By Rach Kusel
Rach is a Kiwi writer currently living in London. Here she shares her tips on how to make friends on the road on behalf of HI USA's newest partner, Busabout.
For a lot of people, the idea of traveling solo can lead to a mixed bag of emotions, and it’s hard to know what to feel. Excitement? Nervousness? Exploring new countries and new cities alone can be a thrilling adventure, and it brings about a sense of freedom that’s hard to match. However, it always helps to know how to reach out and meet people when that pang of loneliness threatens, or when you just feel like checking out the sights with a group. Here are five tips to help you make friends while traveling.
Head out to Local Events
If you’re keen to meet new people while traveling, you need to make sure you’re not isolating yourself. Once you’ve had enough of solo sightseeing, do some investigating to see what’s on in your current city. It’s best to choose a setting where you know you’ll feel the most comfortable, whether that’s at a music gig, a food festival, or even a cooking class! This way you’ll know you’re in the company of others with similar interests, and you can take the leap and get chatting. A simple “Hey, where are you from?” might be all it takes, and before you know it, you could be Instagramming your way around the city together. Or even better, you might meet a local who can show you around!
These days, there are hundreds of apps and websites where you can connect online with other solo travellers and arrange a meet up. Try checking out different Facebook groups and message boards to see who’s nearby! It won’t take long to find other people who want to see the same sights as you do. Apps like EatWith and VizEat allow you to specifically find a social dining experiences, while apps like SoloTraveller and Backpackr help you find friends for activities, ride sharing, sightseeing – anything you can think of!
Stay in Hostels
Choosing to stay in hostels is one of the easiestwaysto make friends on the road. Accommodation options like HI USA hostels are typically very budget-friendly, located in the heart of the city, and chock-a-block-full of people ready to get social. When you opt for a shared dorm room, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be surrounded by other travellers who are just as eager to get out and explore the city as you are. Whether you choose a dorm or a private room, you’ll also want to hang out in the common areas and try striking up a conversation with a stranger. It might be a little nerve-wracking, but the chances are they wouldn’t be sitting in the hostel lounge if they weren’t attempting to be social, too. Most hostels also arrange group excursions such as walking tours and pub crawls, so all you have to do is show up! It’s always easier to step out of your comfort zone and be social when you’re part of a ready-made group of like-minded nomads.
Travel with a Tour Company
One of the best ways to ensure you make friends on your solo adventure is to join a tour group that’s designed to help independent travellers meet each other. This will give you the best of both worlds, with the social atmosphere and local expertise of a guided trip, combined with the ability to explore at your own pace with free time in each city. Busabout is a company that offers just that, with both a Hop-on Hop-off network and various adventures with planned itineraries throughout the USA. You’ll meet fellow travellers onboard the coaches, have a guide on hand to help you and your new friends plan your activities in each city, and even get dropped off and picked up at the door of your HI USA hostel.
It may seem like a simple idea, but this concept is key when it comes to making friends while travelling. Those who have taken the leap of faith and hit the road without the security of having friends or family by their side know that exploring alone is all about stepping outside of your comfort zone. Approach all situations with an open mind and take every opportunity that comes your way, because you never know: your new best friend might be waiting at the next stop!
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