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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.