This blog post was updated on October 12, 2018.
As I hopped off the train in Austria to gray drizzle and an hour wait for my connecting route, a woman from Kosovo began a conversation.
Inviting me to coffee, I spent my wait time not alone as I had anticipated but in pleasant conversation with a stranger.
Traveling solo can be an isolating experience. Much of the time I feel too awkward to start initiating conversations.
Then there are those inclinations ingrained in our brains at an early age to not talk to strangers.
While that advice can be fitting in certain situations, the solo traveler doesn’t have to feel as though their travels are just conversations with one.
To make solo travel more social, here are a few ways to increase socialization on a trip alone.
Get lost—If you are lost, chances are someone is picking up on that fact. Hopefully, it’s not a pickpocket. Solo travelers have a harder time finding places as they are alone and can’t always pull over to look at the map. If you are lost, ask for directions. If you are of the mindset not to ask for directions, most likely someone will intervene to help. Looking lost attracts conversations that make solo travel much more interactive.
Eat at the bar—Stuffy tables for one can be depressing to say the least. If you can find a restaurant with a bar, you will not only feel less awkward, but also have more of a chance to run into people to meet. Just mind the drunks when the kitchen closes and the regulars pile into the scene. Solo travel shouldn’t mean you are so desperate you will socialize with creeps.
Take public transport—That train ride from Florence, Italy to Graz, Austria was a lonely one, until I set foot on the platform for my last connection in Austria. A woman confronted me. We both gazed at the monitor listing connecting trains, only to discover we were headed in the same direction. On buses, trains and subways there are loads of people going in your direction or heading away from it. You never know what bonds will form over missed connections or cramped train cars.
Attend a meeting or event—With websites such as Couchsurfing and Meetup you can meet people as you travel with similar interests, rather than just random strangers. Couchsurfing organizes meetings, even for those who don’t feel comfortable staying on some stranger’s couch. Meetup.com also allows you to find meetings for everything under the sun depending on where you are and what your interest may be. Look for listings of local events going on where you are. These are crawling with conversations just waiting to occupy a solo traveler’s evening. Even just tweeting where you are may open up to invitations from followers you didn’t know you had.
Ask for a photo or take one for someone—On many occasions, I see couples eyeing me at some landmark or panorama. I know what they want. I know they want a photo and I am alone so they are willing to ask me. The simple act of taking someone’s photo or asking for a photo of yourself can turn into a friend to hang out with or a dinner date. We are all tourists after all and the commonality of wanting a picture taken can turn a solo travel experience into one of many, many conversations.
How do you make solo travel a more social experience?