Before I started traveling, I never thought of myself as an outgoing kind of person.
I mean, I’m friendly, polite, and nice (most of the time, tooo nice for my own good). But I’m not naturally outgoing. I’m an introvert. I don’t just strike up conversations with strangers and I hate being the center of attention.
So when I found myself on the road alone, I was really worried about being lonely all the time and hating traveling solo. I was afraid I wouldn’t make any friends since I don’t stay in hostels. Sharing a room with partying strangers and having to make dumb travel small talk in the common room… sounds like a nightmare to me.
I’ve been truly traveling alone for 9 months now, and I’m actually really enjoying it. And you know what? What they all say is true: when you’re traveling solo, you’re never actually alone.
Soooo… how exactly does one make friends when you don’t stay in hostels?
Here are some ways I have made friends! These are somewhat in order of effectiveness.
*Note: I’m usually looking to make genuine connections with locals. Not temporary drinking buddies. Not that I don’t like other travelers (okay some backpackers are really annoying), but I’m just looking to gain more local knowledge about a place’s culture, food, and traditions.
Book Airbnbs where you stay with the host
This is the best way and always the first thing I’ll do in prevention of loneliness.
Back when I was traveling as a couple, we specifically looked for entire homes because we wanted the privacy. But now, I always look for a spare room rental in the host’s house.
Not only is the cost significantly cheaper, the experience is almost always better too. If you’re living in a whole home, you’re most likely dealing with a ghost host whom you’ll only see for 5 minutes during check-in and check-out. But when you’re living in the host’s house, sure you sacrifice some privacy (can’t walk around in your undies!), but you can talk to them, get insider tips, and gain knowledge about the city/culture you’ll only get by talking with locals.
I read the reviews carefully to see what kind of hosts they are. I take special note of whether previous guests said the host hangs out with them and takes them around, or if they barely see the host. If you can find a good host who loves showing travelers around, that’s a built-in friend right there! And because you live with them, you’ll never be lonely.
I’ve been really lucky with good Airbnbs lately. Some were more temporary friends good for a chat or two, while others have turned into true friendships. In my opinion, a good Airbnb will make or break your entire experience.
Use Tinder to meet locals
Don’t laugh. I actually use TInder to meet local friends. And with great success too, may I add.
This one, you do have to be a little careful. We all know what Tinder is for. But there are actually decent people on there who are happy to make a new friend. And especially a new cool traveler friend from another country.
You need to be specific that you’re visiting and just looking for someone to hang out with. And since I’m just looking to make friends, I’m not so picky on the “attractiveness” of the person. Instead, it matters more to me what they write in the profile. I look for people who seem fun, genuine, and kind. People who are looking to expand their social circle and someone to eat with.