Have you got a wicked travel plan forming in the back of your mind but you’re too scared to commit because you don’t have a travel buddy?
Are you sick and tired of having your dream destinations dismissed by friends who just don’t have the same level of passion as you for travel?
Are you all ready to go on your first epic solo adventure but wondering how you’re going to meet people and make friends while travelling?
You are not alone.
- I have dithered when committing to solo travel plans
- I have shied away from clicking that ‘book now’ button because I’ve been scared I’ll be lonely without a travel buddy
- I have talked excitedly with friends about the trips that we want to take together… only to have the idea wither away.
If I had given into my doubt all those years ago, then I would never have travelled for the last five years.
I often hear the word ‘brave’ bandied around by people who don’t travel as much as I do. I am never one for admitting to feeling brave for travelling solo. I don’t think bravery has much to do with making the choice to travel alone. You’re simply opting to follow your heart and walk down an alternative path. The perceived bravery of your choice seems a million miles away the reality of choosing to do what feels right for you.
I now happily choose to travel solo because I am achieving my goals. I get to pick where I go, when and what I do in each place. The senses of freedom and confidence gained from solo travel is almost as addictive as the travel bug in the first place.
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When Your Friends Don’t Want To Travel
I wrote a piece recently for Young And Undecided’s Women Who Wander Series called Why The Dream Of Travel Is Not Enough (And Why You Need To Travel Solo). In this article I argued that waiting around for someone else’s travel dream to align with your own may mean you never set foot on your adventure.
And who will miss out the most if you don’t end up travelling? That’s right. You will.
For if your plans are shelved, the tickets not purchased and all the sights, sounds and food remain undiscovered, one element remains unchanged. Your desire to travel still burns. It still clouds your vision until all you can picture are the unseen horizons you wish to explore.
So I’m arguing that you need to do yourself a favour and travel solo, stat.
Don’t worry if your friends have bailed, crying lack of money, time and opportunity as their reasons. That’s ok. Leave them to their daily lives and their current routines.
It’s ok to admit that you want something different to your friends. For you, the dream of travel is simply not enough. Your priorities are not the same.
And that’s ok, too.
It’s time to focus on what you want to do: travel. Don’t let the lack of a travel buddy in tow stop you from embarking on your trip.
Below I share several ways that I have been able to meet people whilst travelling plus several more that have come recommended to me. Even if I start out my journey alone, I know that within a few days I will have met a crowd of wonderful new people from across the globe. Any original fears I had about travelling vanish as I raise a beer with my new travel buddies.
How To Find A Travel Buddy
Let’s take a look at some of the ways I have met other travellers when travelling by myself. I hope that you’ll find comfort and inspiration in some of these ideas.
You can travel solo and you will meet people as you go.
Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
Create a solid plan and open it up to others
I know, I know. I’ve kinda just dismissed the idea of travelling with your friends from home and I apologise for being contradictory. But in some cases it can work if you dangle the carrot.
Don’t be discouraged if you’re getting little or no interest from your friends when you suggest an awesome trip. If I were you, I would continue to build my sensational itinerary – focusing on where I wanted to go, see and do. Present this tantalising travel package to your friend and see whether they are as keen as you to book the holiday.
People sometimes have a hard time visualising travel and the idea of planning a trip – along with budget, flights and itinerary – can be off-putting. If you present them with the juiciest carrot, already washed, peeled and ready to go, you may find they are suddenly keen to take a bite.
Local day tours
Where ever you travel to, you can be assured that there will be plenty to do locally. Find a walking tour, boat trip, food tour or any other day trip in your new location and join in.
Chances are you will meet other travellers taking the same trip. At the very least, you have some people to can share the experience with. At most you may find that you get along really well with one or two people from the group. You can arrange to meet up again once the trip is over.
Use backpacker friendly travel
Whilst it’s tempting to fly or even rent a car (although my budget wouldn’t frequently allow this) to get around, it’s usually miles cheaper and more sociable to book backpacker friendly transport.
By this I mean transport – usually a bus service – that is especially designed for backpackers. In Australia there is a company called Greyhound that operate along the East Coast, making it super cheap and easy to get around. In New Zealand a company called Kiwi Experience offers hop-on-hop off packages for travellers looking for a reliable and safe service.
This second option is almost akin to a tour company as their buses usually have a ‘guide’ on them helping you to organise your accommodation and point out cool places to see and do along the way.
Try looking into whether your destination has similar transportation options available to you. For more about the topic of transport, check out:
Small group tours
I used to be rather sceptical about organised group travel, even as a solo traveller. Having been on several group tours now, I can honestly say that I would highly recommend them.
