Solo travel friends: How, where & 9 different types!
How do you do it? How do you make friends traveling solo?
It’s the age old question every solo backpacker gets asked a hundred times.
Even in this day and age, one of the biggest factors stopping people solo traveling is because they’re not sure how to make friends solo traveling
In a world of introverts, extraverts, confident and shy…making backpacker friends is easy for some, and ever so hard for others.
If you’re considering on solo traveling, or have already started and finding it difficult to make friends solo traveling, you’ve come to the right place. In this post we’ll cover how, where and the different types of solo travel friends you can make. I will say making friends solo traveling is as easy or hard as you make it.
Where can you make friends solo traveling?
It’s very simple, you can make friends solo traveling everywhere. Now that might sound like a cop out or even arrogant but it’s true.
You might find this strange to believe but when you’re solo traveling, you will very rarely actually be alone. I mean unless you decide to wander off into the most remote areas of the world where no man or woman has ever ventured before.
But that’s very unlikely because traveling in any shape or form is so popular now, even if you go off the ‘beaten track’ there’s gonna be other locals, tourists and backpackers around you so the opportunity to make backpacker friends is everywhere.
In most cases nowadays, solo traveling just means leaving your home on your own. Yes of course there will be situations where you’re alone, like while you’re in transit, or arriving in a new destination, you may take a walk or go on a small hike alone. You might take a bus/train or flight alone. But just look around there are people all around you and those people are opportunities to make travel friends if you wish too.
It’s up to you to make friends solo traveling
Alot of us solo backpackers choose to travel this way rather in groups or with other people because we like the freedom. We’re not obliged to follow other people, we do and don’t do what we want to, at our own pace. There isn’t or at least shouldn’t be situations we’re forced into that we don’t want to be a part of. In traveling with groups you might have to put up with people you don’t get along with but as a solo traveler you’re free of that burdon.
And, the great thing about solo traveling is you choose weather or not to make backpacker friends and with who you want. You’re under no obligation to approach, like and get to know anybody. However on the flip side if you do want to make friends solo traveling, those opportunities are all around you from the moment you start your journey.
Where you can make friends solo traveling:
- At the airport/bus station/ train station
- On the flight/bus/train/tour group
- Arriving in your new destination
- Your accommodation, especially in a hostel. Hostels are probably the easiest place to make backpacker friends
- Walking tours, bike tours (a lot of destinations have free walking tours you can join in morning or evenings and great place to make solo travel friends)
- In cafes, bars, restaurants
- On excursions, tours, trips, events
- By simply walking around and getting to talk to people
- On a beach, a hike, sightseeing,
- A chance meeting
- By just becoming a regular face to locals
Pretty much any situation or setting you can think of is a chance to make friends as a solo traveler.
How to make friends solo traveling
While the where is the easy part the how can be a little more difficult in making backpacker friends. Not everybody out there is super confident to just walk into any situation and just open themselves up to make friends. Some people are shy, some are socially awkward, some are naturally closed off and it can be hard for them to make friends solo traveling.
However the longer you travel, in all likelihood there will come a time at some point where you do want some company, a meaningful connection, want to make some travel friends. Like I mentioned above the opportunities are ample, more times than not there will always be people around you. But the onus is on you at times to make the effort to turn strange faces into familiar ones.
A harsh truth you might not like
A harsh truth is, you’re going to have to put in some leg work. Not everybody is going to jump up to be your friend, and a lot of the times you have to make the first move. For example, if you’re staying in a hostel, you might see backpackers having fun, chatting, doing things together all around you but not including you. It’s not that they don’t like you (well they might not) It’s more than likely you have not made an effort. They’re under no obligation to make the first move, approach and put the effort in.
I’m not saying that will always be the case, sometimes other backpackers will make the first move, but you have to be approachable in the first place.
My own experience of solo travel friends
I’ll be honest, Since I started backpacking in 2010, I’ve only ever had problems making friends solo traveling when I’ve been the problem. There have been times I’ve been closed off, had situations when I’ve been in emotional states and not approachable. There have been times where I just couldn’t be bothered to socialise or make new solo travel friends, times I couldn’t be arsed with people or felt the crowd around me wasný my type.
