Be it to spend your gap years, or to have experience of a lifetime, solo traveling is something you need to try to gain new perspectives on life and recharge yourself. Sometimes loneliness is great; but as a solo traveler, if you want to escape the loneliness trap, you should first realize that the loneliness itself is the outcome of your own self-imposed limitations. Bear in mind that some solo travelers have the innate ability to easily interact and gain friends with the locals and other travelers while some other travelers need to learn these simple steps
- Smile. When you smile, you start passing positive vibes on to people around you, not to mention that smiling is also contagious. These positive vibes are the perfect foundation to start a new connection and friendship. And because people are more attuned to positive emotions than the negative ones, it comes as no surprise that your simple smile can lead to a warm ‘hello!’
- Compliment others. I once rode an extremely crowded bus in Saigon, Vietnam and saw a travel couple were jostled in a sea of people and the woman nearly fell. I noticed she wore a nice pair of shoes and I spontaneously complimented the shoes with my friendly gesture. We then made chitchat in no time, decided to go for drinks and snacks the day after, strolled around Saigon and made it to Nha Trang. We just never thought we’d be friends until now! It’s been seven years and even though they live in the Netherlands, we still keep visiting each other. The key is, you can never go wrong with a sincere, spontaneous compliment.
- Choose your accommodation.
- Hostels. After long tiring days on the road, I understand that you may crave some privacy. But if you feel like you do not want to be alone nearly all of the time, hostels are the best place for meeting and interacting with other travelers. It does not matter whether you choose to stay at the dorm room with strangers or prefer to stay in a private room, you can always meet new friends in the common room. During my solo trip to Cambodia, I stayed at a youth hostel and when I had my shoes and outfits ready to go the night before, a group of female travelers approached me to see if I could join the group. Since we had a similar bucket list of places to visit, I could not say no. Five years later, one of them attended the same university as me. I never perceived this as a plain coincidence.
- AirBnb. This is the great way to “fit in” with the locals. You will get to know the simplest thing such as how they decorate their house or apartment unit differently from you, or the unique habit they have, and the list goes on. Please read and note the rules they set before book their accommodations. There are hosts who will gladly show you the city with or without additional charge—don’t waste this opportunity to get to know the locals better!
- Try Couchsurfing or similar platforms. Seeing pros and cons of using these platforms, what you can do to help avoid getting disappointed is read the reviews of each host, do your research, and keep communicating with your potential host until the day you are about to see them. As the alternatives of Couchsurfing, you can try BeWelcomeor TrustRoots.
- Keep in touch.Making friends is one thing and maintaining them is the other game. Make sure you keep in touch with them by using the power of social medias. Who knows you share the same interests or you guys need each other’s help someday, hey?