Making And Breaking Friendships When You Travel The World.

How to meet people and make friends when travelling solo

Travelling the world is a glorious adventure, and one where you will meet some of the most amazing, decent, crazy and sometimes downright mental people on the planet. You can meet some amazing friends on your gap year, but you can grow distant from some old ones too, and even the new ones you meet can be in your life for years, a week or so or just one night. Playing the game of social roulette and constant hellos and goodbyes can sometimes be hard, and as a long term traveller you do have to be prepared for that. 

I’ve travelled the world for over 20 years now, most of that travel has been solo, where I have set out into the world with nothing more than my trusty backpack and a good book (and for a good portion of that time I didn’t even have a mobile phone, never mind a smart one!)

A Range Of Friendships.

And in all that time I have met countless people on the road. Some have been locals, many have been fellow travellers on their own journeys. A great many of these people I can barely remember, if at all. Their faces and the times I had with them have been lost to the mists of time or relegated to an old analogue photograph I have tucked away somewhere.

Many more still have been short but intense friendships and relationships, where you are thrust together for a short period of time together, bond quickly over shared adventures and sometimes misadventures, and then are suddenly once again faced with the inevitable goodbyes as we each move on along our own separate paths.

A rare few have become lifelong friends, their unique personalities and the shared experiences we have together helping to shape the person I am now.

And then of course there are the friends I used to have before travelling. The ones who are now barely more than acquaintances as the inevitable happens and we each grow in separate directions, become different people and lose touch.

The Inevitability Of Goodbye.

That is just life sometimes. People come and go. They are in your life for a short period of time and then they are not.

And that is how travel is sometimes.

That may seem a little pessimistic in many ways. Even lonely. It isn’t, not at all.  In fact it’s quite a wonderful thing, it all depends on your perspective.

One of the most popular questions I get asked on this site is from people who want to travel solo but are worried about being alone, or more accurately about being lonely when they travel. These potential solo travellers are worried they won’t meet anyone, or that they will be left sitting alone wishing they just had someone to talk to.

I can promise each and every one of you right now that never happens. Even the most awkward of wallflowers can have a conversation.

Sure, there are times where you will be alone, there will be times when you have to eat a meal or two on your own or even feel a little bit lonely or homesick. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s completely natural. Most of the time though you will meet so many new people you won’t have time to feel lonely. You will share adventures together, be stuck on the same night bus for 12 hours together, share a beer, have a meal, it doesn’t matter.

All it takes is a little hello. That’s it.

Sometimes you will only be with your new found friends for the duration of that drink or that bus journey, and then you will inevitably part ways. Other times you will be together for a day or two, a few weeks or even months as you forge an intense and genuine friendship. Eventually though the travellers curse will hit and you will both part ways with yet another goodbye. Sometimes you will see these new found friends again further down the road, sometimes you won’t. Modern travel has even provided these fleeting relationships with the ultimate get out clause as friendships are relegated to the occasional ‘like’ on a social media update.

It doesn’t really matter.

The Effect Of Constant Change.

The truth is each and every one of these meetings has an affect on you. The chance meetings with random strangers, the unique adventures you have with people you have just met, the connections you have with those you bond with and call friends, each and every single one changes you in minute ways. Each person you form a connection with gives you a new experience, a new way of thinking, a new outlook or even sometimes just a bit of comfort or brief companionship, or that helping hand or bit of assistance that you may need at any given time.

For all those people, all those short term relationships, it can be difficult sometimes thinking that you are constantly saying goodbye, but it is important to remember that not every relationship has to last. Not every person is destined to be in your life for a long time. Sometimes people are only in your life for as long as you need them to be.

And for those that last beyond that, those rare, real friendships that stand the test of time and have an even deeper impact on your life? These are genuine things to be treasured, but that doesn’t mean those fleeting ships that pass in the night have any less of an impact on you.

You may say a lot of goodbyes on your travels, but you also share some of the best, most intense and most wonderful experiences of your life with people you would not meet otherwise, and that is one of the single most rewarding things about travel itself.

So to every single person I have met on the road, past, present and future. To those who I have met for a brief period at transit stops and those who I have shared intense and awesome adventures with. To those who I will never meet again and those who will be friends with for a long time to come. Thank you. And safe travels.

Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

How To Deal With Reverse Culture Shock After Your Gap Year.

How To Make Friends And Meet People When Travelling Solo.

Is Solo Travel Ever Truly Solo?

It Really Is A Lonely Planet After Your Gap Year.

Top Tips For The Solo Traveller.

Why Solo Travel Is Awesome!

Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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26 comments on “Making And Breaking Friendships When You Travel The World.
  1. Saji says:

    Making friend is best way to travel more and learn about about local place. you shared so good information about that it.

  2. Jessica says:

    I thought this was going to be so depressing to read but it was seriously uplifting. I love your posts.

  3. Amelia says:

    So true, I have met so many amazing people when backpacking, and I know some of them I will never meet again (Facebook doesn’t really count), but that is okay because it is the effect they had on me in the short time I knew them that counts. Amazing piece.

  4. Ella says:

    Love this, it just sums up completely the ups and downs of travelling, and I think – like you – that it is far more positive overall.

  5. Leanne says:

    No one loses touch on Facebook! 😊

    • That is true, although I think Facebook wasn’t even a thing when I started travelling, it has definitely changed how people stay in touch. Although how many people in your contacts list do you actually stay in touch with apart from the odd message once a year?

  6. Michelle Heggarty says:

    I have made some amazing friends while travelling (often completely randomly too) and I have stayed in touch with a few of them even today. There really is no need to worry about being lonely if you don’t want to be.

  7. songdep247 says:

    I ussually travel solo. I have traveled with friends several times. However, i feel happy and fun when i traveled with them.

  8. kevin Ngoc says:

    I have some best friends and i usually travel to somewhere with them. We always crazy together, haha. Those trips are really memorable

  9. Sharon says:

    I can totally relate to this. I think perhaps the more friends one makes the more friends they lose. We all move on, have different priorities. But all in all, however short the friendship is, there is always something fruitful from it.

  10. Chantelle says:

    I have traveled a fair bit too in my life and have found at times I struggle to get the courage to start again with new people in new places just to say goodbye soon after.

  11. Jenny says:

    I’m always amazed when I leave a place or just pass through at who makes the effort to keep in touch over the long term. Sometimes, it’s the people I barely spent time with at the time or were just passing acquaintences who make the most effort, and often the people I felt closest to fade out of my life altogether. It is painful. But there is joy in seeing who your true friends are: the ones who remain.

  12. Leanne says:

    Everyone says that it is so much easier to stay in touch now with social media but I find the opposite is true. Saying hello on Facebook or on WhatsApp is not the same as chatting over a cup of coffee in person.

  13. Brianne says:

    This hits home. I definitely lost friends over the past year of travel, some of them I considered close friends once too. It just kept being harder and harder to be in touch and we just couldn’t understand each others lifestyles anymore. I did make many new friends that DO understand my lifestyle, and are my friends regardless. So that’s a silver lining I guess!

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a former nurse turned published author and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent over twenty years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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