During my final year in college, I spent 5 months backpacking China on my own. During this time, I learned about traveling alone, but one of the important ones was that I learned how to make friends while traveling. I met many friends during my 5 months of traveling alone that I am still friends with today.
To travel alone and to make friends, you must first learn how to be alone by yourself and enjoy yourself. Smiling at other people can help to break the ice. Go up to talk to new people and get to know them. Be a good listener and get to know others. Don’t be afraid to try a new language. And finally, when you travel alone and start to make friends around the world, you quickly learn that there are many good people out there in this big wide world of ours.
When I realized that there was an excellent chance I could spend my life alone and not married, I also learned that If I wanted to do a lot of the things I wanted to do and experience the things I wanted to experience in life, that I would need to learn how to travel and experience life on my own. Here are some of the lessons I have learned along the way.
First, learn to enjoy being alone by yourself.
They say that practice makes us perfect, so if you are going to travel alone, you need first to learn to enjoy being on your own. This may seem like a strange thing to ask someone to do or even to practice, but the truth is if you do not enjoy being on your own, then others may not enjoy being around you.
I love this quote by Steve Aitchison about learning to be alone and how empowering it can be:
If this is all new to you, and you are used to always being with other people and are afraid to go out on your own, then before you go out to travel on your own, you can practice by starting to doing some of these things on your own as:
- Go to a movie by yourself.
- Go shopping on your own.
- Go out to eat by yourself.
- Go to a museum on your own.
- Go to a concert by yourself.
- Go to some events by yourself.
This is something you can start to practice. You can start to purposefully go out by yourself and do things you never thought you would do before. If you are like me, you may find that it was all very liberating as you can set your own schedule and decide what you will do and when.
I do not selfishly mean this in that you do not care about others, as this has nothing to do with that, but instead, this is about you becoming the best you can be in life and living life to the fullest. Your living life to the fullest will never happen if you are sitting at home, wishing you had someone to do something with or that you were in a relationship. If you do not have someone to do something with or are not in a meaningful relationship, get out the door, and not be afraid to meet others. Grab life by both hands and go out to meet others and experience new things you will never experience by sitting home alone.
Smile at people
There is something very compelling about a smile. When you smile, it tells the other person that you are friendly and that you have an openness and want to meet them and talk to them. Most people are drawn to a smile.
This is an experiment you can do. Go to a public place and find a spot where you can sit down to people watch. I have done this a lot on my international travels as I love to sit and watch people as you can learn so much from them. Watch to see who smiles and how others will usually naturally smile back at them.
Take this a step further, and you can start to smile at everyone with a nice big smile, look them in the eyes, and then see all those that smile back at you. Most people will naturally smile back at you in response to your own smile.
As I have traveled around the world, the one thing I have found is that a simple smile transcends all language barriers. Even if you cannot speak another person’s language, you can always give them a big bright smile. That smile will communicate to them that you are friendly and ready to be their friend. As Christie Brinkley said about a smile:
Don’t’ be shy, go talk to people
I am not sure if I was ever shy, but I was very self-conscience and not very self-assured. I worried about what people thought about me or if they would make fun of me or talk bad about me.
But as I have traveled around the world, I have had people talk about me or even make some very rude or hurtful comments right to my face. But at the same time, I have learned that no matter what, I can go up and talk to another person. Usually, when I do this, I have found far better good than bad people in the world.
To get the most out of your traveling alone, this is one thing you need to learn to overcome – to be able to talk to people you do not know.
I love that quote by Bill Chapata since when you travel, you can meet new people, find new energy in your life, and embrace new surroundings. When I traveled alone, I also found that it forced me to get out and get to know other people. To talk to someone, I just met on a bus or train or even an airplane. To be in a restaurant and maybe I see someone else sitting alone or a couple that seems very friendly so I start to talk to them and find out more about them.
Traveling alone has taught me to get out of my own self-conscience shell in life and talk to others and get to know about other people and their lives. This, in turn, has deeply blessed and enriched my life. This will also enrich your life as you learn to travel alone and meet some new and wonderful friends along the way.
Ask others about themselves as you learn to listen more.
One of the best secrets to meeting new people is to ask them about themselves and their lives. When you ask people about their lives and feel like you are really interested in them, they will usually be willing to talk to you.
