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17 Tips for Making Friends While Traveling Solo

by Steve Scott | Join Him On Facebook

Traveling Solo TipsIt’s widely known that the best part of travel is sharing memories with other people.

So what do you do if you’re traveling by yourself?

Well, the simple answer is you make friends.

The problem is it’s hard for many people to form friendships when they’re solo and outside their comfort zone.


I’m definitely one of those people who tend to be introverted.

It’s not natural for me to start conversations with strangers.

However, I’ve learned a number of tricks to help me overcome this personality trait and meet a lot of people.

Some of whom will be lifelong friends.  (To learn how to find time and money to travel, read my post on how to start a new life.)

In today’s post, I want to give you a number of these tips on how to make friends while traveling solo.  Specifically, I’m going to list seventeen discoveries I’ve made while doing eight months of solo travel:

#1- Forget your hang-ups

This is the most important tip I can give.  A lot of people travel with a number of hang-ups and ‘reasons why’ they can’t do something.  They feel like they’re too old (or young, scared, wealthy, etc.) to try do something.  Stuff like, “I could never stay in a hostel because it’s full of party-hearty 18 year-olds.”

Many of the tricks I’m about to discuss might seem geared toward people in their teens and twenties.  But I’ve used them to make friends with people ranging from the age of 18 all the way to a sweet old grandmother in her 70’s.  Don’t put an age requirement on friendships.  You can learn something from almost anyone you encounter.

#2- Regularly stay in a hostel

Without a doubt, hostels are the best resource for meeting people.  At first I was a little worried I’d meet a bunch of crazy people (like what’s seen in one of my favorite commercials). The reality is hostels are filled with a mixed age range of travelers.  Of course you’ll find the typical young backpacker traveling the world.  But you’ll also get a chance to meet families enjoying a budget-minded vacation.

A great secret to hostels is they often offer private rooms if you want some personal space.  That way you get the experience of a hotel while enjoying the community aspect of a hostel.

Now, it’s important to do your homework when booking a hostel.  I use a combination of sites like Hostels and Hostelworld to research what other people think of a particular location.  Most of the time, you’ll get an extremely accurate depiction of what they’re really like.

#3- Couchsurfing

I’ve only tried Couchsurfing once (while in Ireland). The idea is simple.  People throughout the world open their home and offer a free place to stay.  Why would someone do this?  Well, for many folks it’s a way to broaden their horizons and meet people who share a love of traveling.

It’s not about having a free place to stay.  The benefit of couchsurfing is you get to meet a local who can show you around and give a perspective you wouldn’t get on your traditional “tourist experience.”

Couchsurfing isn’t as scary as you might think…even if you’re a woman.  I’ve met a number of females who have “couchsurfed” a number of times in a guy’s home and made a lasting friendship.  What these women do is only contact someone who has a lot of positive reviews from others who have stayed in their home.

#4- Enjoy your favorite activity

A site like Meetup can be one of your best traveling tools.  Here you’ll find a collection of groups interested in a particular sport, hobby or activity.  So if you’re into hiking/trekking it’s easy to find local groups who are into this activity.  One of the quickest ways to bond with a stranger is to share a hobby you both love.

#5- Learn a new skill

What if you don’t have a hobby that can be shared?  Well, a great trick is to try something that’s specific to a region.  You could take a language class.  Learn how to play Flamenco guitar.  Get instructions in traditional Tuscany cooking.  Or even put on your “ceilidh dancing” shoes and learn how the Scots cut loose.  Not only will you meet fellow travelers with these activities, you’ll also get a chance to experience something different.

To get started, I recommend using your guidebook.  Get an idea of what’s unique to the area you’re visiting.  Then ask around and see if somebody offers instruction in this skill.

Plus I highly recommend using a resource like Craigslist.  Here you’ll find a bunch of local pages of people who offer tutoring and instruction.

#6- Find virtual traveling partners

Not only is the Internet a great place to do research, it’s also useful for meeting people.  For instance, on a site like Virtual Tourist, you can post in forums and find traveling buddies.  This is great for those who visit an area on their own but still want to share an experience with another person.

#7- Go on a pub crawl

This is one of those tips geared toward younger travelers.  A great way to quickly make friends is to go on “pub crawls” offered in most large cities and towns.  Usually this involves a traveling to 4 or 5 different bars in a night and making friends over a few pints.

I’m not saying you need to get drunk to have fun.  However it’s been my experience that alcohol is one of the world’s best social lubricants.  Drink responsibly and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you meet people.

Hostels (and some hotels) are great places to find a pub crawl.  Usually you’ll see them advertised as part of the pamphlet collection in the reception area.

