Solo travel can sound daunting to an introvert at first, but once you take that leap of faith it is life changing – believe it, as it is coming from a fellow introvert. You do not lose your own self, but you become more connected to the world and yourself. That said, your next question might be – how to make friends while travelling solo?
If reaching out to a stranger and starting a conversation sounds scary to you, don’t worry you are not alone. While travelling solo, this should actually be the least of your worries. There are many solo or group travellers out there who are looking to connect with more people, in which case all you need to do is to be open and everything else will follow through.
Here are some of my suggestions on how you can connect with fellow travellers and become a person who is welcoming and at ease even around strangers.
1. Stay in Hostels
The best way to meet people while travelling solo is to stay in hostels. You can find people from different walks of life and with varied areas of interest. I have met travellers who are musicians, teachers, lawyers, students, etc. all in my hostel dorm. Make sure to spend some time in the common room or dining rooms where you can have interesting conversations with fellow travellers. All this can happen, all you need to do is to push yourself to be open to experiences.
2. Ask for travel advice
Ask for travel advice from people. It’s not that difficult to ask this one question from anyone, and then you can take it from there – Hi, where are you from?
You can not only make conversation leading with this question, you can continue to know more about the destination you are visiting. Some of the questions which help me make friends on the go and also help me know more about my destination are below:
- What all have you seen so far here?
- Any tips for this city?
- Any hidden spots to get great food?
- Are there any interesting activities/events happening around?
- Would you like to explore the place together? (being a solo female traveller, gives you a superpower to be intuitive about safety issues – so ask this question if you feel positive)
- Go for meetups/meals with strangers
3. Go on group tours
I always prefer to go for walking tours, club crawls, hikes, or short trips. These are available in most cities and usually start from a common meeting point or from your hostel itself. This makes you meet with people with similar interests as yours and gives you ample opportunities to connect with them during those 2-3 hours.
4. Give people a reason to talk to you
Best way to connect with people while travelling is to give them a reason to talk to you. If your stomach growls at the mere thought of approaching a stranger and starting a conversation, this trick comes in handy as in this case they will approach you with an icebreaker. You can use many props and items for initiating this conversation, eg: an artsy piece of jewellery, a unique backpack, T-shirt with a different caption, a classic book in your hand, a nice camera, or some accessories.
5. Look approachable
The key to being interesting while travelling is to be open to conversations and experiences. Would you approach a person for a small talk who looks like he/she doesn’t want to be disturbed? So look like a person who wants to be talked to, in subtle ways. Body language plays a major role here. Do not sit in a corner with your handbag on your lap and engrossed in a book. I think you get the point. Right? Be approachable and open.
6. Stay digitally disconnected for sometime
Do not use Google maps or translation all the time. Sure it’s simple and gets you around faster, but it also takes away your opportunity to talk to locals and other travellers. On my first solo trip, I ditched the international phone connection and internet outside my hostel. I never realised even this small disconnection pushed me to get more comfortable not only with strangers who helped me figure out a lot of things but also with myself.
The effect shows
I used these tips without even realising I was doing this while travelling alone. Many people who know me for a long time noticed that I am now more open to new people and more confident while conversing with others. One quiet afternoon, while sitting with a book in my hand in my balcony, my mind started to wander on what exactly did I do on my trip to become this person who even I love a lot more, and this list popped up on its own.
I hope many of you will find it useful, if you have more tips and tricks to help me engage better with people while travelling, please do share in the comments.
I totally believe this quote by ace traveller Ibn Battuta:
“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”