So when you talk to people, learn to listen more. Here are some very easy ways that you can try to be not only a better listener but also to show interest in other people and their lives:
- Keep eye contact and show them you are interested in what they have to say.
- Listen not just to comment back but listen to understand. Sometimes when I interview people, I find if I just let them talk, I can learn a lot.
- Keep your smartphone and other devices away. It can be tempting to have the phone out and be looking at it every minute, but this shows that you are really not interested.
- Summarize what people say to you to show you are listening. If you summarize a bit of what people are saying, then they know you are listening.
- Ask relevant questions. If someone is speaking on a subject, ask relevant questions about what they are talking about to help keep the conversation flowing and interesting.
- Share when appropriate – When appropriate, share some of your own experiences or your own advice.
I love this quote by Bryant H. McGill about how being a good listener is a sign of respect.
Don’t be afraid to try a new language
When you travel internationally, it will help you make new friends, especially some local people, if you can speak a few words of their language. Yes, some people may laugh at your pronunciation, but many others will be really pleased to see and know that you are trying to speak to them in their own language.
At the very least, you can learn to say “Hello” or “good morning” or “Thank you” in the language of where you are traveling. I have found that those words are usually beneficial and help endear people to you as someone trying to respect them and their language and culture.
I love this quote by Nelson Mandela:
Be Positive – There Are Many Good People
You quickly learn when you are traveling around the world or even around your own country because there are many excellent people out there. People who will hold the door open for you and smile at you while they do it. Someone who comes up and hands you something you have dropped. Another who gives up their seat so that you can have one.
As I have traveled around the world, this is one truth that I have learned. That the world is filled with so many wonderful and just good people, I love this quote by Nishan Panwar that sums it all up:
So when you are out there traveling, if you feel no one is nice or that everyone is mean or pushing or shoving, you can try to make a difference by choosing to be one of the nicest people around.
If you choose to travel by yourself, it can be an amazing experience if you learn to smile, get to know other people, be a good listener who cares, and try to learn a few words of the language of the country you are traveling to. You will find that the world will be open to you, and along the way, you will build some amazing memories and meet a lot of excellent and wonderful people who will enrich your life for good.
I agree wholeheartedly with this quote by Edith Wharton that when you travel, you discover that there are so many outstanding and kind people in the world.
Are there any travel apps to help me meet other solo travelers?
Today in a world that is so connected by the internet, there are also many apps to helps travelers to be able to connect. Though I still feel one of the best ways is that you meet people as you travel and then you can get an immediate feel if you like them and feel you can travel more with them, here are some apps you can also try.
|APP NAME||APP INFO||APP LINK|
|Couchsurfing||Allows you to sleep free on others couches||Couchsurfing|
|Travel Pal||This connects a host and a traveler.||Travel Pal|
|Meet Up||Events to help people to meet up and get to know each other.||Meet Up|
|FlipTheTrip||This app helps connects like-minded travelers to meet up.||FlipTheTrip|
|Facebook has travel groups or info on where you are traveling|
|Nearify||This lists out events in the city or places you are visiting.||Nearify|
|World Packers||This allows you to make your dream holiday online.||Worldpackers|
|Showaround||It helps you find some good local guides to show you around.||Showaround|
|Fairy trail||Looking for a special someone while traveling try this app||Fairytrail|
Are there any safety apps that solo travelers should have?
In a world where most people are always connected, there are also many safety travel apps. Understand that in some places, even with these safety apps, when it is an emergency, you will probably need to depend on the locals to help you find the right information.
- Smart Traveler – This is a US Department of State App that will update you on areas that are considered high risk. As a US Citizen, you can also sign up for the STEP program to be updated via this app.
- First Aid Emergency – This app was designed by the Red Cross and will help you know what to do in an emergency. This app will help you to know what to do for just the most common first aid emergencies.
- Sitata – You can check with Sitata to see if there are any health or other warnings in a place you will travel to so that you can better plan your trip.
- bSafe – This app is similar to the Apple app to find my friends but has more information. If you are going to be traveling alone, you can set up an alert to let people know when you should be back, and they will be alerted when you do not return, and then they can follow your steps even on the other side of the world.