When I quit my desk job in 2014 and started to travel solo, my biggest concern wasn't whether my online businesses would fail. It was whether I would be able to make friends on the road!
Growing up, I always dreamt about solo-travel and in my starry-eyes, I saw it as this amazing, life-changing adventure. A pilgrimage to seek other-worldly values and to find true happiness.
Don't get me wrong, I still believe travelling solo was the best decision I've ever made and it did live up to (most of) those dreams and desires. But I discovered one important necessity; the people you meet along the way can make or break your trip.
Meeting some randoms in Ho Chi Minh City after creating a "Hangout" on the Couchsurfing app.
1. Stay in Hostels (it doesn't have to be a dorm!)
People usually stay in hostels for two reasons. Either they are on a budget, or they want to meet like-minded travellers. But most of the time, it's both!
The best kind of hostels will host events, meet-ups and group activities as an icebreaker for its guests. So even if you don't make friends with the people you are sharing a room with, there will be plenty of opportunities to do so in the common areas.
My favourite hostel booking site by far is Booking.com. The detailed filters and review system give you a superpower ability to discover exactly what you are looking for. They also have plenty of last minute deals so it's the perfect site for spontaneity.
Staying in a hostel doesn't always mean you have to choose between the top or bottom bunk either. Plenty of hostels have affordable private rooms if you fancy a bit of privacy while also reaping the benefits of the in-house community and events that come with it.
2. Learn a New Skill
Joining a class is a really good excuse to make friends abroad. Wherever you are, there are courses of all kinds waiting for your participation.
You can learn to cook local dishes, try yoga, surfing, go to the gym, photography classes, even educational and work conferences. There are plenty of fun things to learn while making friends all over the world.
3. Coworking and Coliving Spaces
I am writing this blog post from Hubud, a coworking space in Bali, Indonesia!
The main goal here is of course to get work done. But it's also a great place to meet people who are on the same page as you. Spaces like Hubud also throw regular events and outings so you can get to know everyone better.
4. Social Media Apps
OK, I'll say it, Tinder is great for solo travel and I'm not just talking about "hook-ups".
I've met plenty of awesome people on Tinder who have either joined me on an excursion or gone for drinks. Of course, this might be slightly different for straight women who, depending on what you are looking for, have to wade through questionable requests from guys who weren't brought up properly.
Couchsurfing has also helped me to meet with countless people on my journey. I rarely surf but I always use the "Hangout" feature when I travel solo. Within minutes, you can find people who want to do something fun in your local area.
Couchsurfing event in Tokyo, cooking class and language exchange!
You can probably guess what kind of service this website provides. Yep, it helps you find local meetup groups. You can search by genre from arts & culture, games, business, LGBT, photography and anything else you can think of.
Just remember to turn the email notifications off after signing up, you'll find out why.
6. Airbnb "Experiences"
From live music, surfing and street photography lessons, to social impact experiences.
There are Airbnb experiences available in almost every city you can visit. With most experiences conducted in group settings, they will offer an opportunity to bond with other travellers as well as learn or enjoy something from a local's perspective.
If you haven't already signed up for Airbnb, remember to use my referral link for £25 free travel credit or equivalent in your currency.
7. Facebook Groups
I enjoy using Facebook to talk with other nomads and discover places to work in places I've never been to before. It's also really helpful when finding people to hang out with abroad.
WebWorkTravel's Facebook Group is one of my favourites, but there are loads more, just search for the city you are visiting. Country-specific Facebook Groups are usually the best when you are trying to find travel buddies.
People love to talk. Mostly, people love to talk about themselves. If you are struggling to make conversation just ask a few travel questions to provoke a story out of someone. ‘Where are you from?’, ‘Where have you been?’, ‘Where are you going?'.
And don't forget, you are interesting too! You have embarked on an adventure across the globe, on your own! That's pretty cool and I'm sure there are loads of people out there who are interested to hear your reasons for it.
If all else fails, bring a pack of cards with you. People love card games.