Most solo travelers are introverts, I know I am, and so are most of the friends I’ve met along the way. I am one of those who usually sits quietly in the common area, or kitchen area, of the hostel, observing fellow travelers and waiting on someone who will smile back and actually make eye contact.
Being and introvert is best described as a shy, reticent person who shines their best when alone or left to their own devices. The mere thought of introducing yourself to a complete stranger will make you disintegrate like Bugs Bunny in Looney Tunes. After years of backpacking around Southeast Asia and the Philippines, I’ve learned, slowly, that hostels are the perfect setting if you are trying to overcome shyness and finally meet someone with whom you can connect, even after you’ve left the destination.
Stay in the hostel’s common area.
At a hostel’s lounge area, there is usually a guy who playing the immortal ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ on ukulele, and then there’s the guy who would sing along, and the guy who is playing solitaire while humming to the song, and then there’s another guy who probably got a beer or two and is cheering on everyone who walks in. It is fun watching this kind of hostel scene as I sit in my favorite beanbag cushion in the corner.
Try to stay and sit in the common area at these times, just to chill and relax, and get a stronger WiFi signal. If you become a familiar face around the lounge area, other travelers will most likely approach you and introduce themselves; look up, make eye contact, and smile.
Join group tours.
Joining group tours should be fun, and is another perfect setting to meet new friends. Plus, it offers a cheaper and better way to discover the characteristics of the place you are staying.
Most hostels offer a free walking tour of the city, or a pub crawl; take advantage of this and open yourself up to meeting people. You will be touring with them for hours, so that’s plenty of time to think of which among the other travelers you are comfortable introducing yourself to, and strike up a conversation on how the weather is being skin-friendly during your group tour.
Seek out other solo travelers.
In a hostel I stayed at in the Cordillera region of the Northern Philippines, I was approached by the hostel keeper and she handed me a piece of post-it note with a phone number written on it. She said, “If you would like to join a spelunking cave tour, here is a number of another female solo traveler who would love to share the ride with another solo traveler.” She is still my friend up today, months after we first met on that spelunking cave adventure in Sagada.
This is one way to seek out other solo travelers who just might be waiting for someone like you.
Interact with the locals.
If interacting with the local barista who served you coffee and the exchanging stories with the man on the street is your thing rather than sitting at the hostel’s lounge area, then go ahead. It’s a good way to practice your conversation skills with a perfect stranger, and a better way to discover the characteristics of your destination.
Don’t stress yourself out.
Let’s say you have finally mustered up the strength to introduce yourself to another solo traveler during one the group tours you joined, and it turns out that he/she was too shy to speak and because of this, snubbed your effort to start a conversation and ran off. Don’t let this stress you out; don’t let this stop you from trying to make new friends. So, just skip this one and move on to the next.
Nowadays, I look forward to breakfast where I get to meet other guests at the hostel, or join walking tours at the local food market. Most of the people I’ve meet are still my friends to this day, and we interact a lot on Messenger and Instagram.
If you do get tired of the socialization and encounters, which, as an introvert, is most of the time, seek out a solemn quiet place where you can recharge. I do my recharging by reading in my corner bunk bed or staying longer than usual in the shower.
So don’t be shy, smile, and make eye contact. If it doesn’t work out, move on. Meeting new friends is one of the more rewarding experience of travel. I somehow worked on overcoming my shyness, and so can you. You got this.
Carla is the owner and creator of brand and travel blog www.justtravellingsolo.com. The blog aims to provide travel guides and travel hacks for those looking for a change of pace in their life by opting to travel. She wants to inspire women coming out of a tragic loss in the family, nasty separations, or simply would want to get out of their desk. She has met some of these women who were inspired by the travel blog and the stories were just overwhelming. She dreams of publishing a collective book on travel memoirs by these amazing women. firstname.lastname@example.org