One of the questions I get asked most often is how I make so many friends while traveling on my own.
A lot of people think that if you travel solo, you’re alone nearly all of the time. Well, that couldn’t be more untrue — I’m hardly ever alone!
One of the nice things about traveling is that even if you’re shy, it’s easy to make conversation with people around you. If nothing else, you have travel in common!
Here are many of the ways I make friends while traveling solo:
1. Stay in hostel dorms.
Staying in a hostel dorm is the easiest way to make friends, hands down. It would be unnatural not to make conversation with those around you — and you’ll soon be sucked into the “Where are you from? Where have you been? How long are you traveling?” conversation that will follow you everywhere.
You can meet people while staying in private rooms at hostels, but trust me — it’s so much easier in the dorms.
2. Hang out in hostel bars.
Hostel bars are where I met most of my close friends. Whether you’re there for a crazy night out or just to hang out while playing cards, with or without a pitcher of beer, hostel bars are the social epicenter of backpacker hangouts!
Your guidebook will probably indicate which establishments in town are either “party” hostels or good places to meet travelers. Those are the places where you should spend time, regardless of where you’re sleeping.
3. Make friends on transit.
Every single time I’ve been on multi-hour transportation, I’ve made a friend. All you need to do is strike up a conversation and see where it goes.
When you’re stuck in one place for hours, friendships have a way of forming! (Maybe it’s the 33-hour drive, almost getting rejected at the border and having to stand out in the cold rain.)
4. Do trips, activities and excursions.
Whether you do an adventure sports activity, like bungee jumping, or something completely different, like drinking snake blood, you inevitably end up getting to know some new people. Just make sure you have the right holiday insurance for what you’re doing!
Find something that interests you, learn people’s names, and keep hanging out. It seems like tons of activities naturally progress to the bar afterward, as well!
5. Use Couchsurfing to meet people.
Couchsurfing is WAY more than just free lodging! I like to use Couchsurfing as a way to meet friends— locals, expats and travelers passing through!
A word to the wise — if you’re a girl and logging in at a new location for the first time, be prepared to be deluged with requests from guys. It’s definitely a self-esteem boost!
6. Find your community abroad.
I have to admit that this is much easier for me as a travel blogger. But if you’re part of a global community or international organization, do some research and see if you can meet up with potential members!
If you don’t have a community, it could be as simple as meeting up with a friend of a friend or a family friend’s family member. That’s all it takes.
7. Download Party with a Local
If there’s one problem with partying while you travel it’s that you usually end up in those soulless tourist bars. Luckily, Party with a Local can help you avoid all that. This is the perfect app to help you get an authentic feel for life in the city you’re staying in – well, the nightlife at least – by helping you find and contact locals who are looking for a party.
Download Party with a Local for iOS and Android (Free)
They can show you all the best bars and clubs in town, unsullied by the hordes of other tourists and backpackers. Then, when you’re home, you can return the favour and show other backpackers around your own domain and gain yourself a little good karma.
8. Sign up for activities
Organised activities are a great way to meet other travellers. You’ll undoubtedly have at least one thing in common with most of your group, which will either be you love what you’re doing or you’re a beginner who has no clue what you’re doing – cue hilarity and laughs all round. You’ll spend a few hours in close proximity with the others in the group, giving you plenty of time to strike up conversation.
There’s plenty of popular sports and activities to get stuck into out there in the world, like surf lessons, rock climbing or kitesurfing to name just a tiny few. And if you all did well, then surely you could all do with a hard-earned beer to celebrate. If you all spent most of it falling on your faces, then you’ll definitely be needing a little anaesthetic – a.k.a, beer.
9. Join a group tour
Remember, you don’t have to do it all solo. If you’ve been travelling alone for a while, joining an organised tour like the kind they offer at STA or Intrepid Travel can be a welcome break, not just from travelling alone but also from having to make all those constant plans.
There’re plenty of types on offer, from simple tours of countries to the more specific, like beach tours of even iconic treks like the Inca Trail. Sure, it doesn’t give you as much freedom as travelling on your own, but you can get short tours that last just a few days or weeks, so you can go back to your solo ways after. Who know, you might meet your perfect travelling partner on the tour and find yourselves jetting off for the rest of the journey together.
10. Don’t worry so much!
Finally, and this is by far the most important one, stop worrying. This isn’t an interview at a big evil bank with a sweaty man in an ugly suit, it’s travel. You’re simply interacting with another human. Besides, most people who are travelling want to meet new people, so will surely be happy to talk to you, especially if they are travelling alone too. So be confident! You’re no doubt pretty cool if you have the guts to circumnavigate to globe on your own, so don’t ever forget that!
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