So you have a grand adventure planned...
You step off the plane, find a way to get to your hotel, and...now what?
Sure, you grab some maps and walk around and take some selfies, but eventually you may want a travel buddy, even just a lunch or dinner. Or to get some new ideas for things to see.
Been there? I know I have!
Even traveling solo on a grand adventure CAN get lonely, let's not skirt around that. And when the time comes, you will likely want to meet other cool locals or people exploring the area from out of town - like you.
Don't want to join one of those major tours? No problem. Try these instead?
1. Take a Cooking Class
A cooking class is an AWESOME way to meet other people in a non-awkward setting. Obviously cooking classes can range the gamut from intense cooking schools to chill cooking-immersion vacations, but even if you are visiting a city for a couple days, you can find a local class almost anywhere. Some places like Italy and France might have a few more options, but there are so many places where you can even pop into someone's kitchen or restaurant and learn how to cook a traditional meal. The coolest part is that the other people in the class are clearly there because they have some interest in food, which makes it super easy to strike up conversations and cook meals with, potentially, people from all over the world. Plus, if they are cool, it's the perfect excuse to invite them out or over to try a second attempt at the meal you all learned to master!
I have done this with Mediterranean cooking classes and in Curacao, where some locals came over to our hostel and taught and helped us cook a fabulous local feast and we ended up hanging out and adventuring together for the rest of the trip like a big family. We even made a big cake for one of the backpacker's birthday and celebrated her birthday like a local!
2. Sign up for a race or event
This one intimidates alot of people and I really don't want you to be! Hear me out!
There are SO many kinds of races or events, where some are totally competitive and some are totally for the fun, atmosphere, and crowd, even if it's called a "race." The best example of this is the Medoc Marathon in France where taking less than six hours and showing up to the finish line sober is considered a faux pas. This one takes you through some of the most beautiful wineries and chateaus in the area and at each aid station there is wine provided.
Choose a 5k, choose a bubble run, a color run, a glow-in-the-dark run, a trail run, or beer mile! You can't be disappointed in the crowds that show up to these events and you are bound to meet some seriously cool people.
3. Stay in a Hostel or Lodge
Some of the BEST experiences I have had had been by staying in hostels or lodges. You undoubtedly going to get a few people who just want to do their own thing, but for the most part, people come to meet others, to experience a place, and spend less on places to stay and more likely splurge on experiences. THESE are the kinds of people you want to be around when you visit a new place, and if you are alone, it can be a great way to strike up a conversation about things to do in the area and join forces to make them happen.
I stayed in a little place I thought was a bed and breakfast in Curacao and it turned out to be a total hostel. Luckily, the coolest backpackers from all over the world were staying in this little place and to this day, we ALL remain close friends! We had Germans, a Columbian, Dutch, American, and locals. We partied together, learned German, learned local misquito-bite refief tactics (the bugs were eating me alive!), learned to cook local dishes and had BBQ's, explored the islands, celebrated birthdays, and stay in touch! What I thought was going to be a solo dive trip turned into a huge tropical adventure with some of the most incredible people I have ever met!
4. Go Dancing
I personally love this option for so many reasons. Not only is a great way to get out to see a new place, but dancing is so different all over the world that you won't run out of new experiences or people to meet at each different location. Additionally, dancing with a partner who knows what they're doing can be incredibly fun. It can be equally fun if you are actually terrible and want to learn something new or just enjoy yourself. Because really, are you ever going to see these people again anyway?
I have taken Salso, Hula, Flamenco, Jazz, Line Dancing, and much more and found that not only is getting out on the dance floor a fantastic way to make some neat connections and even go to other places with the same people on another night. Whether you are in the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico, a German club, or a festival in Africa, dancing with locals can be one of the most fun and rewarding experiences that you will never forget, whether you're pretty bad at first or a pro (you are likely to not be a pro if you are dancing the local dances!). Live it up!
5. Jump on the app "Tourlina" (like...10 minutes ago!)
Ladiiiiiiiies!!! If you are not on the Tourlina app, you need to get on this pronto! This women's-only app connects women travelers from all over the globe similarly to other popular dating apps out there...but without the dating. Instead, you find other girls who are locals OR that are traveling in your area that are also looking for a friend or fellow traveler to meet up with. Plan dinners, find backpacking buddies, hit up awesome museums...whatever it is, you can find a friend with similar interests to explore a new place. You can connect, chat, and make plans with a travel buddy before or during your trip and know that you are meeting up with the person you actually connected with online.
But safety is 100% an issue for us girls, especially traveling solo, so how do you know it's safe and trustworthy and you're not really about to meet up with 45-year-old dude? This is the coolest part...
Each user is totally background checked and verified as a real person! Seriously girls, how cool is this? The geniuses behind Tourlina actually take the time to do this to ensure the safety and satisfaction of each user so you can trust that you are meeting up with who you expect to be meeting!
Teach Scuba diving, yoga, surfing, skiing/snowboarding, climbing...teach something somewhere and you can't HELP but meet tons of people! Obvious considerations have to be taken into account like wage differences in foreign countries, accommodations, and work visas if you are traveling and working abroad, but there are SO many skills you can take anywhere in the world and not only meet and spend time with other staff, but acquire new students and teach what you love in a faraway place. What's not to love?
