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It’s impossible to ignore the rise in solo travel. Growing year over year, the sector is now thought to account for as much as 18% of the whole booking industry. Women travelers and millennials are the impetus behind it, but there’s also an uptick in Baby Boomers looking for R&R and experience-driven trips in later life.
The takeaway is that you’re not alone in hitting the road, well…alone.
There are millions of others in the same situation. You just need to learn how to connect and meet people while traveling solo.
It’s easier than ever
These days, it’s really easier than ever to meet people while traveling the world, whether you’re by yourself or not. For a start, you could choose well-known backpacking destinations where there are sure to be crowds of likeminded people. There are accommodation options that are great for helping you meet and mingle with others – think hostels and hosted beds. You can join the pub crawls. Or, you could even get a job abroad.
So, you’re going it solo? Great choice. Eastwood’s
Man with No Name (seriously, For a Few Dollars More – watch it), Marco
Polo, Neil Armstrong – you’re in good company! Whether you’re headed to the
shimmering beaches of Thailand or the snow-capped Himalaya, the medieval cities
of Europe or the jungles of Central America, you’re about to embark on the trip
of a lifetime. And you won’t have to do it on anyone else’s watch, either. Pure
But what about making buddies? How do you meet people while traveling alone? Solitary globetrotters can often seem like Sims characters with an ebbing social stat; the finger-twiddling awkward person that no one wants to chat with. Not so! You just need the know-how and the skills to break down barriers, start chatting, and forge friendships.
Being on the road is actually one of the easiest places to make new pals. Cue this guide, which should have you chin-wagging with fellow backpackers before you can say “whose round is it next?”
First: the facts and figures
Let’s get one thing straight – you’re not alone in solo traveling! That might sound like an oxymoron, but it’s not. DIY globetrotters now make up a whopping 18% of the global booking market. That’s enough to rival honeymooners. In fact, watchdogs note that internet searches for solo travel-related terms have more than doubled in the last three years.
What’s more, this is a distinctly feminine trend. In the world of self-partnered, it looks like women are finding their solo travel feet more than any other demographic. Tour companies are saying that as many as two-thirds of total bookings are from females going it alone.
The upshot? The old rules are shifting. Travel is demystifying. It’s becoming less daunting and more accessible to travel solo and to meet people while traveling. Don’t have qualms about seizing the moment and hitting the road solo? You’re in good company – it just might not feel like it yet!
Backpacker destinations are your friend!
meeting and mingling on the road? Choose your battleground. If you’ve not done
this before, it might be wise to dodge Everest Base Camp treks or Antarctic
Why not start simple? Head for the iconic Banana Pancake Trail. It crisscrosses Southeast Asia and has been drawing backpackers for decades. You’ll go from the bamboo towns of northern Thailand to the neon-dashed Full Moon Parties of Koh Phangan.
Most people you meet along the way will be looking for something similar – fun, new experiences, and – crucially – new friends.
A raison d’etre
of the organized tour group is that it helps solo travelers meet new people.
Just think about it: A ready-made group in an amazing destination with all your
transport, hotels, and excursions sorted beforehand. The small talk (more on
that later) will quickly dissolve. Then, you’ll be glugging Chang beers or
sharing stories of home like you’ve been mates for years.
There are even tour providers expressly aimed at connecting solo travelers with other solo travelers. They offer trips where you’ll never pay a supplement for occupying a single room to yourself. Or, they guarantee you can share accommodation with someone of the same gender. Itineraries are also often packed with things to get the friendships a-rolling – such as pub crawls, cooking lessons, and hiking expeditions.
Choose social accommodation options
If you’re the sort of solo traveler who likes to plan things yourself, then it’s worth focusing on social accommodation. Gone are the days when hostels were grimy, unkempt dives (ah, *nostalgia*, the good old days). Now, these low-cost digs are clean, tidy, and sometimes downright luxurious (search: Poshtels). They are also perfect for meeting others. Common spaces abound. There are shared kitchens for cooking together. And you can even join organized events like pub crawls come the evening.
Alternatively, there’s Couchsurfing. This one’s all about connecting you with locals. Fire up the app, make a profile, and then start requesting the use of someone’s “couch” (quite often a full bed). It’s totally free and hosts often go out of their way to entertain their lodgers. It’s wise to check that the people you choose have good ratings and reviews, though.
Organized fun isn’t the enemy
I remember joining a pub crawl in Krakow at 9pm and finishing in the early hours. The main difference between the two times – apart from me being pretty inebriated – was that I’d gained oodles of friends. The takeaway here isn’t that booze is a great socializer (although there’s certainly something to be said for that).
Organized tours and groups are a brilliant way to prospect for new connections. Join them and don’t be worried.
Think about working abroad
Taking a job abroad offers the unique ability to explore somewhere like a local. It also comes with all-new colleagues. Positions could be anything from seasonaire ski instructors to TEFL teachers. The upshot is that you’ll earn money, broaden your horizons, and be exposed to other ex-pats and travelers who are in the same frame of mind.
Use apps and groups to connect
Never before have travelers been able to link up with others in the same city at the flick of a thumb and forefinger. But that’s the 21st century for you. Apps like Instagram come with location features that mean a simple comment on an image could lead to a new buddy. Of course, Facebook Groups are more powerful. Join ready-made ex-pat communities on those to see what’s cooking wherever you are.
Realize that you’re not alone
Millions of travelers across the globe are now solitary. That should take a bit of the sting out of things, helping you to realize that what you’re choosing to do is normal, and that there are lots of potential pals out there!
Choose the right destination
Thailand, Bali, Vietnam, the Philippines – these are all tried-and-tested backpacking places. They are filled with young millennials and Gen Z folk looking to meet new people. Hone in on these if you want to make socializing easier.
Think about organized tours
Opting for an organized tour means you can jet off to Nepal or Thailand or India and have a ready-made group of people waiting on the ground. The best part is that they are also likely to be solo travelers looking to make friends quickly.
Alter your accomodation preferences
Forget moping around a hotel room. Modern accommodation choices and apps make it easier than ever to meet travelers. Hostels are the obvious one – pick somewhere with good social ratings, a common room, and preferably a bar on Hostel World. Or, there’s Couchsurfing, which connects travelers with locals all around the globe.
Think about what you want to do abroad
Sulking around cities being sad that you’re solo isn’t the way to go. Try to fill your itineraries with things that are sure to expose you to other people and force you to be sociable. This could be anything from an evening pub crawl to a fully-fledged job.
About the Author
Since bagging his English and Ancient History degree, Rich has traveled from the canyons of Mexico to the surf-splashed bays of Bali, done five interrails, toured India, Indonesia, Thailand, and New Zealand, hiked in Italy and France, skied across the Alps, and lived in countless countries for a month or more at a time. Now at five continents and upwards of 50 countries (gaining a TEFL certification along the way), it’s safe to say he is a seasoned traveler. Full Bio | Connect With Rich | LinkedIn