Sometimes travelling solo means you want to be alone for your entire trip. Sometimes you actually want to meet fellow travellers or locals at your destination. Locals can give you insider information which sites like Trip advisor cannot you might become close friends and have free accommodation next time you return. Making friends will fellow travels also adds to your travels you don’t need a selfie-stick or tripod for photos, in addition, shared experiences like this can create lifelong friendships. However, it can be super intimidating to walk up to someone and strike up a conversation when you are on your own. I was and still am exceptionally good at this I hate boasting and hardly ever do so forgive me for this. In fact, my mom was told in the first grade that I have trouble making friends so I’m not extroverted. But, I know how to strike up conversations when travelling and I’m confident that these icebreakers will help you.
Sometimes people are nervous of talking to you. I know right obviously you are so friendly, nice, warm approachable you wonderful person you. Here’s the thing people don’t immediately know that so talk to them smile make sure your body language is open. This means that if you are sitting don’t cross your legs don’t cross your arms. Look happy and approachable. If you are female the important thing here is to know about the culture of your travel destination. I’m on repeat here by saying this but do research. In Turkey, a women smiling at a man she doesn’t know is considered flirtatious. Rather smile at ladies if you are a female in places like this and make female friends who can later introduce you to males or not sisterhood feeds the social soul from time to time. Once you know what signals to give, give them and then spot a person who smiles back if smiling is appropriate in your locale then ask questions related to your travels you can say “ I’m looking for a good restaurant/bar to go to what’s your favourite place?” This could lead to the person showing you where it is just Google Maps it as well or take a registered cab and ask the driver about the place so that you don’t end up being led to a creepy place which isn’t a restaurant/bar. There are other things you can ask like “what’s your favourite places around here?” or “what places would you tell travellers they absolutely must go to” be bold invite them along offer to pay or buy lunch this may sound like you are trying to buy a friend one drink or meal doesn’t break the bank. And even if you don’t click at least you got to interact socially. Soon you will be making a new friend if you remain open to it.
If you are eating at a restaurant take your favourite book with and put it on the table. You don’t have to read it just have it there. Someone can then comment on it and that’s how a chat can be started. You can even put your map of the city, your guidebook and camera on the table if you feel comfortable to do so. That way other patrons will see that you are travelling and they might strike up a conversation. You can also wear something unusual or from home. I wore items from home and people would ask me where I bought them and then I could say from South Africa and I’m from Cape Town and soon we would be chatting away you get the idea.
I don’t want to name the blogger but, he suggests you wear something outrageous and striking. He walks around with a hello kitty wallet. According to him, women have talked to him as they commented on his wallet. I guess it is a creative idea personally it comes off as a bit eerie paedophiles might be using tricks like this too. And he says he loves hello kitty but I’m doubtful. A conversation prop doesn’t have to be outrageous. My suggestion is that you wear or carry something meaningful from home that fits with who you are. Trying too hard is off-putting and people will feel like you don’t really want to get to know them and that you are seeking attention.
Don’t sit on your laptop or phone it gives the impression that you want to be left alone. Don’t keep your head in your book or wear earphones again it sends out blocking vibes. If you are at a bar sit at the bar if you feel uncomfortable at a table. Look good and dress comfortably because looking good means feeling good. Go through your camera and delete your bad travel pics if you are seated at a café, bar restaurant, people watch look up from your activity. Set up the foundation needed for being talked to chances are someone will want to speak to you then.
Meet people whilst on your journey
I regularly used student travel bus services. This meant that everyone in the bus was travelling to the same place as me and we would be treated to tours etc. On the bus, I’d spot empty seats with one person sitting on the one seat and the other one empty. If there’s no bag on the seat it means that the person is most likely open to conversation. And then I’d talk a bit about the destination we were heading to, introduce myself asked the other person what they were studying, why they decided to come to study in Germany etc. But I never flooded the person with questions. At the rest stops I’d grab coffee with the person talk a bit more and by the end of the journey, I’d ask if they wouldn’t mind it if we explored the place together if they were already in a group I’d ask If I can join. I never got a no you can’t join. And if I had gotten a no I would have joined another group because I did this with several people on the bus yip I hedged my bets at times this meant that all the people I had spoken to became my travel buddies.
On a plane you can do this too but, be wary you going to have to follow your gut instincts studies show that most Americans hate having an overly chatty fellow traveller talking to them on a plane. But, you can overcome this by not being boring don’t show photos of your children, cat, dogs, significant other or family right away unless they are doing it then go ahead. Try to ask the person questions about themselves be engaging keep it short and later on ask them if they are free to grab a coffee or a drink sometime after the flight exchange details and keep it simple light. No one wants to befriend desperate David or desperate Diane (sorry if your name is David or Diane just trying to be funny over here).
This tip covers boat, plane, train, bus and maybe even space travel who knows.
Use social media
I will admit I never used this but I would in the future. I already am part of a solo female travellers network on Facebook and I actively engage on the forum so that in future I can make a comment and say “hey ladies I’m in Vietnam is anyone there to right now I’d love to buy you a drink or meet up somewhere DM me and let me know if you are interested”There are so many other options like Tinder it’s not just a dating site, Meetup, Couch surfing, sites such as Sheswanderful.com, you can even be part of a dinner club where you eat and chat to people and the options go on and on. Just do a simple Google search and you will find plenty of options and ways to meet new people in your destination city.
