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When people find out I’m a woman traveling solo, I typically get one of two reactions. There’s, “Wow! I’ve always wanted to try solo travel!” or, “Wow! Isn’t that lonely?”
It’s easy to assume that traveling alone is, well, lonely, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Solo travel involves a great deal of alone time – but that’s not the same as loneliness. On the contrary, as a woman traveling alone, I keep quite busy and I regularly meet new people. In fact, I’ve met some of my closest friends while on solo travel trips.
Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling with family and friends. There’s just something about the friendships you make during solo travel – they hold a special meaning. Your life experiences, culture, and background can be as different as night and day, but you bond over travel, over being in the exact same place at the exact same time. That is a unique and rare connection.
It may seem intimidating to make new friends when you’re traveling alone. After all, solo travel itself is intimidating at first. With these tips, however, you’ll easily make more friends than you can count. This guide will cover the top tips on how to make friends while traveling solo.
The first order of business on a solo travel trip: head to a busy part of town and find a cafè. Order a drink – preferably a local specialty – and sit outside or next to a window. Don’t bring your computer, iPad, or even a book, and resist the temptation to pull out your phone. Simply be present, immerse yourself in the scene, and watch.
Take note of how passersby interact. What is their body language like? Do they greet each other with big hugs or a simple “hello?” How are they dressed? Take mental notes and apply what you learn when you meet locals.
Put your guidebook away
A huge part of making friends during solo travel is getting out of your comfort zone. If you’re constantly referencing your shiny new guidebook, you’ll never have a reason to interact with anyone face-to-face. Instead of looking something up (and yes, that includes on your phone!), talk to people. Ask for directions, restaurant recommendations, the best place to watch the sunset, and anything else you would normally reference in your guidebook.
To be clear, guidebooks absolutely serve a purpose. Study yours on your plane or bus trip, then put it away and save it for when you have downtime.
Adjust your expectations for solo travel
One of my favorite tips for traveling solo is to keep your mind and heart open. Some of the best aspects of solo travel are experiencing new places, things, and people. It’s important to understand, though – especially if you’re traveling internationally – that those things may be very, very different than what you’re accustomed to.
Reserve your judgment and keep an open mind. Embrace the new, unfamiliar, and unexpected, and simply enjoy experiencing something totally different. You never know what you may learn – or love!
Sit at the bar
One of the easiest ways to make friends when you’re traveling solo is to sit at the bar for meals. It sounds incredibly simple, but it works! Think about it: You’re not likely to approach a stranger when they’re sitting at a table eating, right? On the other hand, something about the casual ambiance of a bar just invites people to strike up conversation. Just beware of anyone offering to buy you a drink. When traveling alone as a woman, it is super important to be cognizant of how much you are drinking.
Take a tour
Organized or guided activities are perfectly suited for solo travelers. Chances are, literally everyone except for the crew will also be visiting from somewhere else. Before you even speak to anyone, you’re starting off with some common ground.
Sign up for small group activities like a guided hike, walking food tour around the city, a sunset sail, or a tour of a local landmark. Aside from helping you make friends, this is often an excellent way to learn more about a destination in a unique way. Many hostels will even include free walking tours or cooking classes, which is a great way to meet other people at your accommodation.
Say “yes!” while traveling solo
In my experience, locals tend to be exceptionally friendly, especially in smaller destinations. Once they realize you’re traveling on your own, don’t be surprised by their enthusiastic invitations for everything from a cup of coffee to dinner to a road trip.
Stay open-minded to those new experiences and say “yes” to anything that sounds intriguing, but above all, keep yourself safe. If something feels off, it probably is. Always, always trust your gut. Be sure to let someone (or better yet, more than one someone) know where you’re headed and with who, like a friend or family member back home and the front desk clerk at your hotel.
Extend your own invitations
Just like you should say “yes” to invitations during solo travel, you should also invite others to join you, whether it be at your table or on a tour the following day. It doesn’t necessarily have to be another person traveling alone, although it certainly can be!
Don’t shy away from groups or anyone you think looks like a local. The invitation will very likely be a welcome gesture and you never know what could come of it. Even if they decline the invitation or you never speak to them again, that’s okay. You’ll always have a memory of that time you went way outside your comfort zone!
One of the best tips for traveling alone that I’ve ever heard is to simply smile. Smiling really is a universal language! It can make you seem more approachable, diffuse an awkward or tense situation, and could lead to an amazing conversation or life-changing experience. Plus, smiling costs you absolutely nothing and takes just a second.
Choose your solo travel destination wisely
Finally, not all travel destinations – or even accommodations – are created equal when it comes to traveling. Choose a location where it will be easy to safely get around by yourself and where there will be plenty of activities. Also, consider staying in an Airbnb or a hostel that offers daily breakfast or an evening social hour, where you will likely meet other travelers. A have a full guide on how to choose the best backpackers hostel.
Now that you’re equipped with all these ways to make friends during solo travel, it’s time to pick a destination and go!
Traveling alone? Here are some other articles that you should check out:
- 7 Smart Solo Female Traveler Safety Tips
- Solo Hiking: 9 Hiking Tips for Female Travelers
- Backpackers Hostel: How to Choose the Best Hostel