For some, the biggest hurdle to traveling solo is whether or not it will be lonely. If you’re worried about this, you’re not alone. It’s the most common question I get about traveling alone, and it was my biggest fear when I was deciding whether or not to solo travel as well.
I was terrified, it was the last thing I wanted to do. I worried that I would constantly feel lonely, and back then, I was an extreme extrovert who got my energy from interactions with other people.
I’m happy to tell you that I met people right away, and that it was a piece of cake. I still do when I travel alone, and it has become one of my favorite things about solo travel!
But I know that some people don’t have this experience, and it’s because they have not set themselves up for solo travel success, so here are all of my best tips to help you have the most social, enriching travel experience possible:
9. Pick Social Accommodation
The easiest way to make sure that you meet people when you travel is to pick social accommodation. This is why I, in addition to budget constraints, exclusively stayed in hostels and dorms during my first years of traveling in Southeast Asia. I was shocked by how easy it was to meet people. Not only were there tons of other solo travelers, but they were friendly and outgoing, and I rarely had any alone time – I loved it!
If you’re in your 30s or older, I know that you might be thinking hostels are for young people and not for you. In some parts of the world, you’re right about that. However I have found in South America, southern Africa, and China, that people of all ages stay in hostels. You can also choose a private room in a hostel if you want some alone time and your own personal space.
I have an entire post dedicated just to how to navigate hostels past 30, read more here.
8. Choose Destinations with a Common Sport or Draw
Places with a common reason why people go, like kite surfing, diving, hiking, climbing, or surfing, will also tend to draw in other solo travelers.
Maybe the Maldives or Cancun aren’t your best bet, but Tofo in Mozambique (surfing and diving), Railay in Thailand (climbing), Patagonia (hiking), or Ubud in Bali (yoga and healthy living), are all places that tend to attract solo travelers. Those are just a few of MANY examples the world over.
Is there an activity you love or have been meaning to try? Center your trip around that, and you’re bound to meet others who are doing the same.
7. Take Group Trips
There’s no shame in taking a group trip to start off your solo travels. Even if you don’t think you’re the group trip type, there still might be something perfect for you, like a backpacking trip in the mountains, or a scuba diving liveaboard. These are some of my favorites when I’m abroad, and I meet the coolest people of all ages.
This is a big reason why I started leading my own women’s adventure trips as a tour guide. Some of my guests have told me it’s the first time that they were in such a supportive environment with other women, and many have made lifelong friends who they have traveled with since.
You never know who you’re going to meet, and it can be a great way to dip your toe in.
6. Take Day Trips
If you’re not keen on signing up for a group trip, consider doing day trips. There are many options available through sites like meetup.com, local Facebook groups, and your accommodation probably has some options or suggestions as well.
Walking tours, snorkeling trips, food tours, and hiking adventures can all be great ways to meet people. This is what I relied on for most of my solo trip back to Southeast Asia in my 30s when I wasn’t interested in staying in hostels anymore. I still made great friends on the snorkeling trips (especially in Siargao) whom I met up with in Berlin years later!
5. Join Retreats
Now that I’m not staying in hostels much anymore, I love joining retreats to meet like-minded people. Sure, they can be a bit pricey, but if you choose your retreat wisely, you will hopefully come out of it relaxed, rejuvenated, and having made lifelong friendships.
I’ve done silent meditation retreats in Thailand (don’t worry, you can chat after it finishes!), spiritual retreats in Bali, Mexico, Egypt, and Ibiza, and have seen hybrid yoga retreats/hotels in Indonesia as well (particularly in Lombok and Bali).
Here’s a list of some great places to look for women’s retreats, or meditation retreats if that’s more your speed.
4. Resist the Urge to Hide in Your Room
For introverts, it can be difficult to go into a social situation, particularly alone. But you’ve got to do it! If the accommodation that you have chosen to stay in has a common area, go hang out there! Travelers are friendly, and you’re unlikely to be the only solo traveler around. Besides, you’re in a place where nobody knows you yet, so there’s nothing to worry about in terms of judgement or awkwardness.
I am definitely the type who will isolate despite wanting to connect with others. I used to be super extroverted, but I guess I outgrew it. This is why I like booking myself into day trips where I have already paid and can’t back out of it.
Sometimes I really like my solitude, too, but it’s all about balance.
3. Put Your Phone Down
Whether in the common area of social accommodation or hanging out in a social café, trust me when I say that you are unapproachable if you’re staring into your phone. I have met the most amazing people just hanging out in cafés in Southeast Asia and beyond, but it was always because I was willing to put my phone down, make eye contact, and smile at people.
I know it’s hard, because for many of us, looking at a phone is how we cope with being at a restaurant or social area alone. But that’s precisely why you should put it down. The phone is not a human who you can hang out with, and it might actually contribute to your loneliness and sense of isolation.
This is your chance to strike up a conversation with whoever is nearby, and it can be as easy as asking them where they are from. Trust me, try it!
2. Find Fellow Solo Travelers Online
These days, there are options for finding other solo travelers to meet up with online first. I’ve known many people who have used Tinder to find platonic hang out buddies abroad, and I’ve also heard that dating apps now have friend versions, like Bumble Friend, although I assume that’s for long-term friendships.
That’s why I started the BMTM Solo Female Traveler Connect Facebook group. It’s a group specifically for female-identifying people to connect, meet up, talk about trip plans, and get advice.
I have also used Couchsurfing, tapped into my friend group to meet friends-of-friends, and even Twitter for meetups with other bloggers abroad.
It’s best to do these meetings in a public place until you really know the person, but I’m happy to report that I have made some lifelong friendships by starting online first!
1. Be Willing to Make the First Move
Sometimes, I’ve just got to be the outgoing one and start a conversation. At first, this was uncomfortable for me, but the more I’ve approached travelers and started conversations, the more I’ve built up my confidence. Travelers are typically friendly, social people. Whether it’s a café, a bar, the common area of a social accommodation or tour, be willing to be the one who says hello or starts the conversation.
It can be empowering, and if it doesn’t work out or you and the person don’t click, that’s okay, you can just try again with someone else. Remember, you’re in a place where nobody knows you, and anything can happen. All you have to do is open yourself up to the possibilities.
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