Iâ€™m often asked about whether or not I get lonely when travelling alone. Of course I get lonely, but generally I enjoy my own company a good deal. I donâ€™t really understand how people get bored when on the road. Even if Iâ€™m just sitting alone at a sidewalk table drinking a beer and writing postcards, isnâ€™t that something special in a foreign country?
But it can prove to be challenging. Iâ€™m a bit shy too, believe it or not.
I do feel that when travelling alone, people are more open to striking up a conversation with you than if youâ€™re surrounded by a group of friends. Most of the people I meet while on the road happen to be solo travellers too.
So hereâ€™s how I do it.
Staying in Hostels
The most obvious one of them all, right? I admit I really struggled with dorms on my trip around Italy. I didnâ€™t sleep well at all. People seem to have lost all good manners about keeping quiet in the super early hours of the morning.
But you really canâ€™t beat the social atmosphere of hostels. Hang out in the hostel bar or lounge for a little while, and youâ€™ll likely have new friends in no time.
I appreciate the efforts that hostels go through to make the experience more social. My hostel in Rome had a big party meet-up twice a week with a neighbouring hostel, which is fine if youâ€™re into taking a lot of shots in quick succession and having young drunk people all up in your face. But my hostel in Naples (Hostel of the Sun) hosted a really cool free dinner twice a week, with endless sangria. I met some cool people there because hey, sangria and free food.
If youâ€™re reaaaally not into the dorm thing, a private room might be worth it. Often theyâ€™re as good or better than hotels. My friend Trish visited me in Berlin and stayed at the Circus Hotel in a sweet suite, and used the hostelâ€™s social app to find other fun people to hang out with. We had wee bit of a party overlooking Berlinâ€™s radio tower.
Meet-Up.com and Couchsurfing.org
In most cities, youâ€™ll find lots of meet-up groups designed specifically for travellers or expats. Iâ€™ve used both Meet-Up.com and Couchsurfing.org in the past to connect with people, and always with awesome results.
Even if youâ€™re not a Couchsurfer, itâ€™s worth it to join the community to see what events are on while youâ€™re visiting. Berlin hosts a SpÃ¤ti beer crawl every week, for example, where visitors hop from one corner shop to another to drink cheap beer and hang out on the outside tables.
Meet-Up.com tends to run a massive variety of events. When preparing for my Camino, I signed up for the Hikers in Berlin group and joined a 24-kilometre Sunday morning hike on the outskirts of the city. I met a ton of cool people in the process, and got to enjoy a part of Berlin I wouldnâ€™t have seen otherwise. My friends Adam and Cheryl also run a Make Friends in Berlin group here.
Search for Facebook Expat Groups
If youâ€™re staying in a city for awhile, a simple Facebook search for expat groups will help you locate a ton of options. In Berlin, Iâ€™m a member of Canadians in Berlin, Girls Gone International (Berlin Chapter), and a handful of others.
These groups regularly organise events and let you connect with others, and they serve as a wonderful fountain of information for newcomers with questions. Girls Gone International especially has answered SO MANY of my questions while living here in Berlin.
Hop on a Guided Tour
Some of the coolest people Iâ€™ve met while travelling has been through guided tours.
I know it might not be your thing, and thatâ€™s fair. But even an afternoon walking tour or a food tour will connect you with other travellers. I love the food tours especially, as they tend to be more interactive and youâ€™ll also get to meet locals in the process.
For guided tours, I do recommend small groups. A lot of solo travellers opt for this route, especially if theyâ€™re new to travelling.
Hereâ€™s my most unconventional tip â€“ Tinder! Meeting locals can be really hard, but Iâ€™ve actually been really successful with Tinder. I’m usually upfront about it in my profile, with a note saying that Iâ€™m just visiting and hoping to meet a local to take me out on a friendly basis. Chatting with a match will give you an idea pretty quick of what the personâ€™s intentions are.
On Capri island in Italy, I met a lovely Italian man named Andrea who took me for a sunset cocktail. Another guy on Big Island in Hawaii showed me some of his favourite places. In Prague, I met an American traveller and we somehow ended up at a salsa bar. Iâ€™m still in contact with many of them, in fact.
There are several other apps I enjoy using as well, including Bumble.