Make Friends Travelling Alone
As much as I enjoy travelling with friends and family, I often find myself travelling alone. After all, life is too short to be waiting around on everyone else’s busy schedules. Plus, even though I start the journey solo, I often wind up making friends along the way. Some of these acquaintances have even become friends for life.
But how do you make new friends with strangers on the road? Here are some tools and strategies you can use.
There is a lot of bad press about how social media and technology make people unsociable. However, when used correctly, they can work wonders. Meetup is an app that connects strangers by listing local activities anyone can sign up for. I signed up for a hike in Barcelona and met other women who love hiking. We still keep in touch until today.
Other apps like Flip the Trip, Travel Pal, Backpackr and Tourlina help you connect with other travellers before and during your trip itself.
At St James Walkway in New Zealand with new friends from Ireland and Hungary
Make use of social media
Instagram is a useful tool to gain inspiration about places you want to visit but interestingly, it’s also a way to make new friends. When I was living in New Zealand, I followed a few Instagram profiles that had beautiful mountain pictures. A lady from Budapest and a man from Bosnia followed me back, and we bonded online over our love for mountains.
My family and I with our Bosnian friend, Naid, in the middle
It turns out the Bosnian man was the president of a hiking association in Bosnia. Once when I was in Europe, he invited me and my whole family on an overnight hiking trip, free of charge. It was an incredible experience. The lady from Budapest also met me for dinner and shared the coolest bars to hang out on weekends. I would have never had the opportunity to encounter these experiences if I hadn’t connected with them on Instagram.
I am also part of a few fantastic travel Facebook groups such as Girls Love Travel, Travelettes and The Solo Female Traveler Network. People often post tips and insights about different areas of the world, and members often end up meeting and exploring new countries together.
There are also country-specific travel Facebook groups such as the Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Backpacker/Traveler group and Travel Europe, which will give you first-hand insight into specific countries.
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Open up your accommodation options
About to embark on an adventure with fellow hostel dwellers in Penang
The best way to make new friends is to stay at a hostel. There is a high chance of meeting other solo travellers who want to meet new people too. If dorms and bunk beds aren’t your thing, you can always book a private room and socialise in the common areas.
I once bonded with some Scandinavian travellers in a hostel kitchen over a heated debate on whether American or English pancakes were better. They have since come to visit and stay with me in Barcelona, where I now live. Hostels also often organise social events like pub crawls or free walking tours, so make sure you sign up for these activities if you want to make new friends.
If you are looking to connect with locals, Culture Go Go provides you with a free room and board in return for practising English with your host. Couchsurfing also offers free accommodation to connect a global community of travellers. WWOOF offers free accommodation, food and the opportunity to learn about organic/biological growing and farming.
Take part in group activities and experiences
Airbnb Experiences hosts a range of events such as cooking workshops, day hikes or painting classes, which allow you to have fun, immerse yourself in the local culture and make new friends while you are at it. Foodies can look to Eatwith for small dinner parties, food tours as well as cooking classes, where you can bond with strangers over a shared love for food.
Make an effort
While social media and technology are tools to help you make friends, you will actually need to make an effort once you are connected with strangers for them to become friends! Every time I meet someone new on the road, I always give a genuine smile and ask how they are. Sometimes I feel a bit self-conscious but 9 out of 10 times, I’ve discovered the other person is feeling equally awkward and is in fact relieved when I strike up a conversation.
If I’m going out to eat or to try a new activity, unless I want some alone time, I always invite my new friends to join. Munching on exotic cuisine bonds strangers in a unique way. Making an effort with the new friends I meet has saved me from many sticky situations on my travels. For example, when my drink was spiked in Thailand, my new friends helped me home unharmed. I dread to think what could have happened if they weren’t there.
How I Make Friends On The Go
Travelling increases your knowledge and opens your mind to new insights and cultures. You also get to meet people from all walks of life, and the friends you make while travelling will definitely enrich your experience and make life all the more colourful.
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All images courtesy of Aisha Preece