Plus if you’re in certain cities, I highly recommend going on the pub crawls offered by the Sandeman’s company.  They offer a fun time with the knowledge that you’re being looked after by a sober group of guides.

#8- Take a package tour

When I started my trip in April, I was bit of a travel snob.  I felt the only way to experience a country was to do everything on my own.

After four month I changed my mind.  During the last month I ditched the do-it-myself attitude and joined a few five-day tours through Scotland and Wales.  It was on these tours that I formed some friendships that will last for years to come.

There are a lot of benefits to doing a “package tour,” even if you’re a seasoned backpacker.  You’re basically trapped with a group of fellow travelers.   So it’s only natural to start conversations and make friends.

#9- Go on a day or walking tour

You don’t have to go on a lengthy tour to make friends.  In fact, you could easily get the same thing from a walking tour that lasts only a few hours.

Every tourist area has some form of a walking tour.  Sign up and be open to meeting people.  All you have to strike up conversations when the tour guide isn’t talking.  Most people are open to chatting when there is nothing else to do or look at.

==>>Find a pair of comfortable walking shoes

#10- Become a leader

One of the basic principles of human psychology is people are attracted to those who demonstrate the quality of leadership.  Instead of waiting for things to happen, become the person who makes it happen.

For instance, let’s say you’re in a hostel on a slow night.  Rather than sit around and watch television, recruit a group of people to grab some drinks at a local pub.  Or even better, pull out a deck of cards and suggest a game.  Which brings us to…

#11- Bring a deck of cards

A deck of playing cards is another incredible tool for making friends.  It’s a way to be competitive while engaging in friendly banter with someone you’ve just met.

For instance, last summer my ex-girlfriend and I met a group of Saudi-Arabians during a long train ride through Italy.  All it took was a suggestion to teach them the game of Bullshit.  They didn’t know the rules at first.  But after five minutes all you could hear throughout the train-car was the sounds of people screaming, “Bullshit!”

#12- Ask people questions

Another great way to meet people is to not be afraid to look stupid. While you’re sightseeing you can strike up a conversation by asking for directions or getting suggestions about “what’s interesting” in that area.

You don’t even have to save this one for when you’re stuck.   I’ll often ask a question even if I already know the answer.  I don’t think this is being deceptive.  Instead it’s simply an excuse to start a conversation and meet someone new.

#13- Take an interest in people

Know this… people love totalk about themselves.   We’re all basically selfish and subconsciously wait for someone to give us a chance to do a little bragging.  Use this to your advantage.

After I start talking to someone, I’ll often ask a bunch of open-ended questions.  Like “Where else have you traveled to?”, “What’s your favorite place?”, “What’s cool around here?”, “Are you on holiday or taking a break from work?”, or even a simple “Where are you from?”

Before you leave on your trip, pick up a copy of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.  In my opinion, this is the best book I’ve ever read on social dynamics.  It’ll teach you how to quickly turn a casual conversation into a lasting friendship.

#14- Be open to new experiences

It’s pretty easy to get stuck into “tourist mindset” where you only do things suggested in a guidebook.   That’s why I recommend a simple exercise… whenever you make a new friend, say ‘yes’ to any (safe) activity this person suggests.

I’ve learned that you can never plan an experience that might change your life.  Sometimes the most innocuous suggestion leads to an amazing time.

For instance, in July I was in Cork talking to a Dutch girl I first met in Dublin.  She suggested that I join her and a couple of Austrian guys on a 4 day road-trip through Western Ireland.  Although I never met these guys before, I decided to jump in a car and join them.

Some of my best memories in Ireland come from this trip.  We hiked around the Cliffs of Moher, drank in Dingle’s official pub/hardware store, and even picked up a random French hitchhiker who decided to tag along.  It was a great experience that didn’t come from an itinerary in a guidebook.

#15- Carry pen and paper at all times

Always carry a pen and piece of paper.  Or a phone with a Notepad feature.  This simple tool can help you turn a casual conversation into a friendship.  This is especially true if you share a mutual interest or connection.

If you like a person, find a “reason” for getting their contact information.  Tell them you need tips about where they’re from.  You could even ask if they would be willing to show you all their sites.

#16- Get a Facebook Account (and USE it!)

Facebook is the ultimate resource for maintaining contact with your friends.  You can send emails, ‘like’ their wall post, and comment on what they’re doing.  I love this site because it helps me stay connected with the people I’ve met.  This goes back to tip #13.  If you take an interest in a person’s life, they’ll take an interest in yours.

I like to use my “status update” to announce my itinerary for the upcoming week.  Often I’ll get a response from a person who either lives or is traveling to this area.  This makes it easy to share an experience with somebody else.

==>>Find a pair of comfortable walking shoes

#17- Above all…be safe!

