I get it. It’s scary. Maybe you’re traveling alone, you’re lost, you’re lonely, or just plain bored. What to do? Well unless you’re hiking alone in the wilderness, chances are there are friendly, welcoming locals or tourists around you who are also wondering how they can make some “mini friendships” while away from home. It is important to make friends while traveling solo.
I will say this. I don’t think I’ve ever been shut down when striking a friendly conversation with a stranger or looking to reach out and make an acquaintance when traveling — or even when home! It takes practice. Nothing comes perfectly easily at first, especially when traveling solo, but when you learn your trips and travels can be that much more fulfilling and meaningful when you connect with others, that’s when the serendipity and the magic happens.
Here are some strategies of how to make friends while traveling solo (in a safe way):
How to Make Friends while Traveling Solo
- Compliment: Ever notice someone with nice sunglasses, a cool luggage bag, or even just a pretty shirt or dress on? We have these thoughts about people all the time, but we keep the compliments to ourselves. And so, we’re missing out on a lot of connections, and even brownie points with strangers, by not speaking up! I make it a habit now when I think a nice thought about someone, I’ll say it. As long as you’re well-intentioned and respectful, a compliment can really change someone’s day, and it’s a great way to start conversation and friendship.
- Offer to help: Someone’s carrying their luggage and looks like they’re struggling up stairs or through doors? Help them! See someone trying to take a selfie, ask to take the photo for them! The kindness of strangers is a powerful force. We’ve all been there, where we wished someone would offer to help us. And while we may be bashful to receive help, don’t forget most people feel good when they’re able to help someone! So don’t be afraid to ask if someone needs your help, even if it’s as small as watching their things at a cafe while they make a quick sprint to the bathroom. And in that vein, don’t be afraid to ask for help either! You never know when someone could be a new travel buddy.
- Look for a recommendation — ask questions: Some people aren’t as open to putting themselves out there, so if you ask a question, they’ll be invited to share. My favorite thing to do no matter where I go is to ask people for recommendations! It’s an easy question to begin a conversation, and everyone has opinions on places they’ve liked.. and really didn’t like! I’ve stumbled upon amazing restaurants, hikes, farmers’ markets, street art and so much more because I asked a stranger to point me to some suggestions! Just approach it with curiosity and respect, and everyone will have a recommendation to share with this easy conversation starter.
- Remark on an observation: Sometimes if I’m sitting on a beach and there’s someone near me who seems friendly enough, I’ll remark on how calm or choppy the water is, how beautiful the view. It’s a great way to share a moment with someone new, but also point something out in the present that maybe the other person didn’t get a chance to admire.
- Smile: I really dislike the stereotype of women always being told to smile. But instead of isolating it to women, I think we can all flash a friendly smile and adjust our resting face to be more open to a conversation to learn about the people and world around us. Respect is a universal language. But a friendly smile is also one of the easiest ways to invite a connection! No need to be creepy, but if you smile, someone may be more comfortable to smile back, or even take the lead in making conversation with you.
The confidence you gain when being able to share a part of yourself and put yourself out there is transferrable to most situations when you’re home! A networking event, a new party, mingling with new co-workers. Learning how to “talk with strangers” is a skill that will keep bringing you meaningful connection, and maybe friendships you didn’t even expect.
Do you have more tips on how to make friends while traveling solo (in a safe way)? Let us know!
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