Solo Travel: Making Friends and that Typical Convo…

When we travel alone, there is obviously a hope to make new friends on our trip. A lot of backpackers and long-term travelers will ask “Ever notice after 10 minutes of meeting a new person you realize you never caught their name?”  There is a typical 3-minute backpacking conversation I have with everyone I meet on the road… and it doesn’t always involve finding out names!

“Where are you from?” “Where were you before here?” “Where do you go next?” “How long are you on the road?”

Often times, you can see the triumphant look on the person’s face when they say a longer time than you. There is definitely an undertone with people that can’t wait to brag how hardcore they are. These are the people to stay away from. Whether you are on the road one week or for years… it doesn’t matter. You’re great because you are trying new things. Any travel experience is what you make it whether you go to Burma or Texas.

When I was traveling alone I would always hope for these small conversations to turn into “LET’S TRAVEL TOGETHER!” and to have a new best friend. But most often, they sadly ended after the introduction conversation, my new almost best friend went and I went our separate ways, and I wanted my three minutes back. It’s hard not to shut off because I started to ask myself, what is the point of these superficial conversations with people I’m never going to see/talk to again?

Well…

Sometimes I got lucky and made a good friend!

At breakfast in Pushkar, I met Ashley, a cool British girl that taught me Ibiza is actually pronounced “Ibitha” in between getting her nose pierced by a nail on the streets and answering my million questions in detail what Hampi was like. We met up again in Varanassi, and hopefully will meet again soon in Goa! Seeing other strong girls travel alone is like a gift; it reassures my mind that “I can do this!” when I feel weak or lonely.

typical backpacking conversationAshley is always a ball of energy, even after being robbed she’s ready to go out for a beer. Nothing keeps her down!

There was Chloe, who I found on Couchsurfing.org. A French girl looking for a travel partner in the Himalayas- an area not recommended for traveling alone… although I found that not to be the case as we had no problems. Anyone who says the French are cold needs to meet this girl; she’s the opposite. She helped nurse me, the nurse, back from Dengue Fever with her kind hands and herbal pills. She taught me all the “psychic” things I wanted to learn about India: gemstone healing powers, color healing, chakras, and magnetic points. Chloe even used her gift to speak to my late grandma through writing. We became Thai yoga masseuses together, and saw the Dalai Lama’s teachings. My trip wouldn’t have been the same without her!

typical backpacking conversation

typical backpacking conversation

Meeting friends while traveling can seem be daunting when you’re alone, but don’t hesitate to talk to strangers at your hotel, dinner, etc. Even girls in big groups… sometimes they get sick of each other and want new friends too. Surprisingly it’s harder to make friends when you travel as a group than when you travel alone. I find you’re less likely to put yourself out there and people are less likely to come up to you.

typical backpacking conversationTraveling in groups can actually make you less new friends

Most people aren’t traveling to seclude themselves. They want to make friends and learn just like you.  You can’t be intimidated to talk to guys as well (I met my boyfriend at a bar in India). Believe it or not, not all guys on the road just want a hook up. You can find something serious abroad.

[Side note: I think one of the biggest tragedies in life is when two people so meant for each other say goodbye because they have to go home. They decide it’s too hard to stay together. There is nothing sadder!]

On the road, I’d say I meet on average 10 people a day and it gets exhausting saying your introduction on repeat. I can be quiet when I meet someone I know I won’t click with. It’s okay not to engage in a friendship with everyone, but keep your heart and mind open because I’ve met some amazing friends traveling and moving somewhere new.

like this girl I met in North Carolina, and moved all the way across the country with:

http://hippie-inheels.com/backpacking-love-stories/

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38 Comments
  1. 6 months ago
    Zoe @ Tales from over the Horizon

    You can make some wonderful friends on the road.
    Zoe @ Tales from over the Horizon recently posted…Guide to Exploring Harbin Food, Restaurants and Bars

    Reply
  2. 6 months ago
    Stef

    I totally agree with you. It’s definitely easier to make new friends when you’re travelling on your own. If you’re open minded and talk to people, you will make friends. Sure not with everyone but you meet so many people and with some you will get over that backpacker small talk and will meet again in other places. And if you don’t want to talk small talk, you don’t do it and fine…that’s it, there will be occassions in the future. Not every day is the same and it’s also great to sometimes spend time alone. In my opinion it’s important to be able to deal with that.
    Stef recently posted…It’s getting serious – only two months left in Germany

