Travelling solo is one of the best ways to travel, but a lot of people worry that they will get lonely or that they will be alone most of the time. This simply isn’t true. Here are some of the best ways on how to meet people and make friends when you are travelling solo around the world.
The vast majority of my backpacking adventures have been solo, and it is without doubt the best way to travel the world. Of course there have been times where I have felt a little lonely or wished someone was there to experience something with me, but that is just a normal part of the human experience and I am just as likely to feel that at home from time to time.
The rest of the time spent on the road I have managed to make great fiends and spend time with a lot of truly awesome people. On the whole I honestly think I have spent more time with other people than I have alone. The difference is when you are travelling solo you have a choice. You can be on your own when you want a bit of time to yourself, and join up with some truly great people and make a lot of great friends when you don’t.
This is all a lot of it boils down to. Backpackers and travellers are in general quite friendly, mostly outgoing people and often pretty damn awesome too! All you have to do is go up and say hello. Start a conversation. Even if you are really shy at the very least you have the common ground of travel to talk about, and this will help you come out of your shell a little bit and give you some of that all important confidence.
Stay in hostels.
Now this isn’t a prerequisite for backpacking obviously, and I happily admit at least half of the time now (depending on where I am travelling) I will choose a private room in a guesthouse over a hostel stay. Upgrading to flashpacker status once in a while is one of the perks of an aging backpacker! That is perfect for when you want a bit of time to yourself to relax, read a book or just rest.
But when you are in the mood to socialise and want to meet a bunch of like minded travellers just like yourself, then you can’t go wrong with a hostel.
Talk to the other travellers in the same dorm as you, go to the hostel bar or common room and ask if you can sit with someone. Hostels are just full of people just like you, and many of them will be travelling solo just like you. Pretty soon you’ll be sick of the same tick list ‘where have you been, how long are you travelling for conversation, and you will be planning to have an awesome night out or even spend a few days together with the people you have just met.
Join a pub crawl.
Most hostels will have some sort of activity schedule, and a lot of the time these involve sampling copious amounts of the local nightlife. These social nights out are quite often filled with other travellers who have only just or not long arrived in town, so what better way to meet new friends than when you are partying together?
If you are shy or nervous about meeting new people, then it helps that you often have extremely outgoing hosts who are great at creating a social atmosphere, well, that and the alchohol doesn’t hurt either!
Just remember drink responsibly but still relax and have a good time, and shit can get crazy on the road so whatever happens on a night out stays on that night out, and protect yourself! You know what I mean!
Meet in transit.
Whether it’s a long distance bus or an overnight train, the traditional choice of transport for overland backpackers tends to have – surprisingly – a lot of other backpackers on it, so why not use the time to strike up a conversation? It can be a small bonding experience when you are stuck on the same bus or train for 12 hours or more, and odds are they are going to the same places you want to see too, so it’s a perfect time to suggest getting a tour or some shared transport together for a few days. At the very least you should be able to swap a few destination tips!
Do a few day trips.
Surprisingly enough even independent backpackers can take a day trip or an excursion from time to time! Sometimes it is even necessary if you want to do something specific like the Inca Trail, and these are a great way to meet other like minded travellers. I have met some of the most amazing and inspirational people I know when travelling like this.
You can usually find travel agencies in backpacker hotspots, or hostels and guesthouses are usually full of brochures and posters selling all sorts of day trips, from mountain or jungle hikes to sunrise treks and city tours. You just have to pick out which ones take your fancy.
The more specific the activity, the more you are likely to have in common with the others in your group as well. You never know who will be on those trips with you and you can meet some genuinely awesome people.
Do the occasional longer excursion.
Backpacking around the world throws up a whole range of choices for two or three day excursions, doing a bit of jungle trekking in Columbia or Thailand, walking the famous Inca trail, doing a desert trek and camping under the stars every night, whatever the activity itself might be, being thrown together with a small group for a few nights can often be quite an intense bonding experience and is a great way to meet new friends.
Take a class.
One of the best things about world travel is the opportunity to expand your horizons and better yourself, so take a cooking class, a dance class, a martial arts lesson or two, whatever it is that sparks your interest. Either way, they are amazing ways to meet new people.
Sign up for an adventure activity.
If you have ever wanted to learn how to mountain climb, go canyoning, learn to dive, abseil down a waterfall or two or indulge in any adventure fantasy that Indiana Jones himself would be proud of, then a gap year is the time to do it!
There are countless opportunities to tick items off your bucket list and add feathers to your cap when travelling the world, and travelling solo is not a problem. It won’t just be you doing it! Many adventure activity outfits take out small groups at a time and the shared experience is often a great ice breaker to meet and chat to your fellow adventurers.
Continue the adventure after the activity.
When you meet people on an excursion, an activity or a day trip, it is inevitable that you will get chatting and make new friends, but it really doesn’t have to end there. It is genuinely a common thing for a group of travellers to meet this way and at the very least go out for a meal or a drink after it all ends and you find yourself back in relative civilisation. This is a great way of simultaneously solving the problem of eating alone too if that is something you haven’t quite gotten used to yet. Quite often if solo travellers hit it off they may travel together for a few days until inevitably heading in separate directions again. This is normal on the road.
Spend time with locals too.
It isn’t just other travellers you will meet on the road, you will meet a lot of people from all over the world and from all walks of life, and meeting and speaking with locals will enhance your travel experience as much as anything else with. This is one of the reasons I love staying in local, family run homestays as opposed to hostels or certainly hotels, because quite often you get to experience the genuine hospitality of the hosts too, who are often very willing to introduce you to their culture. It is also worth remembering that whilst it is sound advice to be aware of your surroundings and wary of local scams, not every local who talks to you has ill intent either.
So if you think travelling solo means you will be alone all of the time, you’re wrong. Meeting new people is one of the best parts of backpacking around the world, and you will have no problem doing it either. So don’t let fear of being alone stop you from travelling solo!
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This article was written in partnership with Whimly. The views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.