How to be a solo traveller and never feel lonely…

All too often people put their travels off or don’t go at all because they don’t have anyone to go with. There are many reasons why it may be hard for you to find a travel partner back home. Maybe you’re friends are too busy studying, working, can’t get time off, don’t have the funds, or have a boyfriend/girlfriend back home that they just can’t bare to leave behind… There could be all sorts of reasons why you find yourself wanting to travel, but having no-one to go with. You consider going alone, but you’re not sure if you can do it. Wouldn’t it be lonely on the road by yourself? Contrary to popular belief it’s not lonely! Or it certainly doesn’t have to be…

I’ve been travelling solo since I took my first trip back in 2006. In fact, I’ve been doing it so long now it’s the only way I know how… I’d be lying if I said that there are no days when I feel a wee bit lonely, but there have been some days back home where I’ve felt alone too. There are many steps you can put in place to help you meet new people and make friends very fast on the road. These are all things that I do on my travels currently, and very rarely do I feel like I am a solo traveller because of it.

1. Choose your accommodation wisely

When I travel I almost always stay in hostels. They’re an easy way to meet other like minded travellers, and are built to be social as much as cheap. You will find a lot of other solo travellers in hostels too. If hostels are not your thing however then why not travel slow and rent a flat share? If you pick a big flat/apartment with at least a few people in it you’ll get to know and live with other local people, meet their friends from the area, and get an idea of life as a local in that city. Other great services for meeting other people include Couch Surfing – whereby you stay with a local on their couch, floor, or spare room for free. Aside from being great for budget travellers, if you choose your host well, and at a time when they are not too busy, you may find that you end up making a new friend along the way.

2. Travel during the peak season

In some places I’ve been to such as Belgrade and Ljubljana the hostels are pretty much dead during winter. In the bigger European cities such as Paris, London, or Barcelona, you will usually find at least some people in each hostel you go to, but for some other cities you really need to be there in summer or you’ll find it hard to meet other travellers. I’d therefore recommend travelling in the on-peak season if you’re a solo traveller staying in backpacker hostels (if meeting new people is the most important aspect of your trip).

3. Make the effort to talk to people

Strike up conversations with everyone you meet! Some might lead to nothing, but you’d be surprised how one short conversation with a local or another traveller can lead to you going on the best night out you’ve ever had, or finding a travel buddy for your jaunt to the next town. If you don’t make the effort to talk to anyone you’ll find that everything leads to you sitting about on your own.¬†Assume that no-one will come up and chat to you, and make the effort to speak to them. What’s the worst that can happen?

4. Take some lessons in the local language

If you’re somewhere that people don’t speak your native language then this can make things harder for you to meet people – especially locals. Looking up a few local phrases or sayings will help in terms of getting by, but if you have the time why not take some classes in the local language? For a start, if you take a class then there will most probably be other students there in your class that you can mix with, but it will also help you in conversations with local people.

5. Use sites like MeetUp.com to meet other like minded people

If you’re an expat somewhere, you’ll find regular meet up groups here. I’ve tagged along as the +1 to a meet up in Brussels for a friend who was an expat there and I had a great experience. There are lots of groups based in cities around the world that you can join for free, and it gives you a chance to meet other people you can converse with.

6. Use internet forums to find other travellers, and get tweeting!

Just because you travel solo doesn’t mean that you can’t travel with someone for part of your trip – even if that part is just one small leg to your journey. If you look on internet travel forums such as Bootsnall or on the Lonely Planet website you may find other people you can team up with for certain parts of your journey. Also, if you’re not already doing so get tweeting! I’ve met many other bloggers in cities around the world just from tweeting that I’m going to someplace. Someone see’s it, they’re in the area, and you meet up for a beer or coffee.

7. Keep busy

The worst thing you can do if you’re missing home a bit of feeling a little bit lonely is to sit on your own wallowing in sorrow. Keep busy. make sure every day you have lots to keep you occupied! If you’re busy doing things then you’re too busy to sit and feel lonely. Whether it’s going out sight seeing, taking photos, writing your diary, listening to a live band, writing your blog, or whatever. It doesn’t matter. Sure, there are some things that are easier when done with someone, but there are plenty things you can do in your chill out time on your own that will keep your brain busy and not thinking nostalgic thoughts of home.

8. Talk to the staff

For some reason the more I travel the more I make friends with the staff in the hostels, bars, restaurants etc that I go. Particularly at the hostels, hostel/hotel bars, or with the tour guides on tours, you’ll find that the people who have these jobs often have a real interest in travel – they do work in tourism after all! Particularly if it’s quiet, use this as an excuse to go strike up a conversation with them. I’m sure they’ll appreciate the distraction from the boredom of working in a quiet bar or hostel. Also, if these people are local or lived in this place for a while they’ll most likely be able to recommend the best places to go, visit, or see.

9. Skype home when you need to

If you miss home or need someone to talk to Skype home. It’s as simple as clicking a button.

10. Take a tour

Lot’s of solo travellers go on tours while they are in a destination. It can be a great opportunity to experience a country and meet new people (on your tour) at the same time. It’s hard to feel lonely when there are several other like minded individuals around you, as well as a tour guide on hand to help!

Solo travel is not lonely.

3 Responses to “How to be a solo traveller and never feel lonely…”

  1. Ashray says:

    I’d like to add that participating in festivals (usually during the peak season) is a great way to meet people because everyone’s very bubbly and outgoing at that time. Traveling solo is great for self discovery but it does get lonely sometimes..

  2. Ashray, I agree festivals are a great way to kills some “solo travellers fear”, give you a chance to live like a local, and they are SO much fun. I was lucky enough to find some great ones on my trip to Spain last summer!

  3. John Cain says:

    Oddly enough, you often meet more people when traveling solo than if with a partner or group.

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