“I want to travel but not alone because I hate my own company. I know I can make friends on the way but I’m not very good at making friends.”
I saw this post recently on a closed group page for travelers.
Do you relate?
Are you an introvert? Or just simply used to having someone with you?
Will you let that stop you from doing what you’ve always wanted to do? Surely not!
It’s a no-brainer that the best part of travel is making memories with strangers.
You leave a place and don’t get the chance to see it again, but the connection with the people you meet, you can keep!
So what do you do if you don’t normally start conversations with strangers?
Simple, read the tricks below!
These tips will make you feel in your comfort zone even around unfamiliar faces with different cultures.
This comes ahead of your trip. Facebook has a number of public or closed groups for travelers. Be a member. Before flying to your destination, ask for recommendations on where to stay, where to eat, things to do, etc. The chance is high that locals and expats will share their “insider” tips to make your trip worthwhile. Take advantage of this. Some of them are probably open to meeting you and showing you around their locale.
I only know a few sites and one of them is Girls Love Travel where I’m a member for months now. With its nearly half a million members from around the world, it wouldn’t be so hard to get travel tips and find potential new friends.
Hostels are the best resource for meeting people. If you’re a little conscious of personal space, pick a private room. Be sure, though, to leave your room and stay in the common lounge as often as possible.
Most hostels hold weekly activities for guests like walking and food tours around the city, pool parties, pub crawl, or a meet-and-greet with locals. By all means, sign up! Even a weekly free beer at the hostel lounge can score you a new friend. Who knows, breakfast at 8 in the morning might spark a chatty conversation between you and that person seated across the table.
Normally, my top consideration in booking a hostel is location and budget. I encourage you to read reviews about hostels on sites like Booking.com and Hostelworld.com to know what activities are offered. You are likely to find people you share the same interests with. (Related post: 6 Clear Signs That You’re Overstaying in a Hostel)
I almost got my first Couchsurfing experience during an unplanned move from Vietnam to Thailand. Two male hosts offered their homes for free. The first host lives six hours away from Bangkok, so definitely not a good option for me. The other, however, for some reason didn’t take it well when I told him I changed flight schedules.
The idea of Couchsurfing is not having a free place to stay. The objective is to meet locals (sometimes, expats) who can show you around and get a more traditional experience. It seems scary, at first, considering the crimes committed via Couchsurfing. If you’re a woman, you can always opt to find a female host for a worry-free stay. Besides, reviews are left by people who stayed with the hosts so weed out the negative ones. For more information, check out its website.
You walk into a coffee shop, order your favorite latte, then look for a perfect spot. You looked around, everyone else is coupled up. You’re all by yourself, what do you do? You scroll down your Facebook timeline until you hear that little buzzer went off, right? That’s not how it works when traveling solo.
When you’re in a foreign place, be confident enough to look at other people’s faces. If they look your way, smile or nod a little. I promise you will feel good.
If someone says “Hi!” reciprocate. A simple Hi could lead to a bunch of questions like “Where are you from?”, “Where else have you traveled to?”, “Are you on a holiday?” and eventually ends at “Do you have Messenger or WhatsApp?”
You overhear a fellow traveler in a hostel asking the staff where she could get a nice tattoo that won’t break the bank. You’ve researched it beforehand. Well, strike up a conversation! When the staff is finally done talking, tell your new friend a Trip Advisor commenter got a cheaper idea for a Samoan tattoo.
Just be careful, though, not to come as too eager or nosy or you’ll end up pushing other people away.
Travel is not about hook-ups with hot backpackers. Tinder may help you spice up your vacation but at the end of the day, you will look forward more to connecting with people in a potential lasting friendship.
Focus on travel itself, on the experience, on the like-minded people you meet. If you think like “Oh my God, this guy is totally hitting on me” every time a random traveler comes to say “Hi”, you are absolutely missing the point of solo travel.
I have read numerous questions from women wanting to travel solo but hesitate because of hang-ups – “I am middle-aged, will I fit in if I stay in a hostel?”, “I don’t like to be around people who party, I don’t smoke, don’t drink…what do I do?”
Stop feeling too old for new experiences. It may be a cliché but yes, age is just a goddamn number. Did you get asked to join a group hike? Go for it! Somebody in the hostel needs to share a rented scooter with, why not? It’s hitting two birds with one stone – you make friends and you get a new experience. Ditch your guidebook if you have to. Be with other travelers. The best experiences don’t come out of a well-set itinerary.
When I was prepping for a trip to the Old Bagan in Myanmar, the hostel manager said I should tag along with another traveler, a Japanese. We shared a taxi going to the bus terminal, chatted all the way and hopped on an overnight bus. When we got dropped off at the entry point, we met another Japanese traveler. All three of us shared a taxi ride to the Old Bagan to wait for sunrise on top of a pagoda. For the rest of my visit in Bagan City, I didn’t feel alone at all because of those two gentlemen.
Local cuisine cooking isn’t a bad idea at all. Even couples take cooking lessons together. Are you fascinated with Muay Thai? Sign up for a few training sessions!
The possibilities are endless – you will meet people you share similar interests with. One of the quickest ways to make a new friend is to share a hobby with him/her. Just do a research in advance on what traditional classes are being offered and register.
Even seasoned backpackers join group tours.
Imagine spending a week with a bunch of fellow travelers. You are left with no choice but to start conversations and bond with them. You’d be a fool if you isolate yourself from the group, just snapping pictures here and there, and not saying a word to anyone.
Don’t chicken out in striking up a conversation. There is 100% guarantee that they are willing to chat too when there is nothing else to do. Remember, you are all stuck with your tour guide.
Don’t hesitate to get a person’s contact information if you like to keep the connection with him/her. While it’s not guaranteed that you will be long distance BFFs for a lifetime, the possibility remains. If the other person does not want to add you directly on Facebook, add him/her at least on Messenger or follow each other on Instagram/Snapchat.
Don’t take it personally if, after the trip, you and your new friend are back to being strangers – seen-zoned messages, no likes on your Instagram posts at all, and worse, you got unfriended. It’s a big world. You will make friends again at your next destination. Maybe the friendship will last this time, maybe not. What matters is, you’ve made memories with someone in a foreign place. That person has made your trip amazing because you traveled solo…but you never felt alone.
Do you have a more creative way of making friends while traveling solo? Have you made friends from your travels a while back and you’re still connected up to now? Share it with us, we’d like to hear your stories!
Sheila, a.k.a. The Solo Tripper. Former news desk editor, full-time traveler, freelance writer.