How to Make Friends While Traveling Solo
One of the questions I get asked most often is how I make so many friends while traveling on my own.
A lot of people think that if you travel solo, you’re alone nearly all of the time. Well, that couldn’t be more untrue — I’m hardly ever alone!
One of the nice things about traveling is that even if you’re shy, it’s easy to make conversation with people around you. If nothing else, you have travel in common!
Here are six of the ways I make friends while traveling solo:
1. Stay in hostel dorms.
Staying in a hostel dorm is the easiest way to make friends, hands down. It would be unnatural not to make conversation with those around you — and you’ll soon be sucked into the “Where are you from? Where have you been? How long are you traveling?” conversation that will follow you everywhere.
You can meet people while staying in private rooms at hostels, but trust me — it’s so much easier in the dorms.
Case Study: I was hanging out in the dorm when Matt arrived, and we soon met Kelly and Zach — and experienced Cambodian high-end nightlife, far from any tourists!
2. Hang out in hostel bars.
Hostel bars are where I met most of my close friends. Whether you’re there for a crazy night out or just to hang out while playing cards, with or without a pitcher of beer, hostel bars are the social epicenter of backpacker hangouts!
Your guidebook will probably indicate which establishments in town are either “party” hostels or good places to meet travelers. Those are the places where you should spend time, regardless of where you’re sleeping.
Case Study: I first hung out with Chris, Jon and Mona at the Monkey Republic bar in Sihanoukville. We then ran into each other at the Garden Village bar in Siem Reap, and after that, we traveled together to Bangkok, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang!
3. Make friends on transit.
Every single time I’ve been on multi-hour transportation, I’ve made a friend. All you need to do is strike up a conversation and see where it goes.
When you’re stuck in one place for hours, friendships have a way of forming! (Maybe it’s the 33-hour drive, almost getting rejected at the border and having to stand out in the cold rain.)
Case study: Xavier and I were seated next to each other on the 13-hour bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. We spent about three hours talking nonstop, and ended up hanging out both in Chiang Mai and Pai.
4. Do trips, activities and excursions.
Whether you do an adventure sports activity, like bungee jumping, or something completely different, like drinking snake blood, you inevitably end up getting to know some new people. Just make sure you have the right holiday insurance for what you’re doing!
Find something that interests you, learn people’s names, and keep hanging out. It seems like tons of activities naturally progress to the bar afterward, as well!
Case Study: My awesome Vietnam friends — Dave, Darren, Ste, Mike, Sander and Jitske — and I kept meeting up in Hanoi. It was Snake Village, then the Australian Day celebration, and finally the Halong Bay trip. By the time we ran into each other on the overnight bus to Hue, we naturally stuck together — and stayed together through Saigon.
5. Use Couchsurfing to meet people.
Couchsurfing is WAY more than just free lodging! I like to use Couchsurfing as a way to meet friends — locals, expats and travelers passing through!
A word to the wise — if you’re a girl and logging in at a new location for the first time, be prepared to be deluged with requests from guys. It’s definitely a self-esteem boost!
Case Study: In Buenos Aires, before I even arrived, I connected with tons of Couchsurfers. Once I landed, I was invited to Thanksgiving dinners, club nights out, birthday parties, concerts and more! I met tons of people the first night and was treated like a long-lost friend the rest of my time there.
6. Find your community abroad.
I have to admit that this is much easier for me as a travel blogger. But if you’re part of a global community or international organization, do some research and see if you can meet up with potential members!
If you don’t have a community, it could be as simple as meeting up with a friend of a friend or a family friend’s family member. That’s all it takes.
Case Study: Wherever I go, I meet travel bloggers and digital nomads, like Cody and Matt above. This Friday, I only have about three hours to spare in London before leaving for Chester — so I’m going to spend those three hours hanging out with a few travel blogger friends!
So if you think solo travel is about being all alone all the time, think again. Solo travel is anything but solo, and I’m living proof of that.