One of my favorite reasons to travel, solo or otherwise, is to meet new people, make new friends, share experiences; after all, there’s only the whole world left to meet! Now fact is, you end up meeting more people when you’re travelling alone, you can be a different person everyday with absolutely no baggage at all. But to hell with fact, I think it just depends on the kind of person you are. Some of us are simply molded differently.
More often than not, the most lasting and impactful memories are created through the people we meet. In lieu of that belief, here are some tips on how to meet people while travelling solo!
1. Be cool
Stock up on interesting conversation starters, keep handy a repertoire of funny/amusing anecdotes from your life, unusual travel stories are always a winner. Be refreshing, don’t be a bore. And always remember that you need to also listen, you can’t keep shooting off stories from your life and still expect people to hang with you. These are not your old, childhood chuddy buddies, they don’t know your awesome inner self, some of them eventually will; but at this point, just BE COOL!
2. Pretend to be cool
So you were never the cool types, ate alone at the school cafeteria and secretly practice You Tube Rumba with your coat stand? So what, no one need ever know. Have a shot of whatever the locals are drinking, walk up to the hottest boy/girl in the room and show them how the rumba is done! Your inhibitions, your walls, your boundaries, you created them, only you can destroy them.
DO NOT wear a tee shirt that says, “I’m Cool”!
3. Be local
Use local transport, drink the local beer, try the local food, learn as much of the local language as you can, chill at a local café, stay a local homestay…If you’re going to stay at the Hilton, have coffee at Starbucks, eat at Burger King and only talk to people from your own country, then you might as save all that money and buy yourself something fancy back home.
DO NOT be so local and start expressing your views on local politics and religion, you’ll land yourself in a hot, fiery pot of local soup!
4. Open your mind
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”, said the very cool Mark Twain. You need to leave all of that behind in order to be able to go out there and not just meet people, but create lasting relationships. You need to be ready to experience new things rather than stick to the familiar. Trust your instinct and your inherent judgement of people. Let go of your unwanted inhibitions, as Indians we’re socially conditioned to be wary of strangers.
DO NOT befriend the scruffy drunk guy on the street corner!
5. Be positive
Perception is the true reality. Everything is as you believe it is, and so is everyone. Approach every situation with a positive attitude. ‘tis true that everything happens for a reason and there’s always a life lesson to be learnt.
DO NOT be so positive as to let a stranger watch over your wallet and passport while you use the washroom!
How you can leverage technology and the internet to help you in this endeavor!
6. Couch surf
Couch surfing, Air BnB, homestays and the like are great ways to meet new people, especially in cities that you’re travelling to for the first time. These communities involve like-minded people who are usually friendly and if not show you around, will definitely give you a lowdown on their cities. Besides, you’ll also get to experience the city like a local rather than like a tourist.
Be a good guest, so people will want to have you back. DO NOT steal, finish all the beer or hit on your host. Wait to be hit on!
Hostels are probably one of the easiest ways to meet new people and make friends. Most hostels have a common room or bar where everyone hangs out. The notice board is always filled with interesting things happening around the city. Everyone has the same larger motive, ‘to head out and explore the city, check out the most awesome places, visit the offbeat places as well, spend as less money as possible’. You’ll make a group or be part of one soon enough!
DO NOT expect 5-star services!
8. Use your existing community
Families, friends, colleagues, friends of friends, ex boyfriends; everyone is part of your existing community and through them you’re sure to find known people pretty much anywhere in the world you decide to go. Someone you meet through a reference is always more trustworthy and easier to make conversation with as you already have some background information.
DO NOT include your ex boyfriend’s current girlfriend as part of your community. Might not be such a good idea!
9. Sign up for group activities/Volunteering
Group activities are a great place to meet like-minded fellow travelers. If you have one activity in common, chances are you’ll find more things in common. You’ll find yourself naturally drifting towards those individuals who are compatible with you and vice versa. Volunteering is also a great way to meet people, and there are higher chances of finding people with shared interests. It is also immensely fulfilling.
DO NOT force people to fill out a questionnaire to figure out how compatible you are with them.
10. Stay active online and off
Keep in touch with everyone you know, technology today gives you that option. It’s easily accessible, inexpensive and user friendly, all it requires is a little bit of effort and the will to stay connected. It may be someone you met while your flight was delayed or your hosts who refused to take a penny from you, perhaps even someone you helped with directions. And if they’re not online, write to them once a year.
DO NOT ping people everyday and follow their every move, you’ll be perceived as a stalker and unfriended promptly!
Not so difficult at all, huh? Do let me know if these work for you and if you have other tricks up your sleeve. Till then, the only thing stopping you is you!