I posted one of those questions on my Instagram story the other day asking people interested in traveling alone, why they haven’t done it yet. The resounding response I got was that it would be lonely. I wasn’t surprised, as that’s what my fear was before I started traveling alone as well. But traveling alone isn’t lonely.
You are much more approachable alone than you are in a group.
On my most recent trip, I was having dinner by myself at the hotel in Mesa Verde, and the group next to me saw that I ordered the burrata appetizer. They were intrigued and wanted to see it, so we ended up chatting for a while and then in the most comical way, they asked to see everything I ordered so then they knew what to order or what to avoid. Even though I was at a table by myself, I wasn’t lonely.
On the same trip, I went to mail a few post cards and the man working at the little post office in the National Park was running late. I told him I didn’t mind at all, and he could take his time opening up. I asked him how long it tends takes him to get up the mountain every day (it’s a 40 minute trek) and from there we talked about him moving from PA to AZ to CO, about his wife and kids and what his next plans are for where to live. It was a 15 minute conversation in a little post office but while I was traveling alone, I wasn’t lonely.
Four tips I’ve learned from personal experience on how to make sure you’re not lonely on a solo trip are listed below. They’re simple, but they’ve worked for me.
For a lot of people that’s natural. For me, it’s not. So when traveling on my own, I intentionally smile at others and say “hello” to invite them to respond if they’d like. Often times they respond and we’ve been able to have wonderful conversations because of a smile and a hello.
2. Wear your invite.
I don’t mean to literally wear an invitation, but rather dress in things that others would recognize and would make it easy for them to strike up a conversation. I pack my Temple University hat and sweatshirt normally and sometimes will bring a Penn State or other college shirt along. I’ve had more people strike up conversations with me while wearing these because it gives them an easy “invitation” to chat with me.
I met a man last fall in a coffee shop in Fort Smith and we chatted for an hour. It was a conversation I will always remember. And it all started with what I wore. When I walked in the door, I was standing in line for coffee. I smiled at him when I noticed him looking at from further up in line, and he commented on my Temple hat. He mentioned his daughter was interested in going there and for the next hour I learned about his wife and kids, his previous jobs, his military service, his future plans, and where to travel when I was going through Mississippi.
3. Offer to help.
Being a “helper” isn’t really my most natural instinct, but when I’m traveling, I know how much I appreciate someone helping me if I’m struggling so I try to do the same for others. Sometimes this is picking up something that someone dropped or left behind or volunteering to take a picture for people so they don’t have to do a selfie, and other times it’s just holding the door for them.
Again, this isn’t complicated, but it’s worked for me. When I was beginning the hike at the Manitou Incline, I noticed a couple at the bottom as well that were taking a pre hike selfie. I offered to take it for them, and then we talked about it both being our first time doing this hike, where we were from, and how we were excited but nervous. We didn’t hike together, but throughout the trail there were times they were further along than me or I was further along than them and we encouraged each other along the way. We both ended up at the top around the same time and congratulated each other. It was small and simple, but it was really awesome to have encouragers along the hike that I didn’t know before I started.
4. Set your intentions.
My biggest tip is that each trip is exactly what you make it. If you tell yourself you’ll be lonely, YOU WILL BE. You have to be intentional about how you spend your time. Sometimes, I purposefully don’t go out to dinner or strike up conversation because my goal that day is to be quiet and reflect and just think. Other days I want to hear from other people – from how their day is to travel recommendations to their personal story. Each person is different and so each conversation will be different as well. If you go in knowing what you want out of your time, the opportunities will manifest themselves. If you aren’t intentional, those opportunities will pass you by.
These are tips that I have personally found to be helpful. Each person will be different. Maybe you are someone that thrives off the energy of others. If that’s the case, I doubt you are someone who would be lonely long as you’d go seek out energy and excitement from others. I think it tends to be those that are more introverted, or want to avoid small talk that have the hesitancy of being lonely. From a fellow introvert – you will enjoy being by yourself much more than you think you would. I promise.