Solo travel is exhilarating. It’s liberating. And it’s transformative.
But at the same time, it can get pretty lonely.
Over the years, I’ve gone on various solo trips and moved to places where I didn’t know a soul.
I’ve found that it’s actually easier to meet people when traveling alone than when traveling with people, because you’re really forced to put yourself out there in ways that you probably wouldn’t do otherwise.
For people who are naturally outgoing and extroverted, this might come naturally. But for all you introverted folks out there (holler!), this might take a bit more effort.
If you’re finding it difficult to meet people while traveling, here are some ways that I’ve had success:
- Go to coffeeshops
Depending on what city you’re in, it can be really easy to meet people at coffeeshops, especially fellow travelers and “digital nomads”. If not for the coffee, most travelers tend to go for the free Wifi. Sound familiar?
Just grab your computer or a good book, and strike up a conversation with the person next to you. I met a ton of people in Medellin that way.
2. Attend Meetup events
Meetup is a website where users can organize and schedule events. If you’re in a bigger city, you’ll find that there’s a Meetup for pretty much anything.
Want to learn a new language? Learn how to dance salsa? Attend a yoga class? Go to a networking event? Go rock climbing? All of the above?
The great thing about Meetup is that you’ll meet people who automatically share at least one common interest with you.
3. Use Couchsurfing
Couchsurfing is basically like a free version of Airbnb. It’s a website where locals offer free accommodation to travelers in exchange for some good conversation and company. The idea is to find hosts that you think you might get along with (judging from their profile at least), and then get to know the city you’re in from a local’s perspective.
Couchsurfing was the first way that I met people online. I was traveling to Munich for Oktoberfest and all of the hotels were booked. I needed a place to stay and ended up finding a nice German guy who agreed to host me for that period. I was nervous about staying in someone’s house that I had never met before (to be honest, the idea totally freaked me out), but I ended up having an amazing weekend–and all with people that I had just met during those few days!
Then I did the same thing several years later. My friend and I couchsurfed with a really awesome Brazilian guy living in Munich. We all went to Oktoberfest together and had a blast. And I met up with him in Brazil just several months ago!
If you don’t need a place to stay (or aren’t totally comfortable staying in the house of a complete stranger), you could also post in the Couchsurfing forums, saying that you’re looking to meet other people–although be careful going this route if you’re female, since you’ll probably get a lot of sleazy guys who are looking to “hang out” for the wrong reasons. Just use good judgement, filter the sleazy ones out, and you might end up meeting great people! I did this when I was living in Rio and ended up meeting a really nice Aussie girl (also living there) who I became good friends with.
The Couchsurfing Hangouts app is also a great resource. The app shows you other locals and travelers in your vicinity, with whom you can connect with and well, hangout with.
The nice thing about Couchsurfing is that generally the people who use it tend to love to travel and be open-minded (presumably, like yourself!).
4. Use Facebook Groups
The first time I moved abroad alone was to Toulouse, France to teach English for the year. Before going, I joined a Facebook group for other Toulouse teaching assistants like myself. One of my first nights there, a group of us all met up for drinks. We all got along well and ended up becoming friends.
Here’s some of us on our first night out…
Through that same group, I also met a really sweet Irish girl who I became friends with and ended up traveling with several times. We even met up in Toulouse several years later for a reunion!
My point? There are about a gazillion Facebook groups out there. If you’re staying somewhere for a longer period of time, join the Facebook groups in the city you’re in and connect with other group members. Post something saying that you are looking to meet other people. You never know who you might meet!
5. Use Bumble BFF & Hey! VINA
Bumble BFF and Hey! VINA are like the Tinder for making girl friends (sorry guys).
It’s pretty simple: You create a profile with a bio and a few pictures of yourself…and then start swiping!
On my first girl date in Barcelona, I ended up meeting a really cool Japanese girl who I got along with. Since then, we’ve gone out, traveled to Costa Brava and Montserrat, and have gone to a Barcelona soccer match together.
Here’s a little proof:
6. Stay in hostels
I’ll admit–I’m getting to the age where I feel a bit old for hostels. I prefer a good night’s sleep to partying all night, and would rather have my own room than share one with a bunch of strangers.
The reason that I still stay in hostels is primarily to meet other people. If, like me, you need a good night’s sleep and a quiet room, you could look into getting a private room at a hostel (although sometimes they are pretty expensive and just not worth the price).
When I was living in Paris, I wanted to take a trip down to my old stomping grounds of Toulouse. But instead of taking the usual method of transportation (the train), I decided to save some money and use the website Covoiturage (now BlaBlaCar) to carpool.
BlaBlaCar lets you find and share rides with drivers that are headed in the same direction as you. You then pay for a share of the gas (or whatever the driver decides to charge).
On this particular ride, I ended up hitting it off with the driver. We ended up becoming good friends–and still talk to this day, six years later! He is even planning to come to Barcelona to visit me soon.
Not only can it be a great way to meet people, but carpooling is also generally much less expensive than traveling by train (or bus).
8. Work from a Coworking Space
If you’re working while traveling, working from a coworking space can be another good way to meet people. I’ve found that it’s really a hit or miss, depending on the coworking space.
My coworking space in Florianópolis, Brazil (O Sitio) was amazing. Not only was it a beautiful space, but I also met a lot of great people. The people who worked there were all super friendly and I ended up becoming friends with several of the other coworkers.
They held events and parties almost every night of the week, so it had a very social atmosphere.
But I’ve also worked from other coworking spaces where I didn’t really meet anyone at all.
My advice? Feel it out. If the coworking space is super quiet, there’s a good chance that it’s not very social and might not be so easy to meet people. I loved O Sitio because there were quiet spaces to work, but also common areas where you could mingle more. Plus, it looked like this…
The truth is, there are limitless ways to meet people while traveling, and what’s listed above is only a small sampling.
You might have to step outside your comfort zone a bit (especially if you’re an introvert like me), but the end result–travel companions and possible life-long friends–will make it all worth it.
Trust me on that one.