usual chaos of life, sitting in a random cozy coffee shop, reading your favorite novel, or biking on gorgeous narrow cobbled streets in Europe, your hair blowing away in the wind or sleeping under the stars somewhere in the Pacific. Just You, without having to accommodate anyone. Eating what you want, sleeping where you want, going to sights you want to go to, completely free, living your dream. Well yes, Solo travel is all that…
But it does get lonely at times!
While growing up, I was fascinated by traveling movies and stories. I still vividly remember watching Julia Roberts in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, going on a solo adventure, leaving her life in the USA behind for a new life in Italy, Bali, and India. It was everything I could ever dream of but still, it was only a fond illusion. As I grew up, I realized it was not my job, money or time that was holding me back. But the fear of being alone.
I am an introvert turned extrovert, thanks to solo travel. I understand how hard, awkward, and frankly, scary it could be to make new friends. Striking up a conversation with a random stranger in a foreign land is exciting but can also be daunting for some people.
If one thing my solo travels have taught me is that it’s not that difficult. Trust me, it’s far easier to make friends while traveling alone than it would be if you are traveling with someone. I shouldn’t have been so worried if only I knew how easy it was.
I usually use the below tricks whenever I am in a new city or country traveling by myself:
This is my number one piece of advice to anyone reading this article. Hostels don’t necessarily have to be a dormitory. Depending on your budget and the kind of comfort you prefer, choose a private or a shared room. Regardless, hostels are the easiest and probably the best way to meet new people.
A decent hostel will usually organize meetups, group activities and events which are perfect icebreakers and a great way to meet fellow travelers. If you are sharing a room, talk to your roommate. You might find your new BFF. If not, chances are you will make a good friend.
Hang out in common areas like kitchen, bar or a lounge. Too shy to start a conversation? It’s okay! Just smile and say Hi. You never know what a simple ‘Hi’ can lead to.
I love walking tours. Not only are they a great way to learn about a new place but give an opportunity to meet like-minded people. During my Europe travel, I took so many walking tours. Sometimes hostels organize them, or you can check online for companies. Usually, they are in English making it easy to chat with other people as you walk from place to place.
PS. don’t be scared to accept invites, you get from other travelers. Check with your tour guide for suggestions to hang out later. Maybe invite them for coffee or a drink.
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I have used Tinder (yes, it’s more than a dating app) and Bumble BFF. While my experience with tinder was okay, I met two of my closest friends in Prague through Bumble. Download the app, sign up, and start swiping. It’s that simple. They use GPS tracking to find other people who are also looking to make new friends.
Apart from that, you can also use couch-surfing. Personally, I have never used it but a lot of solo travelers I know have and they recommend it.
Airbnb is more than a lodging platform. You can find tons of activities like live music, photography, cooking and more here. Almost all cities you visit will have this. Conducted by locals, usually in a group setting, thus offering an opportunity to bond with other people. I really enjoy these experiences, not only is it an excellent way to meet new people but a chance to dive into new cultures and learn new skills.
If this is something you are into, I advise doing it in the first few days of your trip. You will meet tons of solo travelers and make few friends very early in your journey. Even if you don’t hit it off with any traveler, talk to your pub crawl leader. He/she can advise cool places to hang out at, as most likely they will be living in the same town. Ask them about good spots for solo travelers.
Whether you are an adventurous person who likes bungee jumping or paragliding, or something completely different like sipping a glass of wine while discussing your favorite book. No matter your interest, you will always find something you are into. Look for such events and sign up.
I went for a language exchange event while in Rome. Although I still can’t speak Italian but made some really cool friends.
Use MeetUp app to look for local meetup groups depending on your preferred genre, from art and culture, games, LGBTQ, photography or anything else.
Nothing could be a better way to experience the local culture than sharing a meal with locals. If you are lucky you might get invited for dinner by your Airbnb host or random people you happened to develop a connect with during your trip. I feel chances for these are thin but fortunately, there are apps you can use for such experience. Eat With and BonAppetour is popular ones in Europe. PlateCulture is good if traveling within southeast Asia.
If you have any dietary restrictions, communicate with the host and most likely they will provide as per your preference.
Not a typical way but I have met interesting people while flying. Say if you are traveling to a popular destination, chances are you will meet some other traveler. I mean people from all walks of life travel and you never know who might be sitting next to you. The same thing applies for buses, trains or any other local transport.
Few General tips:-
Ask Questions: If you are struggling to start a conversation, ask travel-related questions like where you are from? where have you been? where are you going?
Invite/Accept invite: Say ‘Yes’ if someone invites you or ask them if you can tag along? Just follow your instinct. If it feels safe and okay, go for it. I get it, not everyone is an extrovert but saying yes can open a possibility to amazing connections and experiences.
Go out Alone: It’s okay to go out by yourself. Chat with strangers. Obviously keep basic safety in mind like don’t get hammered, avoid dark secluded alleyways but have a good time. Remember, when you are abroad, you are already a cool and exotic person to them, if you have a friendly vibe, people will want to get to know you.
– Smile: Just keep an open mind and a sweet smile. SMILE DOESN’T COST A DIME after all.
Just like trying new things, traveling alone looks daunting. Plus having to make new friends feels like another ball game. But it’s easier than it looks. You are living the life which most people only dream of. Make the best of it…
I hope you meet some amazing people on the way and have great memories for life! Don’t let your fear hold you back!!
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Rashi is a face behind desigalaroundtheworld, a travel blog dedicated to people who like to explore new places without a tour guide and a pickup service at the airport. To know more about her journey follow her. Instagram | Pinterest
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