How to Make Friends While Traveling Alone
Just because you travel alone doesn't mean you will or have to BE alone all the time. The best part of travelling solo is the opportunity to meet other like minded individuals.
1. Hostels = Instant Friends.
Checking into a hostel is like walking into an instant party, some are similar to wild college parties and others are just a relaxed get-together; either way your bound to find a new buddy. Some of my favorite experiences are with new friends who were sharing the same bunk with me. I call them 5-hour friendships because usually either they're headed off the next day or you are but you'll always meet someone to explore or go out drinking with and not to be dramatic but those have been some of the best days of my life. Most people who opt for a hostel are going to be like you- solo! and eager to make a travel buddy. I've met people who had a loose itinerary and we had such a good time together we decided to travel together; I even still keep in touch with them today. If you like a little bit more privacy there is always the option to book a private room and just hang out in the common areas, you'll still have plenty of opportunity to meet people.
2. Rent a room in an Airbnb
Airbnb is great if you crave more privacy than a hostel and also don't want the possibility of someone stumbling into your room at 4am after a night of partying. As opposed to renting out the whole apartment, renting a room is a fun experience because (usually) the host wants to get to know their guests a little. Every host is different and some are just trying to make a bit of extra cash and want their space; but I've had hosts be so kind as to take me around the city, go out drinking together, show me the best spots to eat, or even just have a chat at night. Make sure to read the description well, the majority of hosts will mention their privacy preferences under, "Interaction with guests." Some hosts don't actually live in the house but have decided to rent out every room in their apartment as an individual listing. I like these bnb's because It's just a houseful of travellers (aka potential friends) but it's not as crowded as a hostel.
3. Dating apps for friends: Friending apps??
Aside from your accommodation there are plenty of other ways to find company. We all know of (and are probably sick of) dating apps but an app for meeting platonic cool people??? Where do I sign up?
That's where Hey! Vina comes in. It is that its an female only app and you can select your, communities and interests, discover events for your locations, list your upcoming plans, or make your own event! You can also take fun personality quizzes and your score gets added to your profile to show you interests. Bumble BFF is another tried and true favorite and is very popular in almost every major city in the world!
4. Take a tour
This is the only time you're going to hear me rave about the idea of taking a tour. I'm not talking about the kind where you're loaded onto a mega-bus with 100 tourists and there's one guy up front spouting off facts that you'll never remember and the sightseeing stops only last long enough for you to enjoy the view of the bathroom stall. Nope.
Day tours lasting from 1-3 hours that are led by a local are hands down going to give you a better and more memorable experience. Kayaking in Croatia where Game of Thrones was filmed, croissant making in Paris, Street-art tours in Melbourne, wine-tasting in Buenos Aires, Absinthe tasting bar crawls in Prague, hiking tours in the PNW, boating tours in Italy, there's something for everyone and I haven't been on a tour where I didn't make friends. My favorite sites for authentic experiences by locals are withlocals.com and Airbnb Experiences.
5. Take a Class
Take a class! A foreign language, cooking, leather-working, beekeeping, kombucha brewing. There's a class for any activity and how cool is it that you already have a common interest and conversation starter for your other classmates? Find a local class on Cookly, Eventbrite, Airbnb, Obby, and Meetup.
PRO-TIP: On a budget? Take a look on Groupon.
They often have discounted classes.
6. Couchsurfing and "Hangouts"
Cultural exchange and a free place to sleep sounds great, right? It is! Couchsurfing became a global phenomenon back when it launched in 2008; admittedly it has changed quite drastically in the past few years so you do need to proceed with caution. Read ALL reviews, especially those from women, meet in public, and always have a plan B. That said, I've met some very kind and lovely people from Couchsurfing, the majority of people one the site are ex-travellers and just want to pay it forward by hosting and swap travel stories. If possible it's always nice to bring a gift, offer to cook, or take your host out to dinner. It's in no way expected but will be appreciated.
Recently, Couchsurfing added a new element to their app called, "Hangouts." It's only on the app, not the website, and it's a brilliant feature that shows Couchsurfing users in your area that are available to hang out at any moment. You can go live join and existing "Hangout," or suggest an activity and others will request to join you in your hangout. The same precautions listed above can be used for this. I've met a lot of really cool people from hangouts and It's a great travel tool.
7. Eat at the Bar
If you walk in alone most hosts will want to seat you at the bar and unless the restaurant has a killer view, I'm more than happy with that. When going out to eat, sitting at the bar for your meal is 10 times more likely to have you meeting people than a table. Plus if you don't ending up with a drinking buddy you can always chat to the bartender who is a goldmine for everything local.
8. Facebook groups
There's a Facebook group for everything now. Any hobby, city, or even pet-peeve you could think of there's a group for it. So it makes sense that there are groups for travellers for each city or state to ask questions and meet up! Some of my favorites are Girl Gone International, Travel Meetups-The Solo Female Travel Network, The Blonde Abroad Travel Tribe, and so many more. You can just type in "Expats in ____" whatever city you are in and there will be one if not more groups for your location. You can also find a group for ANY kind of niche traveller. Rock-climbers, digital nomads, artists, Dungeons and Dragons players, street performers. You name it. Just type in your location and your hobby and there will be one if not more groups for your interest; and if there aren't then make one! Build it and they will come, no?
Pro tip: start joining Facebook groups and looking for events a week in advance and make a post. This will be enough advance time so people will know if they are free or not but also so you aren’t scrambling to make plans once you are on the ground.
Meetup.com is like the digital holy grail for well, meet ups! Adventure Society, Women who code, Stroller friendly running, Yoga in the Park, Queer Beers, The Breakfast club...Any kind of club you can image exists on Meetup and best of all its free to use! You can even start your own group!
10. Strike up a conversation
This takes balls and maybe won't even lead to much but in situations where only small talk is usually expected some people appreciate and respond to conversation. I had a woman walk up to me in a grocery store and comment on the coffee I was buying, this led to a conversation then we ended up meeting for coffee the next day! Serendipity can make you feel very alive and connected and isn't that why you started travelling in the first place?
11. Being open
Hey, I get it when you're struggling to make friends in a new place it can be really discouraging but just being open and positive can lead to so many unexpected adventures. I once had an amazing hiking experience with my Uber driver! It was my first time in San Francisco and I didn't know anyone at all. I ordered a car to take me to a vantage point to see the Golden Gate Bridge. After coming down from those incredible views I ran into my driver who was just coming down from an alternative vantage point. He laughed, and said he figured he might as well take in the view while he was here (he had mentioned that he had just moved to town previously during our ride.) We had a good conversation so I asked if he wanted to join me on a short hike down to the beach. He was friendly and up for it, many joints later we took a drive to in and out burger, went to a spy shop and just had the best conversations. I love that memory of the Golden Gate bridge, it was authentic experience that would have never happened if I had been to shy or negative to ask him to hang out! This can also apply to so many situations but of course, trust your instinct above all else.
The best thing to remember is confidence is attractive and in most travel situations your fellow expats are in the exact same position as you! Take a deep breath and make the first move and I promise you won't regret it.
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