It's no secret that a lot of solo travelers are introverts. We are the kind of people that enjoy extended time being alone and would rather curl up with a book than go to a nightclub.
But just because we practically worship peace and quiet doesn't mean we want to be alone 24/7. We're introverts, not hermits.
Which is why I have compiled this guide for solo travelers on how to make friends abroad:
Pick hostels over hotel rooms
Hostels are great. They are cheap, they are usually in convenient locations, and they are full of young travelers. While a hotel room might be cleaner and more comfortable, people don't hang out in hotels. They come, they sleep, and they leave. Plus, hotels tend to draw couples and families while hostels draw solo travelers and groups of young people.
Book a dorm bed and you are guaranteed to meet new people. Your dorm-mates will come in after a long day, throw their bags on their bed, turn to you and say, "Hi, I'm so-and-so. Where are you from?"
I can honestly say I have never stayed in a hostel without befriending my dorm-mates. Before you know it you will have a new dinner companion, travel buddy, and potential best friend.
If you need more privacy you can book a private room instead of a dorm, but you are still more likely to meet people in a private room in a hostel than a hotel. That is, so long as you follow the next piece of advice...
Hang out in common areas
Sure it is nice to curl up with your blanket and WhatsApp with your college roommate, but your college roommate is across the country and she cannot come with you on the zip-lining tour you have been dying to try.
The best way to meet people is to go to them. Park yourself in the hostel common areas and do nothing. Literally. Just look around, smile, wave, and eventually someone will talk to you. Of course, this is taking the passive approach.
A more proactive way to meet people is to speak to them. As an introvert I know how terrifying it can be to put yourself out there in a room full of strangers, but just keep reminding yourself that these people are also a bunch of travelers and they are probably interested in making new friends too.
Make a comment on your surroundings or ask the person next to you where they are from. One fool-proof way to get any traveler talking is to ask them what they are most excited to see and what they have seen already. Before you know it they will be talking your ear off. This is also a great segue into potentially exploring together.
There are constantly people loitering in the common areas of hostels, just waiting to make new friends. But this tactic will only work if you...
Leave your computer/camera/phone/book in your bag
I get it. You finally have WiFi and all you want to do is check your email. But I don't care if you're 10 points from beating your high score on Angry Birds or not, put it away!
I don't care how friendly you are or how long you sit in one place, the chances of someone approaching you if you have your nose in your book are slim to none.
Whether it is on a beach, on the bus, or in the hostel lobby, you need to look approachable if you want to be approached. And headphones don't say approachable.
Again, speaking up first is the more straight-forward way to go, but if that's not your style at least do yourself the favor of looking open to conversation.
Seek out other solo travelers
Solo travelers are pretty much the coolest people on Earth. I'm not biased, it's pure fact. Okay, maybe I am a bit biased, but in all seriousness if you are a solo traveler it is a smart move to seek out other solo travelers.
In general, solo travelers are more open to meeting new people. We spend most of our days alone and have nothing but our selves to entertain us, so when a fresh face comes along we are eager to chat.
Don't get me wrong! I've met tons of couples and groups that have gladly adopted me. Some of my best travel friends were not solo travelers. However, people who travel together often have their own thing going on and just don't need another person to join them.
Solo travelers, on the other hand, are in the same boat as you. They can relate to your experiences, they can share your worries, and they are often (another generalization here) more willing to spontaneously jump off schedule and try something new with you.
Join a Tour
Whether it is a free one hour walking tour or a multi-day trek through the mountains, organized tours are a great way to meet people.
During any type of organized tour there is lots of down time. Whether it is walking from one site to the other, sitting in a van, or pitching camp for the night, there are plenty of opportunities to get to know your fellow travelers.
Tour groups tend to be chatty. Put a lot of strangers with an obvious shared interest together in a foreign country and I guarantee you there will be at least one person who starts asking about where you are from and what brings you to the country.
Be open to new experiences
So you've met a new traveler and you are chatting about how you plan to spend your time over the next couple of days.
"Actually," your new friend says, "I was thinking about renting a Vepsa and driving through the mountains tomorrow. Want to join me?"
You could say, "Actually I was planning on going to the tea museum and exploring the street market tomorrow." Then you would never see that person again. Sure, you might have a good day, but what if you said...
"Well I can't drive a Vespa, but if we can split the cost and I can ride on the back, I'm in!" That's what I did. I also never saw this person again, but I had the time of my life. And I had an experience that is now one of my favorite travel memories.
Having an itinerary is great, but you have to be willing to stray from your plans. Your best experiences (and best friends) come when you are least expecting it.
Smile and say hello
Now she's my best friend, but at first she was just a stranger in Italy.
While all of these tips are fantastic ways to make friends while traveling, nothing beats smiling and saying hello. I know, I know, strangers are scary. But really... are they?
We're all people craving to be loved. A little kindness and a friendly gesture can go a long way. Show interest in who they are and what brought them to wherever you are and I promise they won't bite.
The moral of the story is...
Some of my most meaningful connections have been with people I have met while traveling. On the other hand, there are countless friends I made while traveling that I haven't spoken to since. Whether it's your new bestie or simply someone to go for a hike with that day, making friends from around the world is an important and rewarding part of solo travel.