Last Updated on June 7, 2023 by Christine Kaaloa
Each time I plan a new trip, I experience a slight hesitation:
– What if you start feeling lonely?
-What if something happens and there’s no one to help you?
Often these questions come from uncertain confidence and self-doubt. But loneliness is a choice. There are always ways to make friends as a solo traveler and I’m going to share them!
Table of Contents: 6 Ways to Make Friends as a Solo Traveler
6 Ways to Make Friends as a Solo Traveler
There are going to be times when loneliness on the road feels unavoidable. It can occur from feeling unfamiliar with a culture, isolated from social activity, feeling too shy to meet others or because you’re dipping into self-pity for single status.
There are obvious challenges to solo travel. But there’s a popular assumption for travelers to assume that loneliness happens to solo travelers simply because they are “alone”.
This is not true. Traveling with partners can bring equal bouts of loneliness due to complex social dynamics. Feelings of exclusion hit hard, when you’re not getting along with your travel partners. If you’re in a threesome, someone’s bound to get left out. If you’re in a relationship and your partner just doesn’t understand your needs or is giving their attention to others, feelings of loneliness may arise.
Solo travelers are liberated from these scenarios. As free agents, they can meet and join any type of dynamic without the shackles of feeling obligated or reliant upon them.
1. Avoid self-pity
The biggest hurdle for solo travelers is self-pity. It’s when it looks like everyone else is having fun but you as you’re tasked to do things on your own. This is pity talking and it can crush you if you let it.
When self-pity hits, it means you’re spending too much time thinking about the have-nots vs actively enjoying the haves. The moment it arises and you feel like indulging in it, STOP and jump tracks to doing. Plan your bus route, ask other travelers what they recommend in fun activities and see if anyone is doing something you might be interested in joining.
Solo travel is actually quite busy because it is easy to feel overwhelmed by surrounding stimuli but also responsible for making the most of your trip. Don’t waste time drowning in self-pity or you will ensure the death of a good plane ticket.
2. Talk to locals
So there’s a language barrier between you and locals… Mime, gesture, and find ways to play with your communication. You may make a fool of yourself and that is okay. Laughter is a positive universal language.
I find locals enjoy when a traveler speaks to them. Either it’s a way to practice their English, a novelty or just a cool way cultural exchange. Sometimes, I let children play with my camera. This brings smiles and some fun photos like the one above.
3. Look for fellow solo travelers
Solo travelers tend to be approachable and can often be the easiest person to meet as they are dying to share stories and travel insights. They’re also looking for companions to do things with and split budgets.
I met Chiaki whilst backpacking solo in India. She was another solo female traveler, a fellow vegetarian traveler and we met at a yoga ashram in India. We decided to travel together to Kanyakumari and then Madurai. Not only did I have a companion for part of my India trip but it helped me keep my travel budget while downsizing my stress of having it all figured out and how to get around India by bus.
Here’s my interview with her about solo travel in India
4. Smile and ask questions
When you’re a traveler, being approachable and approaching others will open doors to your social life, so smile and look friendly!
Questions are practical and non-threatening ways of opening up a conversation in a useful way. It’s also a great ice-breaker that can lead to ways to join and collaborate itineraries!
Nepal and India were where I accidentally became a first-time solo traveler. Being on my own for the first time, I was a uncertain and timid. I met Nepali children on a country bus and they adopted me into their day. Curious about a foreign traveler, they asked questions, and when we arrived at our temple destination, grabbed my hand and took me on their own tour. The photo below is taken by one of them, whom I taught to use my DSLR.
5. Make an effort
For shy people making an effort to meet people is a challenge, but force yourself to open and active about meeting people. Traveling alone, it’s easy to feel shy at times or to feel awkward for being alone. Don’t be. Talk to people. Make an effort to make friends and life will surprise you.
In your hostel, approach other travelers and ask if you can join them at their table for breakfast.
Extend an invitation for other travelers to join you if they are interested in visiting the same attractions.
Invite yourself to things.
These sound like scary and very forward behavior, but they are common ways solo travelers operate. Observe other travelers and how they work, and you’ll find that’s what they’re doing. It’s called resourcefulness and making friends in the world. You don’t know how many solo female travelers I meet, who approach me to ask if I’m taking a taxi to their location and if we can split the cost of the ride. It happens a lot!
The more you do this, the more you’ll get comfortable with it. I never used to be the type of person to invite myself into other peoples’ plans. Now, I don’t think twice.
6. Don’t take rejection personally.
Traveling alone has given me a thick skin, as much of my needs are survival based.
There are times you may meet rejection if someone doesn’t want to join you in an activity or they don’t want company. Don’t take it personally. Please, please, please don’t. You are facilitating your travels. Not trying to make a best friend for life, but if you do, then great!
Travelers use other travelers to facilitate and engineer forwards travel. On the road, travelers consider budget survival first. Traveling can be expensive and there is a time limit to it. You’ll find travelers prioritizing money and time. Shrug it off- go onto the next person until you find a Yes!
7. Be open
– “Give yourself a chance to meet the stranger you’ve never met …in yourself!”
Travel teaches us to be open and make unlikely friends. You’ll be surprised how you connect and share time and memories with people you’d never think you’d talk to back home.
When I lived in South Korea, I went out with foreigners in my English teacher’s program who occasionally felt like mismatched personalities to mine. But I did not regret it. Every traveler offers something valuable and you might just miss it if you’re too selective about finding your ideal type of travel companion.
One should always be safe and cautious about who they make friends or trust. While I use most of these tips I’m sharing, I never divulge important information or let my guard down completely. I also use my independence to detach from people or situations, when they don’t feel right.