Making new friends is an essential skill for every solo traveler. Even the loneliest wolf needs a companion from time to time. Luckily, it‘s super easy to meet people and make new friendships while you're on the road. But in case you have any concerns about it, I made a list of 11 practical ideas to help you master the art of travel socializing.
1. Leave your friends back home
If you chose to travel with friends or family from back home, you are less likely to meet new people. It might be because your friends don’t want to hang out with other people, or maybe because you just look less approachable in a group. Either way, you'll be missing a big part of the unique experience of making new friendships while traveling.
2. Stay in backpackers’ guesthouses and hostels It will be much easier to meet new people in backpacker oriented places, like guesthouses and dorms, than in fancy hotels where it’s each to his own. You don’t even have to share a room with other people; a lot of these places have private rooms as well. They probably would be a tad more expensive, but it will enable you to have a room to yourself and still enjoy the commune environment.
3. Join a small group through a local travel agency I’ve done this many times during my trips – just walked into a local travel agency and asked to join a day tour or a bus ride or a few days’ trip with a small group, in order to meet new friends who would join me at my next destination. Besides being a fertile ground for meeting new travel mates, these tours are always great fun and provide unforgettable memories.
4. Be open to meet people in unsuspected places Apart from meeting people through arranged tours, you need to be open to get to know new friends, well, practically anywhere! Coffee shops, restaurants, lectures, cooking classes, music shows, ferry boats, sleeper buses, taxis...and these are just some of my private examples. It doesn't matter how shy you are, you need to remember that when people travel they are usually happier and more open minded, which makes it easier to start a conversation.
5. Use social networks Today, in the Wi-Fi era, everything is easier, even making new friends. There are endless Facebook groups, forums, and travel sites that are meant to connect travelers together. If you find it less intimidating to search for travel companions in the virtual world before meeting in person, then this is the platform for you.
6. Use social apps Of course, with all the smartphones, you also have the option of making it even easier and using a social travel app. Apps like: Trip buddy, Tourbar, TravelMate, Backpackrand many others will give you the opportunity to find a new travel partner with the click of a button! Even a dating app like Tindercan be surprisingly useful in finding platonic travel mates.
7. Couchsurfing Couchsurfing is as simple as it sounds - staying for a while on someone's couch (doesn’t have to be a couch, obviously). That way you can be a guest in a local person’s house instead of doing the usual hotel reservations. There are the obvious benefits of free accommodations, but you also get to know a local who can show you around the area and connect you with other locals or see cool things that are not mentioned in TripAdvisor.
8. Look for pub crawl A pub crawl is when a group of people are drinking in multiple bars, moving from one pub to the next, usually in a single night. From my experience pub crawling can come in many forms and ways: day time or night time, by foot, by bus, by subway, in small groups and large groups, spontaneously or organized beforehand.
It is easy to find them, you simply have to ask around or just spot one and join them. Don’t forget to take care of yourself and drink responsibly. It’s a fun way to meet new travel mates as well as drinking partners.
9. Walk the known paths In some of the countries there are known routes where people from the same country or religion tend to follow and often congregate in the same cities, accommodations and attractions. The reason for the creation of these paths can be because of cultural tourism, the different holiday seasons between countries, or the simple human need to be around the known and familiar, even when traveling abroad.
An example of one of these paths is the Israeli ‘Hummus Trail’ in India. I was shocked to discover how many Israelis were traveling in the same places where the imaginary ‘Hummus Trail’ passes through.
It isn’t surprising that trails like these exists. Even if you wish to stay off the beaten path and meet people from different countries, it can still be easier sometimes to meet travelers that speak the same language and share the same cultural habits as you do.
10. Volunteer How about meeting a new friend while doing some good in the world? In every country you can find many different kinds of volunteer organizations and projects, depending on the type of volunteering you want to do. And while you are out there, doing something good for someone else, you have the chance to meet locals and other tourists who share the same values as you!
11. Remember that you’re never really alone You’ll be wrong to think that you are the only person out there seeking new friends. You’ll also be wrong to think that you are less outgoing than others and that is why it is more difficult for you to make new friends.
Unless you have a social anxiety disorder that prevents you from speaking to people in general, you are no different than all the other travelers looking to associate. All you need to do is be friendly, keep a smile on your face and show interest in other people. All the rest will happen on its own.