All of you know by now that since Sheri and Mike are not traveling these days, I have embarked on my own. I have reached a point in life where the solo trip is now equal to or perhaps superior to traveling with someone. This is not to diminish the joys of traveling with an adventurous, and energetic foodie and wine connoisseur like Mike.
But when I travel solo, it seems I make more friends, talk to more strangers, and try some activities I would not otherwise partake.
Trip Savvy lists seven ways to make friends while traveling solo. Take them for face value.
Stay in a hostel
My hostel days are pretty much over, but I enjoyed my fair share when I was younger. How else would I make it to the famous Milky Way kasbah or the Red-Light District in Amsterdam? But hotels work pretty much the same, without the need to share bathrooms, or sleeping quarters. But the power of the communal meal cannot be underestimated for making new friends.
Strike up a conversation
I do this no matter where I go, even if I don’t speak the language. As you know by now, I have three Greek brothers (photo above) who have adopted me. It never hurts to ask a local where to go, what to eat, and certainly what to avoid. I ended up at a total stranger’s home for a grilled fish dinner on my first trip to Athens. We just started talking about food. Since I had nowhere to grill a fish, he offered to do it for me!!!
Go on a walking tour
Many cities offer “free” walking tours, though a small donation is much appreciated at tour’s end. Most are guided by young people, students, and young seniors. Even if I am very familiar with a city, a walking tour by a local offers a new perspective. And I met my new travel hero, Katy, originally from England, now somewhere between Singapore and Australia, on a walking tour in Bucharest (Romania) with me and Dirty Pat. She is a professional translator and travels the world 365 days a year!!! The walking tours seem to attract mostly solo travelers.
Book a small group tour
Generally, I will only do this for a cycling tour, or hire a private guide, as I did in Moscow (me in the Metro above) and St. Petersburg. Throughout most of my trips to SE Asia, Mike and I have always hired our own driver and guide. We get to set the agenda, limiting our interaction with other travelers so that we can focus on the locals. When I define small, I would say six people of less, as far as a group tour.
Meetup groups and online communities
Having tried a few, it is usually hit or miss, mostly miss. I have found most of these to be “fronts” for dating sites. But since they generally do not cost anything, why not give it a try?
Meet friends of friends
This can work really well. We met our dear friend Angela in Kuala Lumpur through our friend, Sohbee. On my last trip to KL with Mike and his son, we enjoyed several meals together, including the now famous Uncle Rani’s Organic Chicken Farm.
Take a class
I have not taken a class in a foreign country, at least that I can recall. But if you are willing to give up half a day, why not? Just keep in mind that many of these classes are expensive, and your hotel room may not accommodate the food that you prepare.
I have some better ideas, though a few might be outdated.
The internet room
How else would I meet the famous Barry the V from Cape Town (photo above), and Jason and Chun from Penang? Sadly, communal computers have been replaced by the ubiquitous cell phone.
This might be the best place to meet other travelers, solo or otherwise. Coffee seems to the beverage of choice, and certainly better than hanging out all night in a bar. Coffee shop, particularly in foreign countries, seem to be a social center for the neighborhood, just like the old days here in the US. After all, it was at a cute little coffee joint in the Garden District of Nawlins where I met Dirty Pat!
Nothing is more social than a wine tour and tasting. Or better yet, just wine tasting. Particularly in Europe, I have found the wine tours to be quite social. And finding a good wine is just a bonus!
On the plane or train
I guess a captive audience can work to either an advantage or disadvantage. I have met some interesting people on my flights. Some famous, some interesting, some barely clothed. Take your pick! I leave the outcome to your imagination.
In the queue
Whether queuing to tickets to Wimbledon, Royal Albert Hall, or beer at the Oktoberfest, this might be the best place to meet people. I stood in line for bread at Tartine Bakery in the City. Not long after, I was invited to brunch by two French ladies!
I hope you will do this at least once in your life. It will change your life in many ways!