It is possible to travel alone without being lonely!
Not every solo traveler is concerned about being lonely, but we hear it expressed often enough. Fear not!
Whether you travel independently or join a group, solo travel can be a very social experience. You can definitely travel alone without being lonely. Just read the story of my most social destination to date: Top Tips for Prince Rupert: The Best of Small Town Travel.
In my experience, solo travel offers more opportunities to meet locals and other travelers and have meaningful conversations than traveling with a companion does. You just need to know how to make it happen.
Why Solo Travel is Not Lonely
Rather than being focused on your companion, you're focused on your surroundings, including the people around you. You're open to the world. That, in my experience, makes the world open to you. I've found that people step into the wide open space I create and the results are wonderful.
I’ve met people and shared a conversation. Sometimes it’s been a coffee or a meal and other times I’ve spent a week or more with people I’ve met on the road. I’ve spent time with locals getting to know their cultures. I've spent time with other travelers, exploring the destinations we were visiting together and learning about their home countries as well.
How to Travel Alone without Being Lonely: 10 Tips
To some degree, traveling alone but not lonely is up to you and your attitude. You need to want to be social and be willing to try a little harder than you might at home to meet people. Read A Solo Travel Introvert? 7 Tips to Somewhat Social Solo Travel and then follow these tips.
- Choose your accommodation wisely. Hostels and B&Bs are naturally more social than hotels and many resorts. Make good use of the common rooms. Join others at communal tables for breakfast. Have a cup of tea in the evening and meet people. Share your plans for the day, what you did in the evening, and ask about their best recommendations for where you are and where you're going. Read Best Accommodation for Solo Travelers and Sleeping with Strangers: The Hostel Experience.
- Travel by train. I have always found trains to be very social. The dining and observation cars are particularly so, but even coach can be fun. On a train trip across northern British Columbia I met a number of people. Some of them were traveling in two small tour groups. One group invited me to dinner in Banff on an evening we would both be there. Read British Columbia by Train: Budget or Luxury. It’s Your Choice.
- Take advantage of day tours. Day tours give you the best of group and independent travel. Take them as often as you want to spend the day with others but choose as many days as you like on your own as well. In Paris, I took an afternoon tour to Giverny and on the trip met a woman whose two daughters live on my street in Toronto. Imagine! Read A Day in Monet’s Gardens.
- Learn how to talk to strangers. Small talk is a natural gift of extroverts. For us introverts, it's a challenge, but it can be done. I've learned how and so can you. Read Travel Solo and, Yes, Talk to Strangers.
- Take a class. Taking a class and learning something new is a great way to be social as you travel solo. According to a study by Topdeck Travel, 78% of Millennials want to learn something new as they travel. Why not take language or cooking classes? Choose whatever interests you. Read about my language school experience here: A Language School Experience: Solo and Very Social. Also read How to Find Classes when Traveling Solo – 10 Tips
- Break up long trips with an organized tour. Independent travel is great and may offer enough social time in the short run. But if you're traveling long term, you may find yourself wanting more company for a period of time. Take an organized tour for a week or more to take a rest from taking care of all the details of travel yourself and enjoy the company of others. Check our Deals page for tours with no or very low single supplements.
- Go to restaurants with communal tables. These can be a tad hard to find but they are becoming more common. Google your destination, restaurant, and communal table and you may just find a few options. Go on Chowhound and ask the foodie community of your destination for suggestions. Read Eating Alone is Easy When You Know How
- Go to coffee shops. Coffee shops are hubs for freelancers and, by nature, very social places. Meet locals and get their recommendations on the town. They also offer free Wi-Fi to stay connected with home.
- Go local again and again. When you are in one place for a while, go to the same greengrocer, flower shop, or restaurant consistently. Be friendly. You’ll be noticed as a new regular and people will eventually chat with you.
- Take advantage of the nightlife. There are many wonderful things to do at night when you travel solo. Take advantage of them. Read What to Do at Night When Traveling Alone – 7 Tips and Night Safety for Solo Travelers: 15 tips
The Social Side of Solo Travel: Not Lonely at All
To give you an idea of some of the interesting people you can meet as you travel solo, here's a short list.
