Making the decision to travel solo can be daunting. Will I have fun? Will I get lonely? What am I going to do by myself? I LOVE traveling solo, and have felt that the experience has fundamentally shaped who I am as a person today. People tend to think that when you travel solo, you’re alone all the time—and this couldn’t be further from the truth! I’ve found that traveling by yourself usually tends to result in meeting more people and making more friends than I would have had I been traveling with someone else! Without a guaranteed social group, it’s up to you to make the most of interactions with other people.
I traveled solo quite a bit between September 2013 and June 2014 (during my year abroad in Nottingham). Some of my most memorable experiences of solo travel were from the friends I made during my trips. I even stayed with two friends in the Netherlands a few months after I met them in Latvia! But since I left England then, I’ve only gone by myself on a quick weekend trip to Lisbon in May. All of my other trips were either with my boyfriend, friends, family, or with a group. I panicked nearly the whole flight to Lisbon—could I still do it? Did I still have the solo travel magic? Would I meet people? Would I make friends? Would I have fun?
Let’s just say that I had an absolute blast in Lisbon! It reminded me what I know to be true: solo travel is amazing, and YES, it is so easy to make friends when you travel solo!
I realized while writing this post that I have basically zero pictures of me with the friends I’ve met on solo trips. How is that possible?! Anyway, if you’re reading this and met me on a trip and have drunk and embarrassing funny pictures or selfies of us together, send them to me! I’d love to relive it. But without further ado, here are 10 tips to keep in mind when looking to meet people on a trip:
Stay in hostel dorms
Choosing a hostel for your accommodation is hands down the best way to make friends when you travel solo. Hostels, whether geared for backpackers or the party-crowd, give off an immediate communal vibe. Look for a hostel with common areas (see below), and try to stay in a dorm with anywhere from 4 to 8 beds. Any more than 8 people in the room, and you won’t feel the need to make an effort to meet each new person. Your roommates can turn into instant friends!
Hang out in hostel common areas
Common rooms, kitchens, bars, you name it—this is where you should try to hang out if you want to meet people. Limit your technology (it’s a lot harder to approach someone engrossed in their laptop/phone/iPad/whatever) and don’t wear headphones! You want people to be able to talk to you.
Signing up for some sort of tour or activity will put you in a group—which gives you a new batch of people to meet! Almost every city these days has a free walking tour, tour companies can be a great option for excursions with a guide, and lots of hostels offer activities you can do, whether that’s group dinners every night or shooting AK-47s.
The easiest way to meet new people is to simply say hi. A “hey, how’s it going?” is a nice way to greet new people in your hostel dorm room. From a simple hello, you have at least 5-10 minutes breaking the ice with the standard traveler conversation: “Where are you from?” “Where have you been?” “Where are you heading next?” “How long are you traveling for?” “How was your day/what did you do today?” Let the conversation flow from there!
Be open to conversation and strike up conversation
Be receptive. Respond thoughtfully. Ask questions. Engage. Make eye contact. Smile. These seemingly little things go a long way in developing friendships with random new people! The next best thing after being open to conversation is starting it yourself. Smiles and random compliments will go a long way. And again—just say hi!
Talk to people in transit
If you’re in transit for the long-haul, it’ll help you wile away the hours if you have a new friend to talk to. I’ve made friends on planes, trains, buses—you name it. Just asking, “do you know what time we’re supposed to get to ____?” can mean a new friend!
Sharing is caring!
Whether it’s food, booze, Kleenex, gum, etc., sharing with another person is an instant way to start a conversation and make a new friend. Even if they don’t accept whatever you’re offering, it’s still a thoughtful icebreaker, and most likely will be appreciated.
Hit up friends of friends
If you’re going solo but looking for company, ask your friends and see if anyone you know knows someone who’s in your destination. Even just posting a status on Facebook or another social media platform can give you a brand new connection!
Invite others along
Once you’ve met someone new, it’s easy to ask, “do you want to join me?” and include them in your plans. It’s easy for them to turn down if they don’t want to, and in general it’s just a really nice gesture. It’s a lot harder to invite yourself (“would it be okay if I joined you?”), since you want to be sure you’re not imposing, and since it’ll be harder for other people to back out. Get a feel for who you’re asking—if it’s a group (especially if it’s other solo travelers) it’ll probably be just fine. You’ll never know unless you ask!
Become a yes-man or yes-woman. Say yes when people invite you to do things. Random kebab run at midnight? Say yes! Singing karaoke at the top of your lungs with new friends? Say yes! Going out to watch a World Cup game at the pub even though you don’t care about soccer/football? Say yes! Always be up for anything (within reason), it’s where the best stories come from.
A big thank you to every single person I’ve met during my travels (solo or otherwise)—thank you for the laughs, stories, beer, good times, and great memories!
And over to you! How do you make friends when you travel solo?