If you've never traveled alone before it can be quite a daunting prospect. One of the most frequently expressed concerns of soon-to-be solo travelers is whether they'll be able to make friends on the road. I've been traveling solo on and off for over five years now and I'm happy to share that the answer is a resounding yes!
If you want to meet people then your first step is to appear as approachable as possible. Make eye contact and smile, ask how they're doing. You can do this anywhere, whether it's when you're out exploring a city, taking public transport, sitting in your dorm room or eating at a restaurant. Appearing approachable will definitely help you out but there are also a few activities that make it incredibly easy to make friends.
Stay in Hostel Dorm Rooms
This is quite simply the easiest way to make friends while traveling. Walk into your dorm room after checking in and there'll likely be somebody else already in the room you can strike up a conversation with. The great thing about travel is that you'll always have something in common with every traveler you meet. You'll be able to chat about the places you've visited, where you're heading to next and what your current plans are -- in fact, after a few weeks you'll probably be sick of having the same conversation with everyone you meet!
Hang Out in Communal Areas
While I've found dorm rooms to be the easiest way to make friends, it's still possible to do so if you plan on staying in private rooms in hostels. Make sure that the hostel has a common room or bar and you'll have plenty of opportunity to hang out with your fellow travelers. The great thing about solo travel is that it actually makes you more approachable than when you're traveling in a group or as a couple.
One of the easiest ways to make friends is over group meals in hostels. Common rooms can be daunting if everyone is on their laptop or hanging with friends, but mealtimes really give you chance to hang out. Chat with people over breakfast about their plans for the day, or chat with them over dinner about what they've been up to and their plans for the next day.
Join in on Group Activities
Hostels always have something going on, so make sure you ask about these activities as soon as you check in. Sign up for an event when you arrive and then you'll have no excuses for not going on it. Whether it's a pub crawl or a walking tour or a trip to Chernobyl, as I did in Kiev!
Take a group tour
A group tour is a great way to meet new people while taking part in something adventurous or interesting. Hostels usually have several well-priced tours available at reception, which help you get to know your hostelmates a little bit better. However, if your hostel doesn't offer any tours, then look for a tour around the city that's aimed towards twenty-something travelers. That is, of course, if you want to meet people of a similar age. Some of the most interesting people I've met while travelling have been over twice as old as me.
On a budget and can't afford a tour? Try one of the free walking tours that hundreds of cities offer around the world. It's a fantastic way to get acquainted with a new city, and you can always see if somebody in your group wants to explore more of the city with you afterwards.
Volunteering has become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to give back to the country you're traveling through. As well as helping the local community, volunteering also gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills. You'll be regularly spending time with people with whom you share common interests, so it's extremely likely you'll all be close friends at the end of your time together.
Take a class
Travel is all about learning and experiencing new things. What better way to do so than by taking a class in one of the countries you're visiting? It could be salsa lessons in Argentina, cooking classes in Thailand, a surf lesson in Bali or a SCUBA diving course in Thailand.
When you take a class while traveling, you'll be able to learn new skills and meet other people who have the same interests as you do.
Be open to new experiences
Most of all, be open to new experiences! If someone you meet invites you out then say yes, even if you usually wouldn't go. Be open to new opportunities -- you might even discover a new hobby or activity you love.