    Reply
  3. 6 months ago
    Kaleena's Kaleidoscope

    It’s true, that initial conversation can get so tiresome and it’s easy to start feeling jaded about it all, but it’s a good way to quickly filter through people and find the ones you connect with. Just like dating, it’s a numbers game–if you meet enough people you’re bound to find some great friends along the way! (ok so I’m still waiting for the numbers game to work out for me in the dating world…but I’m keeping the faith! haha)
    Kaleena’s Kaleidoscope recently posted…The Awesome & Inspiring Person I Met From CouchSurfing

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      hahah you’re right though it is like dating! good comparison.

      Reply
  4. 6 months ago
    Danielle

    Thanks for this post. I’ve travelled alone and in groups and I’ve realized that I’ve made more friends while alone. I’ve met some really great people and I can’t wait to go travel again and meet some more =)
    Danielle recently posted…Volleyball, Sunsets and a Jammed Finger

    Reply
  5. 6 months ago
    Ashley

    I totally agree that the three minute backpacking conversation can become really annoying at times, but I have made a number of new friends with that introduction!
    Ashley recently posted…A Two Week Itinerary of Western Australia

    Reply
  6. 6 months ago
    Michael Huxley

    Great article! I know that typical conversation well.

    I think the secret to meeting new people when travelling solo is your mindset. Meeting people is inevitable and easy on the road, some people you will connect with some you won’t. Some you will have an interesting conversation with and never see them again, others you will spend days or weeks on the road with before inevitably parting ways. Some encounters will be fun one night flings or you may even met the love of your life. The thing is it doesn’t matter. All encounters, all experiences, no matter how brief are just part of the journey, they all affect you in some way, whether small or great, and they all enrich your journey in different ways. As you say, the trick is to keep your heart and mind open to all of them.
    Michael Huxley recently posted…My Battle With Dengue Fever In India.

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      I agree, the mindset is most important! People can feel if you’re interested in hanging out or if you just want to be alone.

      Reply
  7. 6 months ago
    Olivia @ Olivia Explores

    It’s amazing how well you can get on with you people you meet on the road. There are just so many people out there who are incredible :) that’s why it’s so important to travel.
    Great post!

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Yep, I’ve met great friends and even my boyfriend while traveling

      Reply
  8. 6 months ago
    Empty Rucksack

    We have never tried this, I mean we have but never long term. Your experiences make solo travel sound nice and fascinating. The most amazing part is when we meet girls traveling alone in india and being hosted by random guys on couch surfing, It really amazes us.
    Empty Rucksack recently posted…things you must buy for your ladakh road trip

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      haha this is funny because I did that in Delhi and it was not ideal… lol never again for me! I now only CS with girls :)

      Reply
  9. 6 months ago
    Renuka

    Yup, it’s good to make new friends while traveling solo. But, in my personal opinion, it’s more beautiful when you don’t continue the friendship. I mean, I like to be totally detached while I’m traveling, so any friendship might put me in that frame of mind again – oh, I want to be with this person, which I don’t like. I like it when I am cordial with everyone I meet, exchange good vibes, laugh, chat and just know the other person from a distance.
    Renuka recently posted…Solo Travel In India – The Realities

    Reply
  10. 6 months ago
    Sarah

    I too have met some incredible people, inspiring women, while traveling alone. That’s part of the reason why I enjoy my solo travels! When I’m tired of giving my introduction, I just make sure I’m the one asking the questions, lol :)
    Sarah recently posted…Why I travel solo even when I’m in a relationship

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      haha yes and people like question askers so it’s a win win

      Reply
  11. 6 months ago
    Laurel

    This was a great read! I am preparing for my first solo trip to Europe in the fall and am so excited for all the great people I will [hopefully] meet!
    Laurel recently posted…Summertime sadness: Say NO to these fashion fails!

