Many of my readers have told me they feel nervous about solo travel. This is understandable. Even though I’ve gone on a whopping eight trips alone, I don’t think the jittery travel nerves ever completely disappear. I still question my sanity whenever I book a plane ticket and know no one will join me for the (probably turbulent) ride.
I don’t regret traveling alone, though. None of my friends ever wanted to travel with me. No hate; they either didn’t have the money or they had other interests, but if I’d waited for them, I wouldn’t have gone abroad since my last family trip way back in 2012.
So, ultimately, traveling with myself for company has been an awesome choice. My first solo trip to Scotland truly changed me for the better. Even if you’re nervous, take the plunge and go. You’ll thank yourself later.
However, if you’re mostly extroverted like me, then you don’t want to spend every single day alone. I’m perfectly fine sightseeing without someone holding my hand, because it’s nice to linger at the major sights at your own pace. But it’s also nice to share travel stories over dinner. There’s a fine line between “independence” and “loneliness,” and solo travel requires you to carefully toe that line.
Sometimes I’ll have erratic thoughts especially as my departure date creeps closer on my calendar.
“What if my hostel is all unsocial couples and families?”
“What if I don’t meet anyone?”
“What if no one on my day tours wanna talk to me?”
“What if” is a dangerous phrase. If you give those two words power, they can quickly talk you out of achieving your dreams. Don’t let them.
Anyway, it’s actually easy making buddies on the road. Enjoy the nervous girl’s guide to meeting people while traveling! Add your own tips at the end.
Ask friends on social media if they know anyone in the area you’re traveling.
We all have too many social media channels. I’ll be the first one to admit I have a wildly out of control pinterest addiction, but I guess we all have our flaws, huh?
If you’re taking a solo trip, make a post on facebook or snapchat asking your friends if they know anyone in the area who you can hang out with. You’ll be surprised at the responses! Everyone knows everyone. Another reason this is a great tip because of quality control. It’s unlikely your friends and acquaintances at home will recommend a total creep as your travel companion. Results not guaranteed, of course, hahaha.
Go on tours.
I mostly travel independently, but I like group tours too. It doesn’t matter if they last a couple of hours or a couple of days. Free walking tours, for example, are ideal ways to meet budget travelers in a new city. 9 times out of 10, I leave a walking tour with a handful of new friends. We usually eat and then see more sights together. Also check out another post of mine explaining why you should book a tour if you’re especially nervous about traveling alone.
For tour companies, I recommend Busabout and its sister companies (such as Haggis), GAdventures, and Intrepid. These particular companies attract backpackers and adventurous types. On my tours, ages have ranged from late teens to early forties, so they’re appropriate for younger travelers seeking friends.
Reach out on Couchsurfing, Reddit, MeetUp, or similar sites.
Couchsurfing, Reddit, and MeetUp all have city pages that you can use to meet either locals or other travelers.
I’ve personally had success on Couchsurfing. In order to meet others, I used to write a general “hey! I’m traveling on these days. Let me know if you wanna eat/sightsee!” post on the city’s main page, and read through responses. However I don’t recommend this method anymore, because apparently creepy guys (they ruin everything, huh?) troll those messages non-stop in the hopes of scoring a date.
Instead what I recommend is check out Couchsurfing events themselves, see if any overlap on your dates, and make plans to attend. You can also do your own search and privately message decent guys and girls. This technique works well if you’re nervous, because you are acting as a filter and only contacting people who you feel comfortable approaching. In your messages, you can request to meet for coffee, museum-hopping, whatever. Just be sure to comment on something in their profiles, and don’t spam them.
Stay in hostels.
Hostels aren’t all party dens for out of control eighteen year-olds on Gap Year. Some hostels are true traveler’s places, and therefore great options to meet other people who have the same interests as you.
Always read reviews on multiple websites to determine if the hostel in question suits your specific needs. Since I travel alone and like to meet new people, I tend to search on multiple websites – such as booking.com and hostelworld.com – for hostels that offer nightly activities and walking tours. I also seek out places boasting a 90% or higher “atmosphere” rating.
Here are a couple of my favorite hostels:
Smiling brings more friends than you can count. So even if you’re feeling scared, try to smile at someone. Now I promise I’m not being a sexist pig and saying women should always smile even if they don’t want to. Hear me out.
Think about it: if you’re a solo traveler, wanting to make a friend, who are you gonna talk to first? The smiling girl who makes eye contact or the frowning girl looking at her phone?
Body language speaks volumes, folks.
I make a note to smile to one new person every single day. It works. Trust me.
What are your tips for meeting people on your travels? Share your stories in the comments!