How to Make Friends When Traveling Solo

I’ve been traveling solo now for more than 10 years and I love it. So many people put off their dream trip because they don’t have anyone to go with. Don’t do it! I hiked up a volcano in Ecuador, swam with Dolphins off the coast of New Zealand, rode a bike from Hanoi to Saigon in Vietnam, and crossed the Red Sea from Egypt to Jordan. But I have a little secret to tell you, even though I travel solo, I’m rarely ever alone. On all of these trips, I started alone, but made friends along the way. How? Here are my tips for meeting people when you travel solo:

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Tours
Today, there are so many different kinds of tours you can join – from food tours and bike tours to hiking and pub-crawling. Inevitably you meet the other travelers and end up having new friends to join you afterwards for lunch or dinner. Longer group tours, lasting a few days to weeks are great for solo travelers as you’re instantly part of a family.

Take a Class
The whole act of travel can be one big education. On top of that, there are classes everywhere. How about learning to tango in Argentina? Or how to cook the perfect spring roll in Vietnam? Or how to surf the waves at Bondi Beach in Sydney? By taking a class, you always meet other travelers and can celebrate each other’s triumphs when you finally can say a whole sentence in Mandarin or snowboard down a hill without falling.

Accommodations
Today, there are so many more options than just staying in a hotel. If you want a social environment in which you are sure to meet other solo travelers, a hostel is your best bet. There are some wonderful small and clean hostels out there and many where you can still get a single room if you don’t want a shared dorm room. That way you can have your privacy when you want, but still experience the social atmosphere in the lounge areas. Other options are more communal glamping experiences, Couchsurfing and Airbnb where you rent a room and get to know the owners. I’ve made many good friends around the world who welcomed me into their homes.

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Share a Meal
Another great way to meet locals is to join them for a meal. There are some great apps and websites out now that allow you to find locals who want to cook for you! Sites like MealSharing.com and EatWith.com post local meals that you are welcome to join. What better way to absorb the local culture than from a local and a home-cooked meal!

Meet-ups
Another great way to meet locals is to check out some groups on websites like meetup.com, expat groups, and even couchsurfing groups. Many of these have weekly gatherings for all kinds of interests – walks, concerts, meals, etc.

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Volunteer or Work
On my two and a half year journey around the world, I taught English to executives in Istanbul, served up lattes and Vegemite sandwiches in Melbourne, volunteered at an English Immersion program in Spain, and spent my Christmas week with homeless in London. These were not only the best experiences of my entire trip, but possibly my entire life. Each adventure gave me a window into the local culture that I just couldn’t get as a tourist. Immersing yourself in a culture instead of just passing through always pays off in huge ways.

Get Social
And of course, if you get homesick, you can always easily get online to say ‘hi.’ Thanks to Facebook, Skype, and other social media, it’s incredibly easy to stay in touch with friends and family back home when you’re looking for some comfort.

Lisa Lubin

Lisa Lubin is an established travel/food writer, three-time Emmy®-award winning TV producer, and travel industry expert. After a decade in broadcast television she took a sabbatical, which turned into three years traveling around the world. She documents her adventures on her blog, LLworldtour.com. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

6 Awesome Reasons to Travel Solo

I have to be honest — my first time traveling solo I hated it and felt noticeably alone and out of sorts. But then, about three days into it, I hit my groove and started liking it. I realized I just had to give myself transition time to get used to it. I learned that the advantages far outweighed the disadvantages.
Here’s why:

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Go Now
Want to take an amazing trip, but don’t want to go alone? You might be waiting a long time. Coordinating travel with others can be difficult and frustrating due to schedules, different budgets and destination desires. If you just change your perspective and realize you can go alone, you can plan your trip and not wait for the day that never comes when someone can go when you want to go and where you want to go.

You’re the Boss
When you travel solo, you are THE boss. You do what you want, when you want. Feel like staying in all day and just reading a book, do it! Want to hike for hours until your legs feel like spaghetti? It’s up to you! You can stay at the hotel or glamping cabin of your choice, eat what you want, and wake up when you want. It’s very freeing to just go and do what YOU feel like doing.

Alone Time is Important
Today, we are so connected; our phones, laptops, and tablets are always within reach keeping us in touch to everything and everyone, sometimes too connected. Being alone, truly alone, is necessary to recharge your battery and think about life – changes you want to make in yourself, your career, your relationships. Relish your alone time.

