As an introverted solo traveler, you might believe that it’s difficult to find friends on the road. In fact, many friends & family members ask how I do it because I maintain very close but relatively few friendships at home. I have discovered that by following a few simple steps & intentionally maintaining an aura of openness, I can easily connect & befriend people in all places I go.
Making friends on my special day
Around the time of my birthday in February, I was feeling homesick for friends & family. On the day of, I booked a glacier trekking tour of the Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate, Argentina. I hoped to make friends to eat dinner with. Almost immediately on the trip to the glacier, I befriended Amber. Within 5 minutes, we were chatting & laughing as if we’d known each other for years. It was a success– I found a friend to hang out with on my birthday!
Later during the trek, Amber & I began conversing with a Canadian couple. They asked us how long we had been traveling together & were shocked to find out that we had only known each other for a few hours. Before even asking their names, I invited the couple to my birthday dinner.
I smile at people.
Although I have no recollection of this, Amber said to me later, “you smiled at me. I went to the restroom. When I returned, you smiled again — I assumed you must be a friend!”
That’s how travel friendships begin.
I try to include others.
The Canadians, Amanda & Andrew, were giving off a good vibe so I invited them to dinner. They provided a makeshift cake. By the end of the night, you also would have thought we had been friends for years.
That is a birthday I’ll remember for a while.
…& I’m not afraid to include myself in other people’s plans if the opportunity arises.
A few weeks ago in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, I overheard a girl telling the hostel receptionist that she wanted to go camping in the desert but was unsure if it was safe to go alone.
I eagerly volunteered to accompany her. She was thrilled & we had a blast camping out under the desert sky.
If I’m making food in a hostel kitchen, I offer leftovers. When I open a bottle of wine, I pour a glass for the person sitting next to me.
I also share skills.
I befriended two brothers, Dimitri & Zac, one night when I shared my guacamole with them. They loved it! The next night, we made a party of drinking wine & teaching them how to select & slice the perfect avocados, chop garlic, & mash the ingredients together to perfection.
Later, they message to tell me that they have made & shared guacamole with other travelers. I am so proud!
As a self-proclaimed introvert, it might seem that being constantly surrounded by people in hostels would be a struggle.
Actually, the opposite is true. Solo travel allows me the freedom & flexibility to venture alone when I choose to. It also facilitates friendships because I am now forced to put myself out there.
I find much needed solitude in long bus rides & coffee shops.
Last December, I worked & lived at a sleepy little farm/bed & breakfast in the Italian countryside for several weeks.
After shoveling manure every day, this beauty became my best friend, proving that new friends can come in all shapes & forms if we remain open.
Whether you’re an introvert who is interested in solo travel but feels nervous about putting yourself out there, or an extrovert who dislikes solo activities, I encourage you to try it. By applying minimal effort & a few simple steps, you can maintain a balance between going solo & surrounding yourself with new friends.