I’ll be honest there have been times where I’ve looked across a room, seen people laughing, enjoying each others company and wondered why I’m not included but then realised It’s my fault, I’ve been closed off and made zero effort in the first place.
On the other hand, there have been plenty of occasions where I have made the effort, I have made friends, been part of tight knit groups even as a solo backpacker. I’ve made friends who are closer to me than my own family. I’ve even encountered chance meetings where if we didn’t speak we wouldn’t have become the close friends we are.
Like I said before, that’s the beauty, you can pick and choose when and when not to be sociable and make solo travel friends or not.
Ways to make yourself available to make friends solo traveling
If you do find it difficult to make friends in general or are a little awkward in social setting there are some simple and effective ways to make friends:
- Be friendly, a simple smile can go a long way, say hi
- Be approachable
- Don’t pre judge anybody
- Say yes not no – when somebody asked if you want to grab a drink, get some food, watch a movie, do a tour, take a walk, say yes – what the worst that can happen?
- Join in social gatherings – your hostel might hold an event, or have a bbq night, pub crawls, couchsurfing event, check for local facebook groups they might organise get togethers,
Different levels of solo travel friends you can make
I always say there are different levels of backpacker and solo travel friends you make just like your friends back home. Its something I’ve learnt over the years of backpacking, and the longer people travel the more they understand it to be true when making backpacker friends or just travel friends overall.
As you’ve seen so far in this post, there is ample opportunities to make solo travel friends but what kind of friends do you make as a solo traveler? Think about it for a second, you’re a solo traveler, you’re going to be on the move. In most cases the friends you’ll make will be other backpackers who move on or locals who stay to carry on with their lives as you move on. So, either way, you’re going to go seperate ways. Makes sense right?
So I can break it down into three levels of solo travel friends. Level 3 will be the majority of people you can meet. Level 2 a smaller amount of backpacker friends you can make and level 1 will be a very small pool of travel friends you can make.
The 3 levels of solo travel friends
Level 3 – casual backpacker friends
We come into contact with people all around us, from our hostel, excursions, to times we’re traveling from one place to another. So many people will come and go in and out of our backpacking lives like a super highway. With these people, we might become friends while we’re in each others company. We might eat, drink, party, get drunk, be roommates, do tours and excursions together and feel like we’re friends. But, once we both go our seperate ways, that’s it, the ties are cut. We didn’t exchange social media, Emails or phone numbers and soon enough are forgotten from memory or become a blur when thinking back.
That’s not to say that will happen to all of them, some of these will actually turn into level 2 solo travel friends within days, or way before you go your seperate ways. Right now, you might think, “Nah, that’s horrible I’ll remember all those I become friends with.” – Just wait and see, and let me know a year later if you still remember these people.
Level 2 – social media backpacker friends
I like to call these, the social media friends. Just like the ones above, however there feels to be more of a bond though, and a genuine interest in each others lives beyond travel and now and here. Because there is more of a bond, more interests we share away from travel, we tend to develop our friendships quicker and tend to do more together. Once we go our seperate ways, we do keep in touch. We have swapped social media, phone numbers and emails. There is a genuine desire to meet up again somewhere down the road. We keep an eye on each others traveling life, we keep in contact.
However at some point, level 2 friends turn either into level 1 friends or we lose contact over time and we turn into level 3 backpacker friends. It’s normally the case that once one of us have stopped traveling and gone back home, to our old lives, old friends and family the separation becomes wider from the travel and normal life realities and with that contact stops. It’s not anybody’s fault, it’s just life. You get on with yours and they with theirs.
Level 1 – Not backpacker friends anymore – we’re friends for life
It’s like a funnel, some level 3 backpacker friends turn into level 2 backpacker friends where they either turn back to level 3 or funnel down to level 1 and stick with you for life.
Level 1 backpacker friends are the ones we get the closest to. We feel the strongest bonds and connections. We know we will be friends beyond our backpacking or travel lives. In some cases we feel like we’ve met ourselves, or known each all our lives. We are more like family. And I always say these are the type of friends we will keep crossing paths with. Not on the present trip but in years to come, our lives will keep intertwining and stay in each others lives.
