Besides money, one of the biggest reasons why people are afraid to travel is fear of loneliness. Many refuse to travel unless they find “the ideal traveling partner” and as such are doomed to eternal pining and an unsatisfied soul. I know this because I used to be one of those people. Well, NO MORE! I’ve visited over 15 countries solo and have made tons of pseudo traveling friends all over the world – thus, I’m pretty much pro at this and have never felt lonely traveling. Below are some of my general tips on how you can find pseudo traveling friends everywhere you go.
- Be observant. Look for any signs that may create common ground between you and the people around you. Look for people that are alone. If you really want to take the easy road, try to look for Americans. They’re generally the friendliest and most ignorant, I’ve found. It’s easy to spot them by the way they dress: sports T-shirts, baseball caps, and the rambunctious way they are laughing & taking shots at the bar are obvious red flags.
- Eye contact. All you have to do is maintain eye contact for at least 3 seconds and smile. This is best in a bar setting, but can also be applied in other public settings – like a coffee shop with free WI-FI (This is important! Fellow travelers are ALWAYS on the free WI-FI hunt, so you will definitely find a gang of them at WI-FI hotspots).
- Ask for help. The best way to strike up a conversation with a stranger is to ask them advice questions such as: “Yo, do you know if that jungle tour is totally awesome?” or “Do you know where the nearest pickle store is?” and more importantly, “Do you know where’s the best and cheapest place to rage tonight?” Actually, my favorite time is when we picked up a British guy in Times Square that just got off the airplane. All he had to ask was “Do you know where the bars are?” And he was immediately invited to join us girls on an awesome bar adventure.
- Be confident. Or as my friend Dan Gilroy once put it, “Walk into the room as if you have a 12-inch cock.” Sounds crazy, but it’s such a confidence booster. And people are drawn to confidence like Irish men are to whiskey. Scientific fact. And remember, don’t slouch.
- Memorize foreign phrases. Build up a data bank so that you can spew out random foreign phrases when you meet people from these countries. My random knowledge of German, Japanese, Dutch and Chinese phrases has gotten me very far in life.
- Be memorable & dare to be different. Wear something unique and brightly colored as a conversation-starter. I wear this owl necklace that people can’t help but caress and touch. Also, avoid being the first person to ask basic intro questions such as: “Where are you from and why are you traveling?” Instead, talk about random, obscure topics like the scientific origin of eggplants or that one time you were hanging out in Inner Mongolia. Make yourself an interesting and compelling person and more importantly, make the other person ask YOU the basic intro questions. As an interesting person they’ll want to get to know you and thus it will be harder for them to say ‘No’ when you invite them on a random adventure.
- Think of an awesome event, place, or activity to do in advance. Try to bring it up in conversation and BAM! Pseudo traveling friend can’t resist your awesome adventure idea. For example, “Hey, did you know that the world music festival is being held in that rain forest 4 hours away? Wanna split a tuk-tuk?”
- Don’t be afraid to spend some quality time with a stranger. Pretend that you’ve known this person for 10 years and it’s been awhile since you last saw each other. It’s only awkward if you make it awkward, you freakin’ platypus.
- At first, always be gentle in your approach. Don’t surprise them or come off too aggressive by being SUPER energetic and eager when you walk up to them. Try to be quaint, respectful and non-prodding. If you’re at a loud bar, disregard this tip. Being loud and energetic in conversation is okay when you’re drunk and there’s a big crowd around.
- DON’T BE CLINGY. This is a rule you should always follow in life. People, especially travelers, tend to flee at any sign of clinginess. I know I do. Be appreciative and revel in the adventure you’re having with this pseudo friend – but definitely don’t expect them to be around forever. If there’s chemistry and some type of cosmic force bringing you two together, then you’ll happily discover that you’re both coincidentally headed towards the same direction on your journey.
At the hostel:
- When booking a hostel, make sure you choose to stay in the room with the most beds. Usually these are the cheapest beds, and it’s also a sure-fire way to meet other travelers like yourself.
- Stay at a hostel that has its own bar. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with a drunk foreigner. Almost too easy.
At the airport/bus station:
Follow general tip #1 (Be Observant) and find people that are reading books that look interesting. Nonchalantly sit next to them and say, “Oh man! I’ve always wanted to read that book! How is it…?” And let the conversation slide from there. Note: Don’t approach those that are listening to iPods, these folks generally don’t want to be bothered and aren’t leaving themselves open to conversation. Only approach if they’re really, really cute and you’ve got nothing to lose.
On the plane/bus:
If there’s open seating on the plane, sit next to someone that looks like they’re your age and traveling alone. Usually they’re also solo travelers or at least open to conversation. Don’t be too bothersome….people need their space. Break the conversation by doing your own thing – but make sure you find out if they’re doing anything fun at the destination you’re headed towards and see if you can join.
On the Interwebz:
This should be at the top of the list – in my experience, using the internet as a resource has been one of the best ways to connect with other travelers on-the-go. I mainly use Couchsurfing.org or Travbuddy.com. As a last-minute, spontaneous traveler, I often don’t take the time to strike up conversations and will just post in the CS Last Minute Couch Request group in whatever country I’m headed towards. I usually get a few responses back, immediately. Check out my tips on How to Couchsurf or check out my other blog posts about couchsurfing.
Most people are afraid to take the first step. If you overcome your fear of rejection, you can overcome your fear of loneliness and solo traveling! Just know that you’ve got nothing to lose and even though you won’t always be successful, those pseudo traveling friends you DO make are going to be the best people you’ll ever meet in your entire life!
If you have any other tips or suggestions, please post a comment! OR if you want a live response, you can ask me a question on vyou.com!