Being a solo traveler is amazing in so many ways. You can go where you want, when you want. You can choose activities that you’re interested in. You can take a nap if you want one or eat ice cream for dinner. Nobody is there to judge you, criticize you, or force you to see things you’re not really interested in seeing.
Sometimes, however, being a solo traveler can be lonely. I’ve been a solo traveler for more than six months and I’ve learned some helpful techniques to keep that loneliness at bay.
I frequently join small tours that last a couple of hours to a full day. I’ve done bike tours, brewery tours, castle tours, ghost tours, and ATV tours. They’re not usually very expensive and they give you an opportunity to talk to fellow travelers who have similar interests. Most tours are small groups, so it gives you an opportunity to get to know other people. At times, I’ve gotten along so well with someone, we go eat dinner together and keep in touch. I have found Trip Advisor and Viator helpful in finding tours.
One way that I’ve had a lot of success meeting people is when I get out and about. For dinner, I’ll choose a sit-down restaurant with a bar and eat at the bar. This gives me an opportunity to meet others without invading their personal space. Most restaurant bars have full service so you can enjoy your dinner there, and maybe a delicious drink (or two). I can assure you that you won’t meet people eating takeout in your hotel room.
I’ve stayed in a few hostels and have had good experiences. Personally, I opt for private rooms so I still get a good night’s sleep. But hostels have shared spaces - like kitchens and lounge areas. You’ll often meet fellow solo travelers who might want to join you for an activity. Some hostels also offer arranged activities.
Not into hostels? Try an Airbnb with shared spaces. I’ve found this to be one of my favorite ways to travel. There are a lot of Airbnb’s where you’re renting just a bedroom and the rest of the house is shared. Oftentimes, the hosts are renting out other rooms, giving you opportunities to meet other travelers. Sometimes the owner lives there too and I’ve received wonderful local tips from them. Afraid they’ll be up in your business? Don’t worry. They do this all the time and I’ve found they usually have a good balance of talking with me and respecting my personal space.
Your body language says a lot about you and whether you’re open to getting to know other people. At times, I am an extrovert. Other times, I am introverted and it can be difficult to spark up a conversation with a stranger. I’ve learned that just making eye contact and giving a soft smile can open the door to a great conversation. It shows other people you’re willing to talk to them. Nobody likes to be rejected. If your body language is closed off, looking down at the floor, or you’re buried in your phone, it gives a vibe of “leave me alone.” When my body language is open and welcoming, strangers will frequently start a conversation. It takes the pressure off of always needing to be the initiator.
Have an open mind when it comes to new experiences. At times, I’ve found myself resisting a certain activity or person. But after awhile, the activity or person grows on me. Part of the excitement of travel is doing things you haven’t done before. Keep an open mind and go with the flow. Some of my best experiences while traveling have been saying “yes” more often. You’ll find that when you’re willing to say “yes,” you will experience new things and meet interesting people.
Sometimes technology can bring people together just when you need them. The first time I traveled solo was to Scandinavia. I was taking an overnight ferry from Oslo to Copenhagen and was feeling lonely as everyone was with someone else. I used their WiFi and Facebook Messenger to text my best friend. It was like she was there with me. Social media and technology can have a bad wrap at times, but sometimes it brings a loved one closer to you.
There are also Facebook travel groups or Meetup groups. Bumble now offers more than just dating. It has an option for “friends” and “business networking.” These sites can help connect you to others who are like-minded.
Solo travel has been so rewarding for me and I think everyone should try it at least once. Even if it’s a small weekend getaway. You might be intimidated because in your hometown you’re not one to go out alone. I get it. In my hometown, I never went out by myself to movies, restaurants, or tours. I don’t strike up conversations with strangers much either. However, something happens when I’m in a new city, a new state, or a new country. Maybe it’s the thrill of being somewhere different and new. Maybe it’s the pressure that eases when you know you don’t have to see these people again. I’m not exactly sure why it feels so natural for me to go out solo when I’m in a new city, but something about travel makes it easier.
Traveling solo can be lonely at times. Know that sometimes the loneliness pops up out of nowhere and it might surprise you. But it goes away and soon you’ll find yourself tackling it, becoming more confident, and living life to its fullest.
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