Maybe for me, it should read, “How to Make Friends in a New Country?”
If you travel solo as I do, often, the solitude works both ways. In most cases, it is preferred. In some cases, it would be nice to have a lively discussion or companion for a concert or event. I am not talking about “bar talk” or chat rooms. I am talking about real people, perhaps with common interests, with no hidden agendas.
Is this really possible in the current environment? Yes, if you proceed carefully and methodically. But that does not rule out the totally “out of the blue” opportunity, when the planets align, and the interests are obvious and mutual.
First, sharing a cab or Uber is a great way to start a conversation, in a safe and neutral ground. In some places, where transportation is scarce, it can be both convenient and a great conversation starter. This happened to me in Vladivostok. I was staying at a hotel about a mile form the train station. The walk there had been arduous, and I was not looking forward to schlepping my bag back to the station the next morning. If you are not familiar, many of the main intersections in Russia are underground, with lots of stairs! A lady I was casually conversing with, mentioned she had hired a driver to take her to the start of the Trans Siberian Railway. So, a quick ride over allowed us plenty of time to get our bearings. And since we were in the same rail car, about two compartments away, we found much to talk about. In fact, when we got to Lake Baikal, I had to borrow her iPad, and some money since my bank in the US had frozen my account for “suspicious” activity!!!
Meal time is another good opportunity. Sitting and talking is a lot less intimidating than asking someone to go to lunch or dinner. After all, I met the erstwhile Barry the V in the old internet room in Santiago, Chile back in 2010. After a six hour dinner, we were best friends. He invited us to Cape Town, we stayed for TWO weeks, and we are still friends!
Cultural events are another great opportunity. We seem to speak freely about art or music, but perhaps not so much about ourselves. Going on walking tours is also a great opportunity to find a kindred soul for travel opportunities.
When I go to dinner, I often find a cozy corner at the bar, or counter. This seems to be a hot spot for conversation. Everyone wants to talk, and include me in their dinner! My last trip to Amsterdam was like that! I hardly had a moment to myself! Two different sets of people sat next to me, and essentially bought me dinner and more drinks!
I can only imagine for solo female travelers, the situation is much different. But I think if you pick and choose your new found friends carefully, the trip can be enhanced by some company. Now, as far as unwanted friends for me, I generally have no problems. I simply say I am not interested, and that my wife is waiting for me back in the room!!!