Here are my best tips for how to get the conversation ball rolling with people you encounter while traveling alone.
A common misconception I hear a lot is that traveling alone must be lonely. I like to think that solo travel is about control—you can be alone when you want to, or make new friends when you don’t. Once you master the art of talking to strangers, I promise that you will never feel alone again.
Does the thought of meeting people and talking to strangers terrify you? Not to worry! Take a look at these tricks I’ve gathered over the years to make friends effortlessly while traveling alone!
Best Practices for Meeting New People While Traveling Alone
Practice smiling and greeting everyone that you pass. Don’t stop for a conversation (at least not initially for people you’ll see again, like fellow hotel guests), don’t even ask how they’re doing. Just say “hi” and leave it at that. Why?
1.) You ever see those people who just walk into a room and instantly gets greeted by everyone he or she passes? They look super popular! Sow the seeds by saying hi to everyone and I promise you that you’ll start to get a lot more people saying hi back.
2.) Randomly initiating a conversation can easily feel like coming on too strong. Keep your first interaction with people light and casual. Then when you do get the chance to talk to them, you’ll already feel like you have some familiarity, and starting a conversation won’t feel as awkward.
This doesn’t just apply to other travelers! Service staff, especially people working in your hotel or hostel, are a great choice if you’re new to introducing yourself to people. They are being paid to make you feel welcome so chances are you’ll get a positive response, which will only reinforce your confidence talking to strangers.
Bonus: You should never expect special treatment, but sometimes making friends with employees could mean perks like extra towels, flexibility with check-in times, etc. People who like you will find a way to be helpful to you, so go out and make some friends!
You’ll get even more positive responses if you learn what the local greeting is. For example, in Hawaii you would greet people with “aloha” which means hello, good bye and also love/well wishes. In Costa Rica, you would say “pura vida” (literally translate to “pure life” but means much more than that). Say it to staff, other hotel guests, people you pass by in the street. Strangers often call it out to you as a friendly greeting, so get used to both hearing and saying it!
Get Out of Your Room
You would think this one is obvious (you can’t meet anyone if you’re alone!) but you would be shocked by how many people just loiter around in their rooms because they’re not sure what to do with themselves. (I see this a lot in hostels.) If you’re going to sit around, do it somewhere there’s at least a chance of meeting people, like a bar, coffee shop, book store, or (if you insist on staying close to home) at least the hotel lobby.
Put Your Phone Away
You can post pictures to Facebook or answer your mom’s e-mail when you’re back in your room! When you’re out in public, resist the urge to check your messages or refresh Instagram for the millionth time just to have something to do. Look around. Observe who and what is in the room. It will make you look way more approachable, and paying attention to what’s going on may give you something to talk about with someone later.
Approach One Person
Does the thought of approaching a group of strangers to introduce yourself gives you flashbacks of asking the mean girls from school (aka “The Plastics” from the movie Mean Girls) if you can sit with them?
Start by introducing yourself to just one person. If you’re really nervous, look for someone sitting by themselves and think of something you might have in common before you go over. If you’re both hanging around the lobby, could they also be waiting to check into their room? Why not ask? It doesn’t matter if what you say sounds stupid! If they’re looking to talk to someone, they’ll respond in kind. If not, move on.
Look for other solo travelers in your hostel. As a general rule, people stay in hostels to be around other people. However, someone who stays in their room or spends a lot of time reading in bed might be a foreign exchange student who just found that hosteling was the cheapest housing option. You could be barking up the wrong tree if they aren’t looking to socialize, so try to approach someone sitting in a common area.
Success begets success. Start with approaching one person, and work your way up to a group. Once you have a party, even if it’s just 2 people, you’ll be shocked how easy it can be introduce yourself to more.
Just Do It. Then Do It Again.
Making friends while traveling alone is not about being an outgoing extrovert, extremely charming, or so pretty that people just come up to you. It’s not even about confidence! It’s just learning to take that first step of introducing yourself to someone. And then another, and another.
Over your career as a solo traveler, you will meet a great number of people, many of which you never have to talk to again or even exchange contact information with! Get used to talking to people just to ask who they are and what they’re doing there.
Once you adopt that mindset that you aren’t trying to develop a relationship, there’s suddenly no pressure to impress the person you’re talking to, share more than you want, or even to continue the conversation. Share a moment with someone, then leave it at that. Learn to spend time with others on your terms, and you’ll see how fun (and freeing) socializing can be!
Would you ever use these tips to meet people? What best practices do you have for meeting people while traveling alone?