You are Never Really Alone
On the flip side of that, when you are alone, you tend to be more open to meeting new people. You are not coupled up and just focusing on your companion. You will start to talk to other people — on a tour, at your campsite, or at a café. You will also see how many other solo travelers are out there doing the same thing as you, which makes it so easy to join each other for a beer or coffee. So even though you are alone, you’ll find that if you want to be with other people, it’s much easier than you realize.

Meaning
Many first think that it would be a waste to not share travels with someone; that you’ll have no one to share the amazing moments with. I actually found the opposite; I was able to be razor-focused on my surroundings — the sights, the sounds, the tastes — much more than if I was talking with someone and distracted by their presence and their thoughts. When traveling solo, I think I experience a heightened sense of everything because I can really be in the moment.

It’s Empowering
Perhaps the most wonderful result of traveling solo? It makes you feel like you can do anything. After navigating the trains in Cairo or dealing with a transit strike in France or possibly losing your credit card somewhere between Zanzibar and Istanbul, you realize that you can handle any situation thrown at you. Nothing excites me more than landing in a brand new country, getting some local currency out of the ATM, figuring out the local transport system and how I will get to my lodging, how much it will cost and then making it all happen. While it can be a bit scary or stressful, it’s also really invigorating and can really teach you one of life’s greatest lessons – don’t sweat the small stuff.

Lisa Lubin

Lisa Lubin is an established travel/food writer, three-time Emmy®-award winning TV producer, and travel industry expert. After a decade in broadcast television she took a sabbatical, which turned into three years traveling around the world. She documents her adventures on her blog, LLworldtour.com. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Travel Tips for Flying Overseas

Traveling abroad for the first time is thrilling and enriching. It doesn’t have to be frustrating or confusing if you plan and organize some important things ahead of time to make your trip as smooth as possible.

Passport
It goes without saying, but we will say it anyway, you need a passport! Passports are very easy to acquire – if you are just renewing you can go online to get all the info you need and mail your application in. If it is your first one, you must go in person to an “official” passport agency, which is often your local post office, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find. Don’t forget your passport photo. Here’s a tip, save money by taking your own passport photo. And once you receive your passport in the mail, take a photo of the main page and keep some electronic and printed copies with you in different places. If you already have one, make sure that is current (and does not expire in six months) as many countries still won’t let you in if it’s near expiration.

credit Creative CommonsImage Credit: Creative Commons

Visas
To visit certain countries, you may need a visa, which is basically a travel document (usually in the form of a sticker put inside your passport) that allows you entry into a country for a certain amount of time. Don’t fret; Americans do not need them for many countries including much of Europe, Australia, and some in Latin America. To find out if you will need one, just go to the U.S. Department of State and enter in the countries you are interested in. Keep in mind you will often have to send away for the visa (along with your passport) and they can cost anywhere from $20 – $200. This is definitely something you need to do ahead of time so you can get your passport back way ahead of your trip. In some cases, if you are in a large city, you can go in person to the specific country’s consulate to get your visa.

Immunizations
Also depending on your destination, you may need some shots. Doesn’t sound fun, but they don’t hurt really and it’s better to be safe than sick! Check out the CDC website where you can enter in your destination(s) and find out what health risks there are. Keep in mind that in many countries, if you are sticking to cities and not rural areas, you may not need a vaccine. If you have health insurance, shots are sometimes covered. If not, there are various travel clinics in larger cities that offer immunization services. It’s worth noting that some vaccinations require a set of shots (i.e. Hepatitis) so make sure you plan at least six months to a year in advance.

Money
Nowadays, this one’s pretty easy. Most popular destinations and even off-the-beaten path areas have bank machines at which you can use your ATM card to withdraw the local currency. Just talk to your bank about withdrawal and conversion fees and make sure your card will work at most locations around the world. You can also use your credit card in most large cities, but for smaller towns and smaller purchases, it’s best to use cash. Also, it never hurts to have some U.S. one dollar bills with you.
So with a little planning and foresight, you can now focus on the fun stuff and book that trip! The world is waiting!

Lisa Lubin

Lisa Lubin is an established travel/food writer, three-time Emmy®-award winning TV producer, and travel industry expert. After a decade in broadcast television she took a sabbatical, which turned into three years traveling around the world. She documents her adventures on her blog, LLworldtour.com. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.