Learning to Live Positively
“Positive thinkers go everywhere. Negative thinkers go nowhere.” That’s a line from the conversation I had with Ron in Key West a couple of years ago. I met Ron on Mallory Square, where the cruise ships dock and where many go to see the sunset from Key West (though I prefer the view from the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park). Among all the tourists from the cruise ships and a few locals, there was Ron relaxing and taking in the scene. One of the few places to sit was beside him so I went and had a seat and it didn’t take much of a smile to get a conversation going – a great conversation. The opportunity to chat with Ron enriched my trip to Key West enormously. I learned from him about how to live positively despite challenges. You can read the full story and watch a video of Ron giving his theory of life here: Positive Thinking and Solo Travel.
The Excitement of Taking Calculated Risks
From Penny I learned the value of taking a leap. Never having traveled solo before, she started a five-month trip to celebrate her 40th birthday – and she started in India. I met her at an Ashram in Rishikesh where we had both booked in for a week. It was the first week of her trip and I could not believe that she had decided to start in India and end in Australia. I would certainly have done it the opposite way around. But, things absolutely worked out. Penny and I spent the week there hanging out with other women and then we went off to Rajasthan together. We saw the Taj Mahal together and other highlights of the Rajasthan circuit. We shared hotel rooms and figured out the train system and explored markets. We traveled well together and I was glad to have her as a companion. After two weeks, we parted ways and traveled solo again
Learning about the Surprising Impact of a Black President
I met Starla on Venice Beach, California in early 2014. The Black Lives Matter movement hadn’t really reached my consciousness (it started in 2013) nor had the understanding that by elevating the status of some in an oppressed group, society may more easily worsen the oppression of that group as a whole. Starla explained this to me, not from a theoretical position, but from her life experience. She said that when Obama came into power the lives of African Americans had gotten worse. It baffled me but alerted me to the issue. Then, I started seeing newspaper analysis and essays on this phenomenon. By voting for Obama anyone could say that they were not racist and feel free to act so in other circumstances. Meeting Starla caused me to read the news differently. My story on Venice Beach is here.
Discovering the Nuance of a Culture
It didn’t take much to meet Baabush. Outside a temple in Pushkar he was managing the shoe lockers when he heard my voice and asked where I was from. When I said Canada he asked if I could speak French. Yes! He took a break and we spent an hour practicing French together and in the process I learned about his life, his family, what his home was like, his schooling, and ambitions. We talked about life, in French, and I learned so much about India. Read: Enchanté, Baabush – Enchanted in India.
Friendly Locals are Always Ready to Share Their City
I have had many perks as a result of being a solo traveler. People have gone out of their way to show me their city. Others have bought me drinks. But in Rochester, New York, I enjoyed a first. I went to Hogan’s Hideaway for supper one night and when I arrived it was busy, but there was one spot at the end of the bar. Sandy and Mark squeezed a bit to let me in and we got chatting. It’s amazing how fast conversations can take off. We talked about their work, my work, travel, travel writing, solo travel, and, of course, Rochester. When their table was ready they invited me to join them. Shortly after our meals arrived, so did Tom and Darlene – friends of Sandy and Mark. Tom had been the owner of the restaurant up until a couple of months before. So my questions on Rochester began to focus on the restaurant itself. By the end of the evening I had not only had a great time but I had learned a lot about the city, the restaurant, and I had a free meal! Sandy and Mark kindly paid for me. Read The Solo Traveler Advantage
Finding the Man About Town in Small Towns
Jamie Steel is the type of person I look for in every small town I visit. He is one of the reasons that small towns make great destinations. Jamie is exceptional for his role in the music scene. The important characters of other towns may stand out for their age, the stories they tell, or their unofficial political role. These are people really worth knowing but they are rarely tripped over. They are typically found through others. I find them by simply asking. Read The Harley Haggerty Technique for Meeting People to get the full story on how I met Jamie, but suffice to say that the encounter was well worthwhile. I spent that evening heavily into the local music scene listening to Adam Olmstead and the Nashville String Band that includes a number of Grammy Award-winning members.
It Is Possible to Travel Solo, Not Lonely
At this point I hope it is clear that it need not be lonely if you travel alone. Here are a few more posts for you.
Solo Travel: You Don’t Have to Eat Alone
A Language School Experience: Solo and Very Social
A Solo Travel Introvert? 7 Tips to Somewhat Social Solo TravelTravel Alone and Love it: 50 tips (Revised and Updated)
River Cruise Tips for Solo Travelers
Travel to Learn: There are Thousands of Opportunities
Sleeping with Strangers: The Hostel Experience