Traveling solo isn’t easy and comes with its fair share of challenges. It also comes with endless advice on how to be prepared, stay safe and, of course, meet people.
But an independent traveller only likes to be told to “talk to everybody” and to “make friends at your hostel” so many times.
No one expects a solo traveller to be by themselves all the time, but the problem with a lot of the advice on meeting people (such as pairing up with your dorm buddy or joining a tour and getting to know the other people on it) is that you’re still surrounded by other travellers. More often than not, these will be other solo travellers. So instead of flying solo or getting to know the locals, you’re spending your time with people doing the same thing as you.
Traveling alone actually makes it easier to get to know locals, if you make the effort.
Here are some suggestions to help you escape the solo traveller bubble – and joining the nightly hostel pub crawl isn’t one of them.
You don’t have to eat alone, but you don’t have to swap war stories with other travellers over pizza every night. Social dining is the biggest new food trend since Yelp. Grubwithus is an American-based company that organises dinners in cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Seattle. Make a profile, join a dinner and suddenly you’ve got some new, and most likely, local dining companions.
There are stacks of similar groups on meetup.com such as the Secret Dining group in London. Some individual restaurants and groups organise their own events such as the Irish Heather’s Long Table Series in Vancouver or the Lakeland Pudding Society in England’s Lake District. Many people go to these events solo and even people who arrive with others are encouraged to sit separately.
Keep fit and meet people by tagging along to a run club event. Most clubs post details of their runs online and invite anyone to join in so what’s stopping you joining the Hunters Bog Trotters in Edinburgh, VanRun in Vancouver, the Gunn Runners in Melbourne or jogging over the Golden Gate Bridge with some San Francisco locals?
Many events usually finish with a coffee or a beer and a chance for you to get some insights into the city you’re visiting. Search online or ask at a running or athletic store.
Not a runner? Find a cycling group or an outdoor yoga class.
Hook into local events and get involved.
Finding events happening in the city you’re exploring has never been easier and doesn’t require scanning the gig guide. Couchsurfing is a good start. Even if you think sleeping on a strangers couch is the most dangerous/hippy/freeloading thing ever, become a member and join the forums.
Members – both locals and travellers – will post in the various groups about events in the city. It might be a charity live music event, a pot luck dinner or a group of art enthusiasts organising to visit a gallery.
Need more ideas? Check local noticeboards and become a volunteer for the day on a walking track in the mountains or take part in a short fun-run.