Meeting people has never been a problem for me when I travel alone, so when one of my readers asked for tips, I jumped at the chance to write this article!
In The Solo Traveler’s Handbook, Janice Leith Waugh shares a comprehensive “how and why” of solo travel. She shares real solo travel stories, and offers tips on how to travel alone and be social (ie, meet locals and other travelers!). She also offers 60 safety tips and advice for planning and packing.
I enjoy travelling with friends and family, but there’s something about travelling alone that perks me up in a special sorta way. I love the freedom of being able to wander where I want when I want, and to stay in whatever dingy little hostel attracts my attention. I don’t mind eating alone at restaurants, and feel at home in strange new cities.
Not everyone likes to travel alone, though. Just the other day, I was hiking with Sarah. She loves to explore the trails and mountains of North Vancouver, BC alone…but she doesn’t like being in cities like Montreal or New York by herself. I’m the opposite: I’d rather be alone in a city than on a mountain in the Rockies! To each her own, right?
If you’re travelling alone, you might want to tune into your comfort level. If you’re extremely uncomfortable with solo travel, then take these tips with you! And read 8 Tips for Overcoming Homesickness for Women Traveling Alone.
How to Meet People When You’re Travelling Alone
When I was 18, I hitchhiked through Europe by myself. It was my first time travelling alone and I was nervous; what got me through was a digital voice recorder. I talked to my sister on it throughout the whole trip, and I felt like she was right there beside me! It was awesome. We listened to the tapes when I got back home, and it was a great way to re-live my European vacation.
But I also met lots of people on that vacation. Here’s how…
Stay in youth hostels – and talk to the people around you
Bruce and I stay in youth hostels as a couple, and we meet many more people than when we stay in hotels. I’d much prefer a hostel, because the people are so full of adventure and stories and life! Hotel guests seem mellow and touristy in comparison.
The best way to meet people when you’re travelling alone is to speak up and talk to them. It can be difficult when you’re in a hotel lobby, which is why I encourage you to stay in a youth hostel. Hostels by their very nature are designed to bring travellers together for community and adventures.
Learn how to strike up a conversation
Making small talk is an art, and can be difficult for shy, quiet people (or introverts!). Why? Because striking up a conversation leaves you vulnerable to rejection. We all hate to be rejected, and it’s much easier and safer to close ourselves off rather than set ourselves up. The best way to meet people when you’re travelling alone is to be the first person to reach out and say something. Anything! Talk about how uncomfortable you feel to be travelling alone. Be honest; people will like you for being real.
If you’re nervous about meeting people, read How to Make Conversation for Introverts. It’ll give you some tips on what to say to strangers.
Remember that people like you!
One of my favourite tips from Martha Beck in a recent Oprah magazine was to pretend that everyone in the room loves you. Walk into the room, believing that everyone knows all of your absolute best traits and thinks extremely highly of you.
How would you interact with people if you believed that everyone likes, admires, and respects you? You’d be happy, relaxed, friendly, and authentic. You’d reach out in love, because you wouldn’t be afraid of rejection or negative responses.
Here’s how Maya Angelou says it: “I’m young as morning and fresh as dew. Everybody loves me and so do you.”
That may be my best tip for meeting people when you’re travelling solo: act as if your fellow travellers and the locals want the best for you, love you, and want to be friends with you. You will radiate peace and joy, and people will want to connect with you.
What do you think? Comments welcome below!
If you’re a woman travelling alone, read 55 Travel Tips for Women – From Packing to Sightseeing.
“I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: Turn back.” – Erica Jong.
Need encouragement? Sign up for my weekly "Echoes of Joy" email - it's free, short, and energizing. Like me! Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.