For many jobs, you can actually get free places to stay if you are teaching. For example, as a dive instructor you can oftentimes stay on a beautiful liveaboard or dive lodge somewhere exotic, or in a retreat center as a yoga instructor. You may not make as much, depending on many factors of course, but you will certainly meet some awesome like-minded people while living or traveling to different corners of the world.
7. Volunteer at an English immersion camp
If you want a full-immersion experience, instead of just teaching English (and sometimes another language), joining a tour group, or looking for volunteer opportunities or free accommodations, how about all 3-in-1? Here's how it works: You apply to be a volunteer at one of the designated and beautiful resorts (primarily in Spain or Germany), where you will get to stay there for free for one week in exchange for speaking English with non-native speakers.
You are not necessarily TEACHING English, but allowing others to improve in a natural and organic way. There are meals included, outings, and scheduled times to practice and converse, but in a group setting, you will have a hard time NOT meeting amazing people from all over the world and especially Europe. You will have a schedule of activities, parties, outings, meals, and more, so it's true you will have less time to explore a location than if you were on your own, but for a week-long free stay with meals, volunteering, and meeting so many people, for many, it's worth it! And seriously...check out some of the places you could be staying!
8. Be a House Sitter
Are you willing to watch someone's house for a set amount of time? In exchange for accommodations, you might be asked to feed chickens, keep a house tidy while the owners are on vacation, watch some cats...the possibilities are endless! But there are so many homeowners around the world that allow you stay in some stunningly beautiful properties for a free stay or pay (completely dependent on owner and website!).
Choose a beach house in Costa Rica or a chateau in France and you could living the life of luxury for a few menial chores. This will keep you based in one area for the agreed amount of time and you should absolutely fulfill your end of the bargain once you get there, but this option is really a win-win for everyone involved!
9. Be a Pet Sitter
Pet-sitting can be very similar to house-sitting and sometimes they will be one in the same, but not if pet-sitting is just feeding horses or coming over to a location to make sure a pet is walked or cared for, so you may not ALWAYS get free accommodations with this one. You will likely not meet as many people as some of the other activities on this list, but you can estanblish a good good relationship with the pet owners who usually gladly help guide you to the coolest places around the place you are staying.
If you are not necessarily looking for crowds of people to meet, but to just have a contact in a location and maybe make a little money or get a free stay, this is cool option. Also, you know that when you take a dog to the dog park, you never know what other cute/attractive guys or girls will be there to meet (guys taking dogs to Central Park in New York has long been a great way to meet women!). But looking for love, friends, or just a contact, this is a great option for animal lovers everywhere.
10. Join the Crew
Have a little more time or an adventurous spirit? Try joining a crew on a yacht or boat! *PLEASE NOTE: Some of these jobs will require certain training or certifications, similarly to scuba diving!* But working as a crew member on a boat not only gives you a pretty stable group of co-workers to work with, but you have accommodations and meals usually covered, get leave to go on land, and travel to some very exotic and beautiful places. This can be a great way to see the world for basically the cost of getting to the boat, wherever it it's docked or based out of.
The cool thing about this is the variety of jobs available. You could captain, cook, serve, be a deckhand, etc. The boats will typically take on paying clients/guests unless it is a privately owned boat, where you MAY be on call for work, so if that is something you are willing to do, then this could be fantastic way to meet many, many people and travel the world. The above sites have awesome listings all over the world and will tell you if and what kind of certifications will be needed for each position.
11. Go to a party!
I know the party scene isn't for everyone, but think about how many types of parties their are: beach parties, BBQ's, hotel parties, pool parties, dinner parties... the list goes on. By joining locals and tourists alike, it can be a great way to be "forced" to talk to people, or at least interact over some food and beverage if you so choose (responsibly, of course...). But if there is a local music event or way to people surrounding a certain theme or activity, it can be really fun!
Don't worry much about not having someone to go with if you are solo. I know that can feel really weird attending a party totally solo, but one, no one is looking at you or cares much what you're doing or who you're talking to (unless you are intentionally making a scene or wearing a wild costume...I've seen this done tactic actually work quite well). Wine tasting events are a great way to get out to a party that is pretty social. Be sure to just come with an open mind and start conversations about the perfect cheese and wine pairing, even if it's with the vintner at first! Don't be shy! People love talk about themselves so engaging with someone should be pretty easy, especially with a glass of wine.
12. Take a city tour
I am so crazy about this idea because of the plethora or city tours available for EVERYONE! Photography, haunted, chocolate, stars' homes, beer, on foot, by bus, by car...with so many options available, check out the links above for a few neat ones to get started!
So what better way to meet super interesting people than doing something fun and wacky or super engaging? The WORST case scenario is you have a fantastic time people-watching while hitting some awesome and sometimes hidden city highlights!
Many locals will offer tours and I have even been invited out by the tour guides and their friends aftarwards, which ended up being the most amazing experience. They took us to parties, hidden little museums and historic sites, showed us the best restaurants in town, and helped us get around for free!
The last piece of advice I would pass on is to NOT WORRY! Of course be safe, but don't worry about being a bad dancer or having a weird group of people on a city tour where you end up people-watching and laughing about it later! Go out there and meet some awesome people, experience some awesome new things, and...pics or it didn't happen.