Okay, I just gave a bunch of tips that’ll help you make friends while traveling solo.  Some will definitely help you push past your comfort zone.   However I have one final travel suggestion…

…use your head!

Most people are friendly and full of good intentions.  However there are a few who mean to do you harm.  No matter what, use your best judgment.  Your personal safety is more important than any of the tips I just described.  Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations.  And always listen to what your gut tells you.

Final Thoughts…

This has been a pretty lengthy post about meeting people while traveling solo.  I know a lot of you reading this have your own suggestions.  So I’d like to hear about any secrets you might have for making friends while traveling.

In the comment section below, please list any tricks or techniques that I might have missed.

And as I close this post, I’ll leave you with a quote from William Yeats, “There are no strangers, only friends you have not met yet.”

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{ 28 comments }

Eduard

I notice that most people have difficulties in meeting new people, especially when they’re doing relatively fast paced traveling. The good news is that all this stuff is learnable.

In the last years, I’ve known people who travel alone very often, and they enjoy the social side of traveling the most. This is because they are very sociable and able to meet people, to make friends wherever they go.

Always enjoy reading a good article 🙂

Cheers,

Eduard

Steve Scott

Thanks, it really can be a heck of a lot of fun getting out and meeting people and traveling. A little socialibility will get you a long way.

Dr Jeremy Hunt

I love this post Steve. Great Job. What connects with me the most is leadership. The entire world is begging for somebody, anybody, to show them the way, how to have fun, how to explore, etc. A little bit of leadership with others’ feelings at the core of your heart will have people clinging to you where ever you go. Adopting leadership mentality is a life changer.

Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire

Steve,

Awesome post on traveling. After all, the other half of all this work is the ability to deisgn your own lifestyle, right?

I still haven’t read my copy of How to Influence Friends. Thanks for the reminder. One of the best travel books that I have read is the one the Tim Ferris recommends, called “Vagabonding” by Rolf Potts. It really puts the truly important things in perspective.

I need to get over to your blog more often. I really appreciate all of your comments.

-Joshua Black
The Underdog Millionaire

Steve Scott

Josh,
You would definitely love “..influence people” you should check it out when you have the time.
I also agree wholeheartedly, “Vagabonding” is an AWESOME book and almost essential if you are going to do any serious long term traveling. (it is on my “steve recommends” list”

Glad to comment on your site, I like what you write and glad you like what you get here sometimes too.

Murlu

These words couldn’t have come at a more perfect time Scott.

A friend and I have been busy planning a trip to Europe (first time going for each of us) in February. There’s so much that we need to account for that (and I’m guilty of this) that we’re forgetting about the human aspect.

Sure, we can get wrapped in what it will cost and where we’ll go but it’s like the post says, you have to keep an open mind while traveling in order to truly take it all in.

Going to keep these tips in mind if we ever get over there – cheers!

Steve Scott

Murray,

Cool you will love it. It can be done pretty economically too. I sometimes get private rooms just because some days you want privacy, but hostels really are a great way for a couple young guys to get out there and meet people.

If a ancient old guy like me can have a blast a young “hipster” like yourself will love the scene. (OK I am not that old, I know).

I also recommend the book ‘Vagabonding’ by Rolf Potts that Joshua pointed out. If you have any specific questions between now and then feel free to hit me up. I should be back in the States well before then for more ‘timely’ answers. Though, I am starting to think of going to my NEXT trip in Feb. time frame. Maybe Australia/New guinea.
Gene´s last blog ..Think to Grow Your ReachMy ComLuv Profile

Preeti @ Heart and Mind

Steve,

Making friend while is great always, specially when you are traveling. I like many of the suggestions.

When I travel, I always ask local people where the good restaurants and site seeing places are, and I get to learn something new and meet new friends/people that way!

How are you enjoying your travel right now?

Steve Scott

Yup,

No one can steer you to the good stuff like a local. I have even ended up “site seeing” with a locals. IT is a surprising how many people skip “sites” when they live there. And of course when it come to bars/restaurants and often destinations you really want to avoid going where “everyone goes”

lesley

Isn’t interesting how things come around in a circle? I was really interested in what you said about making contact with people and asking open ended questions. I’m not unfriendly, but face to face I’m shy and it’s something I’ve never mastered. I just sit. I’m boring.

But the technique you mention isn’t just valid face to face – I’ve made contact with lots of people through Twitter because I get to think about what I’m going to say and I don’t feel as shy as I do in person. I’m wondering if I ever get the chance to get out and meet people again, maybe I’ll be able to do a better job in person as a result of experience on Twitter. Does that make sense?

Glad you enjoyed Scotland.

