Whenever I tell people I’m travelling alone, they seem to think that I will be quite lonely and miserable. I find myself having to justify how much I enjoy solo travel and meeting friends from around the world. Most people tend to pity me – they think I’d be spending my time having dinner alone, walking alone, and unable to take selfies. My experiences thus far has been completely different and thoroughly unlike what most people say! Trust me, I rarely spend a moment alone when traveling alone, and it’s totally a good thing!
How did I do it? How did I come across people who turned out to be “safe” and “good” people (not stalker-ish ones like the ones from horror movies) As someone who incredibly introverted and still able to do this, so can you! Here are my tips:
1. Offer to take their Picture
I picked up this tip from a Swiss girl I met in New York – she offered to take my picture and I returned the favour. We ended up grabbing coffee from Starbucks together and spent the next two days covering more area of New York City than I would have done by myself. We’re also really good Facebook friends now. This is a great way to break the ice and is my opener whenever I’m looking to start a conversation. You never know, you might just end up becoming really good friends!
2. Join Free Walking Tours/Day Tours
Chances are, those who joined walking tours are more likely to be on their own. I’ve done numerous walking tours from New York to Berlin to Paris and I typically see solo or couple travelers. In a group setting, you’re more likely to get talking, and more comfortable with talking to a “stranger”
3. Bring a Universal Travel Charger to Share
The one thing everyone will likely have in common is the need to charge their electronics before boarding a long flight, or train ride. If you’ve traveled enough, you’ll know that charging docks are precious commodities – scarce and demand always seem to outweigh supply. A good friend of mine lent me her Belkin Travel Swivel Charger (It has 3 outlets and 2 USB ports) and I quickly became the most popular girl in the area. Trust me, EVERYONE will want to be your friend, and you will have the perfect opener to making friends.
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4. Hang Out at Your Hostel Common Room
This is a little bit of the obvious one which is why I didn’t put it first. I couldn’t connect to wi-fi in my room while I was in Amsterdam, so I decided to go to the common room. Got talking with an Italian math teacher, and we ended up spending the rest of the evening exploring Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District. The best part is that even if you come back really late, at least you’ll be walking back with someone.
5. Say Hello when in Airports, Train Stations, Train Cabins
Don’t be afraid to say hello to your seat mate! I met an engineer from Denver who decided to take the rest of her year off to travel. I met a business lawyer at the JFK airport from Amsterdam who told me I was blessed to have the curiosity and interest in traveling at such a young age. The trick is, strike up a conversation and see where it goes! The worst thing that could happen is they choose to ignore you, which is totally fine because you’ll likely never see them again.
6. Join Pub Crawls/Group Events
A great way to have a good time in a good company. Most hostels organize pub crawls, bar hops and similar activities which you can partake so you can go out in a group and have a good (and safe) time out!
7. Say Yes
Don’t be afraid to say yes to a suggestion or take a detour from your itinerary for the day (within reason of course). I had initially wanted to see a concert at one of the churches in Prague (The performance was Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – Winter Movement which is my favourite piece!) until my travel buddy suggested we check out the Czech Philharmonic concert at Rudolfinum. Turns out it was the best idea – we got to check out the concert hall with the world’s second best acoustics, and listened to one of the top-ranked orchestra in the world… all for C$10!
… above all, be safe!
While it’s exciting to make friends and overcome your fear, remember to stay safe, and listen to your guts! Don’t forget to exchange email/facebook info so you can keep in touch!
Do you travel solo? How do you usually like to meet people?