My top 5 rules for travelling alone
AS more travellers hit the road sans companion, it's becoming easier to connect with a network of like-minded wanderers while still blazing your own trail.
We've definitely dropped any hesitations about solo travel, with a recent Travelzoo survey revealing 96 per cent of Australian respondents have either travelled alone or are considering doing so. Intrepid has also seen a 31 per cent increase in female solo travellers over two years.
Before my first solo trip I was daunted at the prospect of eating alone and not having anyone to share the fun with. But after a week in New York City - a place where you're arguably never alone - I relished travelling on my own agenda, with my own company.
Over many solo trips since then, I've found that while I'm happy wandering and sitting in coffee shops for a few days, the yearning to interact with others starts to paw at me like a puppy.
These are some of the best ways I've found to make friends when you're travelling solo.
JOIN A WALKING TOUR
On a food photography tour in Porto, Portugal, I connected with an Australian girl who now lives there and, while framing photos of tinned sardines and snapping shots of our gelato, we became fast friends.
Afterwards, we wandered through the city, made our way to Douro River then ducked into a low-key locals' bar with an unbeatable view of the Dom Luis bridge I would have never found on my own. Another afternoon, after a port-tasting tour, a sweet girl from China suggested dinner and as we swapped stories over grilled chorizo, I realised how nice it was to share a meal after so many solo outings.
If you're open to interaction, people are curious about solo travellers and naturally want to befriend you.
USE AN APP
While I've never been as gutsy as my Porto friend Yishyene, who told me she and her boyfriend use Tinder when travelling to - very honestly - make new friends (as opposed to hooking up for dates), using apps to find friends is quickly becoming normal.
Apps such as Travello, Skout and Bumble BFF help you meet new friends on the road, while Hey! Vina provides a women-only network and Patook (patook.com) promises strictly platonic friendships - no flirting allowed - with interests-based matching up.
GO TO A MEETUP
Meetups give you a validated reason to mingle with locals, expats and travellers while also geeking out about a topic you love, learning a new skill or playing sport.
Time to spare in Tokyo? Why not join the Tokyo Dodgeball Friendship Group? Love craft beer and in London alone? There's a meetup for that.
RENT A ROOM OR STAY IN A HOSTEL
Staying in a hostel (even in a private room) or renting a room in an Airbnb versus staying in a hotel makes it easier to meet locals and fellow travellers who can give you tips.
BOOK A GROUP TOUR
When you're solo on a group tour there's no way you're not going to make new connections, but you also have the luxury of your own room to escape to when you want to be your introvert self.
On a Topdeck tour in Italy I made friends I've since bumped into at home on the Sunshine Coast and, on a Collette tour, my mum and I adopted a first-time solo traveller named Marie, sharing many great meals and glasses of Slovenian wine together.
Remember, even though you're going it alone, you don't have to be lonely. Whether you connect over a shared interest or get chatting in a cafe, there are so many other solo travellers out there hoping they'll find a friend just like you, too.
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