Dave the Archaeological Geophysicist

Steve, first time reader, first time commenter 🙂

Was referred to this via Twitter. Excellent post; it will definitely come in use when I go off to some rural town for work (holidays? I haven’t had one of those in years!).

In the marketing work I have done, I learned from Carnegie’s book and can say for certain that it definitely works! Now, you’ll excuse me while I go and subscribe to your RSS feed. 🙂

Cheers!

Steve Scott

Dave,

Glad to have you stop by, also glad you enjoyed the post and hope you keep coming by.

Carnegie’s book is a “classic” for a reason, because it has been proven to be true time and again over the years

Steve

Lesley,

I think you are right. You can easily expand some of the ‘meet people ‘ aspects to an online environment. To be honest I actually prefer to meet people online too, I also feel better when I am able to “think through” my responses.

Sometimes it does help to work up your skills with live people though.

Linda

Very interesting post! Any pictures from Ireland/England? Enjoyed those from Scotland

Ralph

This is a really comprehensive post. You clearly have thought out your traveling just like you do your business. What really comes across is that you make your travel spontaneous and take advantage of whatever opportunities arise. I did hostels on my European summer (66) but consider myself way past them now particularly when I think about having my wife with me. Nothing constrains a guy like wanting to make a girl happy particularly when most of us are clueless.

Taylor

Great article Steve. I am about to start on a long solo quest that will have me travelling for I hope a long time. I will take all of these points to heart and see what success follows.

Steve Scott

Good deal Taylor. A long travel experience can really be a blast. I hope you enjoy yourself. Feel free to drop in and ask a question if you run into any in the planning stage, I would be very glad to help you out!

MIchelle Bizon

Steve,

Great post! I did a five-day Haggis Adventures tour of Scotland two summers ago. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had traveling (and in terms of general life experiences, for that matter). I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I’m hoping to do a Shamrocker tour of Ireland one day. Love the advice!

Steve Scott

Glad you liked the post. Traveling and meeting new people is an unbelievable amount of fun. Truly experiences of the lifetime, and in some ways better than if you came with your own group.

You definitely have to go and take that tour of Ireland someday soon. A great place!

Jewelry Assembly Chicks

I’ve been traveling on my own since I was 18. Europeans are the most friendly hospitable peeps on Earth! Follow the rules of customs in foreign lands. I never had a problem, always followed my instincts & my gut, if it didn’t feel right, I fled the situation. I’ve had the best time doing things on the fly & just saying “hi”. Keep your radar on full power & you will have the most rewarding, fulfilling adventures ever!

Shane Ryans

Scott, I love your site. Thank you for the great tips. There are those of us who are kinda loners, but couchsurfing sounds awesome. Especially, if it is somewhere you have not been before. Keep up the good work and be cautious in your travels.

Nick Parker, Backpacker

This truly is a comprehensive article. It’s worth noting that the value of one’s travel cannot always be measured in Dollars (Pounds, Euros, etc.). Travel is all about the relationships along the way.

Steve Scott

That is a fact. Connecting with people is what travel is all about. I met so many great people on my travels that it is actually amazing. At first I had to “force” myself a little to meet new people, but after a while it was easy and I am very glad i did!

Dave@Colombia Travel Blog

I’m a natural introvert as well, and have used most or all of these tips at some point or another in my travels. I’ve learned I enjoy a balance. Right now I’m working from a private hostel room in Banos, Ecuador, but I know once I join a group activity, like a canyoning day trip, I’ll have a good time meeting other travelers and possibly hanging out with them after the trip as well.

Michael

Hi Steve,

Happy to discover your site, and this list for whenever I next travel. I don’t think you missed any basics, though of course it is hard when you’re traveling alone and are shy/introverted. But as long as you keep an open mind, and are open to all possibilities, that can be enough!

Michael

Steve Scott

For sure. I am not the most naturally outgoing guy in the world but when traveling keeping an open mind and being willing to roll with it, it is surprising what opportunities may presentt themselves

Manas Rawat

Hey Steve,
Interesting tips. I travel alone a lot too and am the extrovert kinds who talks to almost everyone. I have made lotsa friends and have had a good time. I usually use you #12.. ask people about the place and whats interesting to do there. I also ask them if they would like to join us too. (Its usually not worked though;) )
People can also try our website Mingle Trips (http://www.mingletrips.com) where they can find and chat with others who are going to travel to the same cities on the same dates.
We have just made it, all suggestions are welcome 🙂
Cheers.

travelyn

Hi Steve, A really interesting blog post. I agree on your points on group tours. I find it a great way to make friends and friendships. How to win friends and influence people has always been a favorite read. Must get hold of the vagabonding title you mentioned and have a read. Keep up the good work.

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