A lot of people are afraid of travelling alone because they fear loneliness. They feel awkward about doing activities by themselves, walking around and especially eating alone. But don’t worry, meeting others while you travel is actually really easy! I’ve been traveling solo for more than 2 years now and I absolutely love it. I’ve met so many cool people and made new friends.
You’d never guess it now, but I was a painfully shy child and an awkward teenager. As a student I came out of my shell and learned the social skills to interact and chat with strangers. Travelling alone helped me hone those skills and I now feel confident striking up conversations and meeting new people. And the beauty of traveling alone is that others are likely looking to make new friends as well so you’re efforts to be nice and friendly are always appreciated. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert, but I’ve sure had my fair share of practice. People compliment me on how social and easy to get along with I am, something I never would have expected 10 years ago. So let my experience be your guide and hopefully, I can help you make the most of your next solo trip.
I’ve listed my tips and tricks for meeting new friends, dinner companions and drinking buddies on the road:
1. Stay in a hostel
If you are willing to sacrifice a little comfort and privacy for fun and budget friendly accommodation, then hostels are perfect. I personally love hostels as they are the core of the backpacker community. Hostels are filled with young, broke backpackers who love to exchange tales and meet new people. I always pick hostels that have a common area and good reviews that mention a friendly atmosphere. The best hostels also organize activities to help you get in contact with the other guests. Simply introduce yourself to your roommates and other travelers when you arrive always works great. And don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with other guests, most likely they are solo travellers too.
2. Join a free walking tour
Free Walking Tours are not just a great way to explore a city, they also help you meet new people. There will be plenty of material to pass awkward silences: simply comment on something you’re looking at or ask people where they are from. If there are other solo travellers in the group they might want to come to that museum with you, have lunch or join you for a drink later.
3. Join a pub crawl
Just like walking tours, pub crawls drop you in a group of strangers, with the added benefit of alcohol as a social lubricant. And pub crawls often give you a great deal on a night out with free or reduced drinks. Even if you are not a heavy drinker, pub crawls are a great way to meet new people when you are travelling alone.
4. Volunteer your time
Workaway, WOOFF and the like allow you to exchange a few hours of work a day for room and board. The work varies from babysitting to farming, cleaning or chores. This is especially suited for a longer stay and great for budget travellers. Working at a hostel is especially fun as you’ll have both your colleagues and guests to hang out with. I worked in hostels in Ireland and Scotland and had an absolute blast!
5. Swipe away on Tinder
Tinder, or any other dating app, is designed specifically to meet people. Of course, the first objective is not platonic, but it can still work for that as well. Simply edit your bio to reflect what you are looking for and how long you are staying. And if you are open to a date, who knows, maybe the love of your life is a local 😉 It’s how I ended up with a super romantic date in Venice.
6. Try Couchsurfing and Couchsurfing Hangouts
Couchsurfing allows you crash on a locals couch so it saves you money as well. Couchsurfing hosts love to meet new people, show you around their city and hang out. Some of my best travel experiences have come from staying with locals through Couchsurfing. Not ready to sleep at a strangers house? Couchsurfers also organize activities for travellers that you can join anyway. If you get the Couchsurfing app and create a profile (which is free) you can also use Hangouts. It’s basically like a platonic version of Tinder. You write down what you would like to do, became available and see other travellers and locals in your vicinity who would like to hang out, go for a coffee, hit up a museum, get dinner, etc. I’ve met some really awesome people through Hangouts when I was traveling alone. The highlight was definitely a massive group hang out at the Festa del Redentore in Venice with 15 strangers who all responded to the Couchsurfing Hangout.
7. Find travel buddies on GAFFL
GAFFL is an online platform for connecting travelers. People post trips here and request to join the trips of others. If you are planning to backpack or road trip, this is an especially useful website. With my link you get 7 days of free connects!
8. Facebook is your friend
Facebook seems to be on its way out as a social media platform, but it is really useful for finding travel buddies and meeting people on the road. There are great Facebook Groups for backpackers and travelers. Some are specific to solo female travelers, other specify by region or country. A quick Facebook search might result in some groups to join where you can ask questions and organize meet ups.
9. Talk to strangers
Okay, okay, this one is a little on the nose. But it is the key to all of it. It scary and awkward, but so worth getting out of your comfort zone. As soon as you get over the hurdle and just strike up a conversation you will notice that most people are very happy to chat with you. It can be someone standing next to you in a museum, someone in line at the supermarket, the waiter at a restaurant, someone sitting at the bar. Just saying ‘hi’ can go a long way. Ask how people are doing, show some interest and let the conversation flow from there. In my experience, people are happy to chat with a traveller and give you some tips on things to do or even show you around. But of course, always keep your wits about you and don’t put yourself in risky situations!
How do you usually meet people when you travel alone? Any tips and tricks that I should add? Let me know in the comments.
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