Ever want to climb Macchu Pichu, lay out on a beach in Thailand, or just take a road trip, but can't find anyone to go with? Solo travel is the answer!
I know what you're thinking. You'll be lonely, bored, it's dangerous, and only tough granola types travel by themselves. Au contraire. I’m 5'1 and I can't leave the house without a full face of makeup. If I could travel solo, anyone can. I've never been lonely or bored. On the contrary, I've had countless adventures and made many friends over the years with whom I've stayed in touch. One of my friends even met her future husband on a solo trip! And traveling solo is no more dangerous than walking around by yourself in your neighborhood.
Traveling solo makes you more approchable, not only to members of the opposite sex but friendly locals and fellow travelers as well. You'll also learn to hone in on your intuition. Without the chatter of someone else's opinion, you learn to rely on your own instincts, a skill that will serve you well in real life too. By relying on your inner strength, you'll have newfound confidence. But traveling solo is an art. If you want to make friends and not spend the entire time talking to yourself, you'll need a game plan.
1. Choose your locale wisely
Certain places attract more solo like-minded travelers than others. For example, if you're jonesing to head over to Central America, stay away from Cancun which, as spring break central, is geared towards large groups. On the flip side, a remote jungle town may not afford you the chance to meet many people as there won't be that many other travelers. Don't make the mistake of thinking you'll befriend all the locals. Keep in mind that while you're on vacation, they're just going about their daily lives. While they might be happy to have you over for dinner or treat you to drinks, they probably won't want to accompany you out every night. Instead, choose something in-between like Montezuma in Costa Rica, Sayulita in Mexico.
2. Eat at the Bar
Sure, it’s a simple way to order another drink, but that's not why you should do it. Eating at the bar provides an easy way to meet other solo diners as well as befriend the bartender who can clue you into the local scene and hook you up with free drinks. If you're staying in town for awhile, try to become a regular. You'll get better service and find it easier to make new friends.
3. Buy a guide geared towards solo travelers
Not all guidebooks are made the same. While families may do well with Frommers or Rick Steves, you're not going to get the lowdown on where other travelers congregate or where the best bars are. Likewise, pick up a Wallpaper guide only when you're hitting a big city with a friend or significant other. Swanky bars with $20 drinks are not exactly solo travel friendly. Try Lonely Planet or Rough Guides, two of the most popular guides used by solo travelers.
4. Be friendly and inquisitive
Step outside your comfort zone and talk to anyone and everyone who looks friendly. You'll find that the majority of other travelers are happy to strike up a convo and maybe even invite you to do things together. When I first landed in Costa Rica, I realized my only options to town were an $80 two hour cab ride or a $2 five hour bus ride. When I spotted a lost-looking gangly tall gringo, I knew immediately he was likely going to the same town I was. So I quickly started chatting him up. We ended up sharing a cab ride into town, I saved myself $40 and made a new friend.
5. Select a traveler-friendly hotel
A chain hotel is not your friend. Neither is a five star hotel. I learned the hard way my first time in Prague when I selected places to stay based on price and how nice their linens were. I ended up staying in places totally void of other solo travelers and ended up crying myself to sleep at night. When looking for a hotel, look for words like "lively", "friendly", and yes, even "party". These are the places where you're more likely to make friends. In addition to consulting your guidebook, check out tripadvisor.com and filter the reviews by solo traveler.
6. Engage in group activities
Sure, you could rent a bike and explore the town on your own, but then who would you meet? No one. Instead, join a group bike tour, a snorkeling expedition, or beer crawl. Tours and group activities are one of the easiest ways to make new friends. After going on a bike tour of Munich, I befriended a fellow traveler who accompanied me to a local beer hall. We ended up making friends with an older local couple who told us stories of surviving WW II.