Certainly if you are short on time and the means to travel in a particular country, joining a tour group where someone else has planned the itinerary and organises the transport is very useful. And this is not even mentioning the awesome people you will meet on these trips. From small groups of friends to solo travellers and couples of all ages and nationalities, group travel is a great way of meeting travellers from all walks of life.
If you’re tempted by the idea of a group tour, you might like to read more about my experiences:
- The Pros And Cons Of Guided Group Travel
- An Amazing Group Trip Across The Kimberley in Australia
- A Fantastic Group Trip From Adelaide To Alice Springs in Australia
- An Epic Ten Day Trip from Perth To Broome in Australia
Stay in hostels
Hostels are hands down the easiest way to surround yourself with a ton of other travellers. There are opportunities to meet people wherever you are in a hostel: from the dorm room, to the common area or the kitchen or bar.
- Check out the notice boards or ask at reception for details on activities such as quizzes, pub crawls, movie nights or even local walking tours.
- Sit down in the common areas and join in with conversation – which will inevitably follow the lines of ‘what’s your name’, ‘where are you from’ and ‘how long are you staying?’
- Chat to reception staff to introduce yourself and get the low down on what’s happening.
The truth is, you can quickly and easily surround yourself with interesting people from all over the world. Bonds are often formed instantly over beers and can equip you with top notch travel buddies and friendships that will last long after your travels are over.
- If you’ve never stayed in a hostel before, take a read of my first-timer’s guide to hostel accommodation.
Themed retreats or activities
If the thought of staying in a hostel makes your skin crawl, that’s ok. They are certainly not everyone’s cup of tea for many reasons. There have been occasions along the way when I’ve treated myself to a bit more of a specific style of accommodation.
For example, I have stayed at a yoga retreat in Bali where I was surrounded by like minded (well, I say like minded – these ladies were hardcore yogis and I’m a little more soft-round-the-core couch potato) people united by one common interest.
This may be a long shot, but if you look for an activity or a type of accommodation that suits your hobbies and interests you may find people who are open to travelling together.
So, what kinds of things are you interested in? You could look into:
- Surf camps or other water based activities
- Walking holidays
- Art / craft themed excursions
- Extreme (or not-so extreme!) sports
- Language exchanges
- Volunteering – activities such as WWOOF
This is just me throwing out some random suggestions, but my point is, travel gives you the opportunity to focus on the things you enjoy or would like to learn more about. So it’s time to get inspired, fire up your favourite search engine and start imagining the possibilities. Once you begin to link your interests with travel, you’ll unlock potential situations where you can meet people who share similar interests.
Use social media to network
Harness the power of Facebook and use it to your advantage. There are hundreds of backpacker and traveller friendly pages and groups on Facebook for you to join and network.
Just try searching for the country you’re interested in visiting and follow it with the word ‘backpackers’ and see what comes up. These groups are a goldmine for people searching for travel buddies, cars, itinerary suggestions and answers to hundreds more country or place specific questions.
Send a request to a couple of backpacker groups on Facebook and start to make connections even before you arrive at your next destination.
A couple of my favourites are:
Following on from social media, there are dozens of apps available for people seeking travel friends. Usually these involve you posting up a short bio of yourself – e.g. age and nationality – along with an outline of your intended itinerary.
You can make connections with like-minded travellers through the app and choose to meet up and travel together. If you’re a bit sceptical about the safety of apps like these, they use verification through your social media accounts to ensure that people are who they say they are.
For one off events you can try Meetup. If there’s a sporting event that you want to go to in a particular destination, you may find that other solo travellers are going to the same thing. You can make connections with people and arrange to meet up with them at all kinds of social outings: from sports to BBQs in the park.
Consider Couchsurfing or AirBnB
I have to admit, Couchsurfing is not something that I’ve tried personally. However, it works well for a lot of people and means that you meet local people who are willing to give you super cheap accommodation. AirBnB may be a little pricier, but you can opt for a room in a shared house and choose profiles where the host is happy to socialise and meet people that way.
You may not find long term travel buddies this way, but it’s certainly a method to try that means you don’t end up sitting in a hotel room by yourself all evening.
How Do You Make Friends When Travelling?
Have I missed something here? Have you travelled alone before and got a great trick up your sleeve for combating loneliness and finding a travel buddy? I’d love to hear your tried and tested methods for making friends, as I believe there never can be too many.
Over to you! Let me know what how you’ve managed to meet people whilst travelling? Share your experiences in the comments!
If you know of someone who is about to embark on their first solo trip send this post their way to give them a gentle nudge that they will be totally ok!
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