I am a huge proponent of solo traveling. You have to take responsibilities for your trip and you are totally free to do anything you want! One of the recurrent answers I hear when it comes to solo traveling is the fear of being lonely.
We all went through this and the truth is that… your mindset is completely different when you travel on your own! Unconsciously, you know that it’s a question of survival to speak to someone as we, human beings, need each other 😉
That’s why you will meet loads of people, no matter what, no matter where, no matter how. Even if you have no idea how it will go; but isn’t it the purpose of traveling?
I will try to formalise some tips I use myself that can empower you to meet people – locals and travelers! Here are 7 tips to meet people when solo traveling, from general advice to more operational tips:
1) Be proactive & don’t be selective
Don’t wait for them to speak to you and speak to them first! It’s more of a general mindset for solo traveling, but I consider it a good principle to start with. You are always surrounded by people; in the bus, in a park, in a hostel, in a bar, at the museum… Try your luck!
Of course, it implies being observant: maybe you shouldn’t bother that guy with earphones or these honeymoon lovebirds and target another hungry traveller or a couple that looks bored to death!
One more thing that I witnessed are reactions like: “Oh that guy is not cool enough for me; no need to speak to him”. WTF??? You just met that person 5 minutes ago, give him or her a chance! 😉
2) Ask questions
This is something I just started to realise not so long ago, traveling with my best friend. While I would usually use maps.me to find my way, he would just ask someone. I guess it’s just my personality (I prefer finding things by myself OR I don’t like to think I’m bothering people; you can choose), but I found this contrast interesting and it does make you meet a lot of people!
3) Make people curious about you
I have a lot of strange stuff with me, all the time. As the time passes, I realise that my dream catcher necklace or my broken green watch full of water make people want to engage a conversation with me! It actually happened just before I started to write this post: I was in the elevator, and 2 ladies asked what my arm full of bracelets was about 😉
Some people travel with their country flag, with a backpack full of blazons or badges, with a music instrument or circus materials… time to find your ice-breaker?
PS: The opposite is true as well, be proactive and engage a conversation when you find something interesting with someone 😉
4) Stay in the right hostels
I really discovered the importance of choosing the right hostel not so long ago. I used to take the cheapest one straight but now it is as important as the atmosphere, the quality of the common rooms, the activities organised by the hostel, and the location. I mainly use HostelWorld and I carefully read the reviews!
My favourite hostel so far is Tatamka Hostel in Warsaw (nope, I don’t own any shares 😉 ): the common room and the kitchen are amazing, the staff is great and welcomed me with some vodka shots and they make sure that guests meet each other!
5) CouchSurfing is a gold mine
CouchSurfing is great for cross-cultural sharing and to meet lots of people. I mostly use CS for the event page: it’s how I met most of my friends during my 6-month stay in Hong Kong! I also discovered the “Hangouts” use (on mobile app only): it’s great! You basically press a button on the app saying that you want to walk around/have a coffee/go party/etc. and people can send you requests to hang out (you can accept/reject!).
It’s the first website I check once I arrive in a new city (along with #6 Free Walking Tours) and it never disappointed me!
My next steps? Creating CS events myself when I travel and getting involved in Paris huge CS scene!
5bis) Meetup as well
Meetup is also a great platform to browse events locally: from badminton groups to startup lovers and board game amateurs or bitcoin miners, there is something for everyone!
6) Free Walking Tours
Free Walking Tours will make you meet locals, other travellers while you explore the city! It’s basically a small group of travellers guided by a local who explains the city. You can register or just show up at the meeting point 🙂
They occur almost daily in big cities and there is usually one per district or topic. For example in Warsaw, you have daily Free Walking Tours about the old town, the communist history, the Jewish history, the alternative districts, and many more!
Also, it’s tip-based! You just pay what you want after the tour. Nice when you are on a budget.
7) Find your universal language
I come upon a language barrier very often, but it doesn’t mean that you cannot communicate anymore! Some people draw other people, some are awesome with a musical instrument, some love street football… what is your talent? 😉
Bonus – A tip from the book “On a roulé sur la Terre” (Sylvain Tesson & Alexandre Poussin, who cycled the entire world): when they were lost, they would open a map and really show in public that they were obviously lost (or even pretend to be) until a local would approach them. It worked perfectly and they often spent days together!
If there’s at least 1 tip that you found helpful, please tell me in a comment and I’ll be super happy 😉 And feel free to share yours!