“I was never going to go if I waited for someone to go with me.”
I’m sure this is some internet cliche I found on Twitter back in 2010, but nevertheless, it’s been my solo-travel motto for nearly a decade now, ever since I decided that travel was an experience I could truly and thoroughly enjoy without the company of my friends or family back home.
Solo travel – at its best, it’s the most beautifully-selfish act you can indulge in. From controlling every decision from where to stay, to what to eat, to what to see; solo travel is the type of non-compromising experience that every person subconsciously craves, while also being one of the most personally rewarding experiences you can have.
Every trial and triumph of making each flight, taking each bus, working through language barriers or learning how to drive on foreign roads — the sense of accomplishment is just that much sweeter knowing that you did it alone.
While what I’m describing may sound like a lonely story of self-discovery to some, but my reality as a traveler who travels solo around 80 percent of the time is far less solitary– there are few, if any, solo adventures I’ve embarked upon where I’ve ever actually felt, or been alone. Perhaps I can attribute it to an extraverted personality, or maybe I was destined to meet the people I’ve encountered in my travels, but one way or another, I’ve made some of my best friends and closest connections through choosing to take the adventure alone. After all, a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet, right?
If you’ve ever solo traveled and struggled to meet others, or perhaps you’re thinking about solo travel and daunted by the idea of having meals or going to museums alone — don’t fret!
If you’re willing to push yourself a little more out of your comfort zone than you might be used to, here are eight ways you can use your resources to meet others on your solo traveler journey!
Use Facebook To Look Up Events Happening In The Area You’re Traveling To
The events tab on Facebook could be one of the most underrated tools for solo-travelers.
With the ability to filter based on dates, locations, and interests — it’s a sure-fire way for travelers to find local events happening in the areas they’re visiting, and meet both travelers and locals with similar interests.
I’ve used this countless times to discover events from salsa dancing in Sydney to a language exchange in London — some of my best and most authentic travel experiences have been from this simple search feature on Facebook.
Join Facebook Groups Centered Around Travel, Solo travel And Female travel
This one has been life changing for me — from Guadalajara to San Francisco to Hong Kong — some of my nearest and dearest friends I’ve discovered through travel-related groups on Facebook!
Groups like Girls Love Travel, Women Who Travel, Girls vs Globe, Shut Up and Go and so many others — its a virtually instant way to make connections when you travel. A
sk for recommendations, a coffee meet-up or for someone to join you on your must-do activities and chances are, someone will respond. I once asked for someone to help practice Spanish with me and ended up making one of my closest friends — I went last year from New York City to Mexico to go spend Christmas with her family and New Years in Puerto Vallarta — best decision ever.
Book The Tour… Even If You Have To Go Alone
When I first started solo travelling at seventeen, I used to get really awkward about doing activities alone. What would people say? What if people are staring at me? Would I just be on my phone the whole time?
With time and practice, I’ve learned that even when solo traveling, you’re never really all alone, and you can’t let your nerves or fears keep you from the experience.
Want to go to the White Temple in Chiang Rai or to the Cliffs of Mohr in Ireland but feel awkward about doing it alone? Don’t be — it’s worth it. Book the Hop-On Hop-Off tours, book the AirBnB experiences, and the day-trips, because chances are there are other solo-travelers or small groups who debated doing the tour because of the same reasons.
Tours are a great way to not only meet a group of travelers who are seeking to experience a destination, but often you’ll find the tour guides are just as friendly and eager to make friends as the travelers. Websites like TripAdvisor and Viator, and AirBnB Experiences make finding the perfect tour as simple as a search.
Don’t Dismiss The Dating Apps Just Yet
Single ladies — hear me out on this one. I know the idea of using dating apps in general to meet people can be daunting or uncomfortable to say the least — but I promise it works if you do it right!
Tinder is universal, and the truth is that people love showcasing their cities as much as you love visiting them — so why not take advantage of this 21st century resource?
In Buenos Aires, I once met a Porteño (a local) who took me around the city, and to the best pizza place in Buenos Aires to teach me about Buenos Aires’ pizza culture, and to sample different types of Provoletas, while sipping on a world famous bottle of wine from the valleys of Mendoza — it can happen.
I’ve found that the key is to be upfront and honest in your bio — I think I said something like “In Buenos Aires for 5 days — is anyone else into food, culture and adventure?” It totally worked, and I made a good friend who I still keep in contact with.
Find Others With Similar Interests… Through Hashtags!
We all use them — but why? To get more likes? To draw more attention to our photos and posts?
Contrary to popular belief the purpose of hashtags is actually to build a community with people who are like-minded and want to share their similar experiences through content.
If you look through the posts from some of your favorite hashtags, or destination-specific hashtags, it’s not hard to find people with similar interests in the exact same location as you are! Looking to make friends on your trip to Paris?
Search through Instagram to find travelers using the hashtag #parisjeteaime, or #puravida to find people traveling through Costa Rica — then, comment on their picture or send them a DM and introduce yourself! We’re all a part of a massive online community of travelers, and you never know who you could meet!
Pull Out Your Notebooks – Class Is In Session!
Life lesson — learning goes way beyond the university classroom.Whether its cooking, learning a language or scuba-diving — pursuing your interests and passions is one of the most fulfilling experiences you can have while traveling, and along the way, it’s not uncommon to meet some pretty cool people!
Last year, I took this cooking class in Thailand where we ended up becoming friends with both the other students and the teacher — she invites me to come back to Bangkok whenever I can!
Not Into Hostels Anymore? Try AirBnB’s “Private Room” Feature
So you’ve graduated from hostels — I can appreciate that! Hostel-life, while exhilarating and full of vitality, can definitely get old, the older and more experienced you are as a traveler.
While staying at a hostel is an easy and infallible way to meet people — don’t discount AirBnB! I’ve become friends with so many of my AirBnB hosts through the “private room” feature where you as the traveler stay in the house of the host, but with your own room. It’s the best of both worlds!
Not only do you get the privacy of your own room, but you get access to a local who knows the ins-and-outs of the place you’re visiting. Often, the hosts will offer you to eat dinner with them, or enjoy a drink with them or sometimes even celebrate their birthday with them at a pool party, like our AirBnB host did in Tijuana, Mexico!
Do It The Old Fashioned Way – Head To The “Hang Out” Spots And Prepare To Be Vulnerable
While this is an admittedly simple tip, its undoubtedly also one that solo travelers are often the most uncomfortable with because it involves an uncertainty of rejection. Though the internet has made it so easy to connect with others both on and offline, there really is no substitute for putting yourself out there and meeting others the “old-fashioned way,” by hanging out on the steps of the cathedrals in Rome, or in Washington Square Park in New York City.
A few years ago, I decided to extend my trip to Barcelona after my friends left to go to Paris — feeling lonely, I went to the Arc de Triomphe with a bottle of wine and a baguette and cheese, and offered to share it with another solo traveler who had just moved to the city as a part of her study abroad program — we quickly hit it off and spent the rest of the day together exploring museums and marvelling at Gaudi’s magnificent architecture. Now I have a friend in London, the next time I want to make a visit!