It’s with these backpacker friends we share our fondest, and greatest memories with. Theses are the friends that have shared and stuck through the best and worst backpacking times with us. And these are the ones your most excited to see again.
Different types of solo travel friends you’ll make
You’ve seen how to make friends solo traveling, you’ve seen where you can make friends solo traveling and you’ve seen the different levels of solo travel friends you can make but what types of backpacker friends or travel friends might you make?
- Hostel solo travel friends
- Other accommodation/couchsurfing solo travel friends
- Drinking/bar/Party solo travel friends
- Excursion/tour/sightseeing friends/ Walking tour backpacker friends
- Same route/ solo travel friends
- Work/volunteer solo travel friends
- Local friends
- Meeting yourself
- Travel romances
1. Hostel solo travel friends
Backpacker hostels are the easiest place to make backpacker friends for a number of reasons. They are mainly social places and have ample opportunities for backpackers to get to know each other from dorm rooms, social areas and organising events. Of course there are different types of hostels to suit you, some are more sociable and crazier (party hostels) to others.
Remember hostel life can be quite an intense vortex, you’ll meet people from all walks of life, and people you wouldn’t associate with back home. Yet in a hostel you can become friends, create bonds, and connect with people after 5 minutes of meeting them and in turn make friends solo traveling.
Different hostel types
Many young first time solo backpackers choose party hostels to stay in because just how easy it is to make friends solo traveling; you just gotta share some alcohol or get high with someone. But you can make good friends in other type of hostels too by just sharing a conversation, a meal, or cooking with each other. Many life long backpacker friends are flourished in hostels.
While you won’t get along with every backpacker you meet in a hostel, they are where most like minded people will be.
Do be careful though, get too comfortable, your reality becomes skewed, and you might just fall into the hostel trap.
Long term hostel friends turn into mini communities and create a family type environment
If you’re like me and solo budget travel slowly, you will at some point become a long termer in a hostel (stay in the hostel longer, even make a home there). The friends we make are more likely to be with other long termers. We tend to start living like our own community within the hostel and in turn become more like family. We cook with each other, socialise with each other, party with each other, go on trips together, hang out with each other, pretty much do everything together. We get to know each other on deeper levels and this can lead us to having quite a strong bond and sometimes it can get cliquey.
It’s horrible to say this but sometimes we just have no interest in getting to know somebody that’s just passing through for a few days. That’s not to say it’s always the case. And sometimes people who have the intention of just passing through become friends with long termers and become one themselves. Don’t be surprised if you make friends solo traveling with hostel long termers and just don’t leave.
2. Other accommodation/ couchsurfing
It’s not just in backpacker hostels you’ll meet like minded people. You might opt against staying in a hostel and choose couchsurfing, AirBnb or a houseshare. It will be the same type of scenario but less people. Like in staying in smaller more intimate hostels, you might get to know your hosts or other backpackers on more of a personal level. You may find you all start to travel together in a group rather than going your seperate ways.
3. Drinking/Party friends
These types of friends are pretty self explanatory. These are the ones you do nothing else with. During the day, you do your own things, have little or no interaction with but when it comes to drinking and partying they’re at the ready. You might have met these types of friends a previous time you partied or in a bar, and loved each others drunk company. Everybody knows if there is a party you’ll be together laughing, joking and getting drunk together like your best friends.
4. Excursion/walking tour/tours/sightseeing buddies
There is a good chance you will make travel friends while on excursion, tours, walking tours and trips. You might just have different interests to other people you’ve made friends with, or just like to do things alone. You might find others with the same interests and only meet them on excursions and tours.
The more excursions and tours you’re on together, the more you start hanging out together during it and become friends. You might still go your seperate ways once the excursion is over but safe in the knowledge that friendly face will be there the next time.
5. Same route travel friends
There are some countries or regions you’ll go to where everybody takes the same kind of routes like the East coast of Australia or the Gringo trails through Central America. These are well-trodden paths and you’re likely to see the same faces along the way. These are people who you might not be friends with, to begin with, but over time after bumping into each other a number of times you’ll start to become backpacker friends.