Have a routine
When I visited Laval which is in the West of France I went to the same bakery every day by the third day the girl working there asked where I was from etc. Now admittedly I wasn’t alone at the time I visited a friend but if I was this routine would have opened up the door for me to become friends with the girl at the bakery. You can do the same go to the same coffee shop every morning chat with the barista a bit. Try to find a place that isn’t too busy or go buy fruit at the same fruit stall and greet the fruit seller chat a bit. If you do this for a while you will start having long talks and possibly making new friends who are locals.
Seek out other travellers
Like I said I travelled a lot via tour bus. But I also took tours in the places I visited. Being part of a tour allows you to see key sites in the place, you can gain a sense of direction and you also get to talk to fellow travellers. This way you can make friends with people or someone and travel around together. You can spot travellers by seeing them taking lots of photos or if they are at tourist sites they are probably travellers to, strike up a conversation ask “what do you think of the city or what do you think of this site?” and I think it’s great to fill in the blanks next thing you know, you have made a travel buddy. Something simple like taking photos of them at the place you find yourselves at and having them do the same to you is also another golden opportunity.
Your accommodation can also make it easier or harder for you to meet fellow travellers. If you book a hostel or backpackers you will most likely be sharing a room and you can meet people this way. You can also cook meals in the kitchen if you are a good cook it will smell great and it will draw attention. Offer to cook a meal for a few others this way you are putting yourself out there and soon everyone will want to be your travel buddy. The language of food is universal trust me.
I’m not talking about the Sean Paul song although I adore that song it has a good beat. Anyways join an activity group. Maybe you are an avid surfer join a surf club if you are an artist’s go for a few lessons if you are mad about reading join a book club. This way you meet people who are local and have at least one thing in common with you a love for surfing, art or books and there are many activity groups like these especially in bigger cities
Alternatively, go to the branch of your church, and attend a service talk to the priest or pastor he or she can put you in contact will fellow parishioners and this allows you to meet locals. And if you aren’t Christian go to the mosque, synagogue, temple…….. you get my drift.
If the place you are at has a language school attend language classes there and learn the language. You can kill two birds with one stone by learning the local language and meeting others. You could also sign up for short courses if you are a blogger go on a blogger writing retreat if there’s a university close by and you want to brush up on coding because you happen to be a programmer join that. This way you learn a new skill, improve your skill set and you interact with other people which set the scene for friendships.
Attend local events cultural and religious festivals just read up on customs. Yard sales, book sales, flea markets, community karaoke night, pop-up community street parties, charity fundraisers and more….. This way you will improve your chances of meeting locals.
Volunteer this way you are making a difference meeting fellow travellers and gaining insight into the place you are at. Volunteering can make your trip even more memorable and many organizations are flexible when it comes to scheduling so that you can enjoy your travel experience without feeling overburdened. Studies prove that people who volunteer are happier and tend to live longer.
If you are in Germany attend a Stammtisch at most German universities a Stammtisch is where all students can meet up and talk to each other usually drink, eat and become friends. Sometimes real lasting friendships are made sometimes it means you get to have wonderful chats with interesting people that you might not see again but that’s ok too. You don’t have to be a student to attend no one asks for your student card and its open to all. You just have to visit the universities website and international students’ page to find out the date and go. I met people who were ex-students and people who never studied at the University of Duisburg-Essen at these events and I’m Facebook friends with a few of the people I met at these events.
Learn the language
If you are able to learn the language or at least a few basic words sadly I missed out on making many more friends in places because I couldn’t speak the languages. Use apps like duo lingo to help you get a hold on the language so that you can meet locals.
Get a job
If you are planning on staying for a few months or even longer at your travel destination a good way to have the money to support your travels is to get a part-time job. You can bartend, work at an attraction site think Disney or a skiing lodge, teach English or tutor. Find a local travel company, travel magazine, online travel site and offer to write pieces for them if you are a strong writer. This way you could meet people you are working with and this provides another means to the end of making friends.
Extra tips and important points to remember
Some people are cold or even impolite dig deeper and have empathy maybe they are having a bad day it’s never right to be rude but cut people some slack. It can be hurtful but learn to brush this off it’s ok everyone won’t like you. Don’t be discouraged if people you are trying to chat to are aloof just keep at it you will meet someone nice there is many kind people in the world.
Remember to be kind yourself what you reap you will sow and karma is real. Be yourself and be genuine don’t dish out fake compliments people see through unauthentic interactions. Talk to people whom you see as potential friends or acquaintances, people who draw you in and make them feel special. Everyone is unique in their own way. If you are talking to anyone just because you are lonely and you don’t care about meaningful interaction people won’t stay talking to you.
If you are homesick whilst travelling don’t lock yourself up in your hostel/ hotel room go out there talk to people force yourself you won’t meet anyone in your room unless it’s a burglar who broke into to your room and trust me you have higher principles than being friends with a burglar.
At times it is impossible to meet others you have maybe already tried all these tips but it’s just not working for you. In this case, the routine tip will at the very least allow you to interact with others for a few minutes every day and this can be enough to ensure that you don’t become a sad lonely traveler. Accept the alone time which the universe is giving you reflect on things treat yourself, spoil yourself and find enjoyment. It’s so rare to be able to be alone so savour the moment. After all, you are the most important person that you will ever meet.
Thank you so much for reading my blog. Have you travelled solo? What did you like about it or hate about it? Let me know in the comments. I love reading comments on my blog so feel free to comment. If you want to just chat I’m open to that as well just email me. Lastly, do any of you know how to do this at work networking events, cocktail parties etc. because although I’m good at it for travelling I feel there’s room for improvement in other areas of my life. And I’m currently attending conferences in my field to try and land a career any advice would be highly appreciated.
Until next time
Wishing you many happy travels through the journey of life!
xxx Nikki xxx