Since that fateful trip in 2011 where I ventured to Seoul on my own, a common question I’ve gotten from people around me is why I wanted to travel on my own. Besides the “it’s dangerous for a girl” comment, another reason I often encounter is “It’s so lonely without anyone to talk to”.
Safety is a topic for another day, but with regards to loneliness, I definitely beg to differ. Sure, you might not have your usual friends around you to rely on for conversation, but how lonely or alone you end up on a trip is mostly dependent on one factor – yourself.
You’re only as alone as you want to be, which is the great thing about solo travel as you have the complete freedom to be a lone wolf or social butterfly, whether or not it’s your ‘usual behaviour’ because there ain’t no one you know around to judge you for it! When you travel with people you know, you often keep your own company, or end up relying on the more outgoing person to strike up conversations which is not a bad thing, but you miss out on making new connections or aren’t in control of the friends that you do end up making.
For first time solo travellers or shyer folk like myself, here’s one way I’ve found that is a great way to make friends while travelling alone:
Join a tour.
I know, proper solo backpackers don’t rely on ‘package tours’, but what I’m talking about here can range from something as simple as an hour-long English guided walking tour of a city, or a week-long camping trip in the mountains. The idea basically is to join a group of like-minded folk and take part in a joint exploration of your destination – many other travellers on their own are usually quite happy to make new friends as well, and the shared interest is an easy way to break that initial awkward barrier by giving you something to talk about.
Trust me, nothing is as good an ice-breaker as sniggering at your tour guide’s weird accent together in the corner; or taking in the spectacular scenery together.
The best part is that it’s a low-risk way of meeting people – you can make plans to hang out after the tour if you do hit it off, or if you decide that you prefer your own company, it’s quite easy to decline an invitation or just slip off on your own after that. Free and easy, completely up to you! Most of the friends I’ve made on the road have been through day tours that I went on, and some resulted in quite unexpected friendships.
Of course, most likely the friends you make are going to be fellow tourists, and it’s a different ballgame of course if you want to meet local people instead. But for first-time solo travellers, making friends with other travellers is the easiest way to meet new people on the road.
What do you think, fellow travellers? How do you normally make friends on the road?