You might even find yourselves bumping into each other at bus and train stations, but at first you stick you your own plans. You might stay in the same places, do the same activities, you might be out of sync with each other a couple of days here and there. But after a while you decide to join forces, sync up your plans and become same route travel friends and start traveling together.
6. Work/Volunteer travel friends
If you’re on a working holiday visa, replenishing your backpacking funds with work or giving back and being part of a volunteer program you’re likely to make friends with the people around you.
If you’re working the other people might start out as just work colleagues but over time you might start doing this outside of work together and end up friends. Or it might just be at work that you’ve become friends, you click at work but have no real interests outside of it.
If you decide to do some volunteering work, you’re more than likely getting a place a sleep and eat. It will feel more like you’re part of a community with likeminded people rather than work colleagues, and you’ll find that you start becoming close to people and become friends.
7. Local friends
This should actually be higher up on the list. In being a solo backpacker, especially if you’re traveling on a tight budget you’re gonna find yourself in more local places. You’ll eat in local eateries, drink in local bars, see more rural areas and have more interaction with locals. If you choose to travel slowly, you’ll spend more time in one place, and your face will go from being a strangers to one locals will recognise. You’ll start to get to know locals more and in-turn become friendly and even form friendships.
Or you might just have a chance meeting, bump into one randomly, getting talking and hit it off. Next thing you know you feel like you’ve known each other all your lives and instantly become not just travel friends but life long friends.
And, the great thing about making travel friends with locals is the inside tips you get. You get to see things from a different perspective, discover places only locals know about, you learn more and are more immersed into the local culture.
8. Meeting yourself
No, I don’t mean self-discovery or meeting your doppelganger, I mean there will be somebody you come across who is the exact same as you. The funny thing is you won’t know anything about each other, you might already be staying in the same place and have made the same friends but are not friends yourselves. It will be only after a chance meeting (or a drunken conversation on a doorstep) that you just instantly click and realize you’ve met yourself. You both have the same mentality, think the same, same characteristics, same mannerisms, personalities, the same things in common.
It’s mind-blowing when you meet this person, you bond instantly, and it’s like you’re talking to yourself. Once you meet there is no separating you; you are two peas in a pod.
9. Traveling romances
The spanner in the works or the best thing that can happen to you – it could go either way.
Everybody is human at the end of the day, there are going to be people you’re attracted to, there are some you’ll fall for and some you’ll just have hook ups with. It happens. You’ll meet somebody, you’ll click, hang out possibly, and either you’ll hook up and go your seperate ways, maybe become fuck buddies or it could turn into a travel relationship.
Traveling relationships can be brilliant or really tough. They can be brilliant as you’ve found somebody to make and share your trip and memories with; you’ve found a companion. Or, it can be a spanner in the works because you merge your travel plans together, you both make sacrifices to things the other wanted to do. You’ve gone from being a solo traveler doing things on your own terms and pace to compromising. What you thought you wanted might not be the case and it could turn into a bigger headache than It’s worth.
Plenty of ways to make friends solo traveling
If you really struggle to meet anybody along the way, there are also groups you can get involved with online. Check online there’s always facebook groups, twitter, lonely planet travel communities, Couchsurfing community organised get togethers, and travellerspoint is a great place to meet other backpackers in your situation. You’ll find other backpackers and even locals sometimes who organise events and get togethers for solo backpackers to meet and get to know each other, which is another great way to make friends.
As you can see from this post, there will be plenty of opportunities to make friends solo traveling and trust me there will be times you’ll be desperate to find some alone time.
It’s funny because most first-time solo travelers worry that they won’t make friends before a trip but in-fact it’s solo travelers who are more likely to make traveling friends than those who travel in groups. The reason for it, when you travel in groups you already have your friends, you have your circle while traveling solo you’re more open to making friends. So if you’ve been worried about how to make friends solo traveling, i hope this post has eased that concern.
Did you find this make friends solo traveling post helpful? Let me know in the comments below if there is anything else you would like to know.
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