    Reply
  12. 6 months ago
    Justine

    I definitely think it’s easier to meet people as a solo traveler. I typically travel with my boyfriend and I do find that we don’t push ourselves to meet other people as much as we would if we were traveling on our own. Regardless, meeting people on the road can be so amazing. I’ve met some very interesting and kind people during my travels. And it looks like you’ve sparked some pretty meaningful friendships :)
    Justine recently posted…Traveling on a Budget: 5 Free Things to do in Bogotá

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      I totally agreel when I travel with my boyfriend we never make new friends! ughhhhhh haha I”ll have to change that

      Reply
  13. 6 months ago
    Catherine

    This is a really sweet posts. It sounds like you’ve made some amazing friends throughout your travels, definitely worth those awkward conversations!
    Catherine recently posted…Reading List #5

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Yes I have been really lucky that way- the universe was making up for all the pickpocketing and tropical diseases I got

      Reply
  14. 6 months ago
    Karyn @ Not Done Travelling

    Sometimes, even travelling as a couple can be enough to stop you from making friends. Sometimes I was keen to go somewhere or continue hanging out somewhere where I know I would have encountered some cool people, but my fiance wanted to go somewhere else or move on. And vice versa also. A group of 2 is still a group. :)

    Also, I sooooo know what you mean where you reach out to someone and you are so like, “OMG, this is going somewhere” and then you part ways and you know you are never going to see them again. You almost grieve for the good times that weren’t to be. :)

    Great post Rachel!
    Karyn @ Not Done Travelling recently posted…A Study Update

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Yes, when I travel with my boyfriend we kind of get lame and don’t make any friends at all. I will work on that!

      Reply
  15. 6 months ago
    Hannah Wasielewski

    Some of the people I consider my best friends today, I met while traveling through Peru 3 years ago. Now I make more of an effort to see them than some of my friends from high school! I have to admit, every time I travel alone, I get a little nervous before! But it always ends up being for the best. Let’s hope those 3 minute conversations help me make friends when I’m in Bolivia later this month :)
    Hannah Wasielewski recently posted…Top 10 Things to do in Rio de Janeiro

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      I’m sure they will help in Bolivia as well! It’s all about a positive attitude!

      Reply
  16. 6 months ago
    Colleen Brynn

    You were totally that strong chick for me when I met you! You remind me that “I can do this…”
    I was lucky to have met you and hope we can travel together sometime soon. Can’t say I’ll get my nose pierced on the side of the road with a nail, but I am totally up for just about anything else. :D
    Colleen Brynn recently posted…The Only Sunrise

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      awww stop bein so sweet! lol, I have a feeling we will DEFINITELY be crossing paths again.

      Reply
  17. 6 months ago
    Myriam @OffToWanderland

    I can see myself in this post. Before packing my bag and leaving France, I had read all those articles about how easy it is to make friends when travelling alone. Well, it is for sure easier than when you are in a group, but turning those small talks into real friendships is not as easy as it seems. It needs the “spark”. Exactly like dating :)
    ps: I didn’t know French were seen as cold but I am happy that your French friend prove this idea wrong :D

    Cheers from Sweden!
    Myriam @OffToWanderland recently posted…Arbois : Wine capital of Jura – France

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      About the French, yes some people have a perception that french are mean or snobbish or will be mean to tourists, but almost every travel writer out there says the opposite.. so it’s a weird stereotype that has not much to back it up lol!

      Reply
  18. 6 months ago
    Arianwen

    I agree it’s so much easier to meet new people travelling alone. Usually the initial conversation is quite samey, but once I met a guy who made up a whole new life for himself just because he was bored of telling people the same things! Unfortunately, he told me he was a pimp and I was gullible enough to believe him. It actually turned out that he was a trustfund brat who often appears on reality TV shows in the US! Gotta love those unique individuals!
    Arianwen recently posted…Win a NOVICA Gift Card Worth $75

    Reply
    • 6 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      omgsh now I’m so curious if it’s a show I watch!! Who was it! lol

      Reply
      • 6 months ago
        Arianwen

        His stage name’s Ian Bernardo. He was on American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance and Millionaire Matchmaker. Quite funny to watch him after such a random meeting in a hostel in Cali, Colombia! Honestly the craziest guy I’ve ever had a conversation with. I love him to bits though!
        Arianwen recently posted…Win a NOVICA Gift Card Worth $75

        Reply
  19. 6 months ago
    Danni

    My boyfriend and I have been travelling for two weeks and all though I’ve chatted to some people it’s been hard to actually talk to people. I think I get a little awkward and I have to make sure I remember names! And then of course language barrier!

    Reply

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