Travel…

It could take the form of diving face first into an ocean of a far off place, or even plunging into the next paragraph of a really interesting book.

Whichever way and whatever the medium, traveling gives us all something: a sensation of freedom, creativity, curiosity, and ultimately enjoyment. It’s a joy of life that generally brings people together, no matter their background, race, or political views.

In recent years I’ve given chase to that feeling that traveling emanates. I feel safe to say that traveling and me go together like cheese on pizza. With so many toppings to choose from, creating the perfect traveling pie depends purely on personal preferences and comfort levels. One example is traveling with friends, another is with family, and a less popular option for many people is traveling alone. I feel fortunate to say that I’ve tried all three, and all three leave me in a food coma of happiness.

This being said, one of my personal favorite recipes for traveling is booking a flight somewhere and going by myself. I love traveling with friends and family, but going alone has a distinct allure, mainly because I used to feel that it was an unfathomable act. There was a time in the past when the concept of going to a new place without another person sounded crazy, awkward, and completely horrifying.

Over the course of many trials and some errors, I learned that there exist tons of resources to help you actually not be solo while you’re traveling. There are tools to connect with other travelers and locals.

Here is a list of essential resources for solo travelers to help them not feel like they’re alone. What’s even better about this list is that most of what’s mentioned isn’t exclusive to those who are solo; it can be applied by groups of any size. I hope you find them useful for your next wandering in some far-off or not-so-far destination.   

Couchsurfing

courtesy of
http://www.couchsurfing.com

I’m going to start with perhaps the best resource in the world (in my opinion) that exists for connecting with travelers, locals, and just overall minds with a passion for wandering. It’s pretty easy. You create a profile like Facebook, then afterward you can find other travelers or people who are from a place that you’re about to or currently visiting. I’ve used Couchsurfing for many language exchanges, to grab a coffee or beer, to crash in someone’s living room, and ultimately to make some amazing friendships. You can find group events as well. You can use this anywhere in the world, even in your hometown. Couchsurfing is my go-to whenever I’m checking out a different town or city and don’t already have friends there.

Meetup

Michael Prewett

Next the Couchsurfing, Meetup is also a crucial tool to find groups of people who share a similar interest as yourself. I like to open up Meetup’s app or webpage to browse in cities where I’ll be visiting to see if any fun group gatherings are happening. Major swaths of cities around the globe have at least a handful of different events taking place through Meetup. As you read this post, individuals who enjoy languages, drinking beer, running and then drinking beer, dancing, hiking, reading, (you name it) are creating a Meetup that revolves around these hobbies. Looking for tea drinkers in Toulouse, coders in Chattanooga, or snake charmers in Slovakia? I’m sure there’s a Meetup for it. It can be a safer way of connecting with locals or travelers because the focus is on activities with larger quantities of people, rather than one-on-one.

Hostelworld

The Flying Pig Hostel in Amsterdam…
The first hostel I ever stayed in back in 2009.
photo courtesy of http://www.hostelworld.com

Are you looking for a place to stay that isn’t super expensive (hotels) and isn’t potentially a person’s couch or futon (Couchsurfing)? Are you visiting a new city and have zero contacts? Hostelworld is a prime way to stay somewhere with a budget, while also connecting with other travelers. Hostels have a bad reputation from movies (Hostel) but some of my best friends in this world were people I met in hostels. The most important thing is to think about what kind of environment you’re into and to of course do some research. Hostelworld.com is a search engine for hostels. All you need to do is type a city, the date of arrival, and how many people who are traveling. It’s pretty simple and depending on the city, you’ll likely be presented with a slew of choices for a place to crash. As stated before: do some research; some are indeed sketchy or of subpar quality. This being said, the majority do an excellent job. On this site, people can leave reviews about cleanliness, safety, location, etc.

Airbnb

Airbnb is starting to make a power grab against Meetup and Couchsurfing because this site now offers “experiences” for travelers to try interesting activities while they’re on holiday in a new place. I find this to be interesting, however I haven’t partaken in any such events. Unlike Meetup which is either free or cheap, or Couchsurfing which is free, the experiences with Airbnb can sometimes be overpriced. Taking this into consideration, it’s still a fun opportunity to meet fellow travelers. On occasion, one can strike gold and stay in a house or apartment building with a really cool host and or their family/roommates.

Volunteering

Volunteering for IVHQ with some great folks in Bogotá, circa August 2012.

Why not go abroad, help others in need, and also make some lifelong friends? Volunteering can be the just the ticket if you’re looking for a way to experience a foreign place but don’t feel comfortable going there alone. There exist options in the form of work exchange, where you trade in a few hours a day working in order to receive meals and accommodation. Websites such as HelpXWorkaway, and Wwoofing are useful, however, one must do their research in order to find a fitting host. I like these sites because the work opportunities span all across the spectrum from teaching English, hostel reception, childcare, social media management, etc. Instead of “trading time” one can also do a paid volunteer project with various NGO’s or non-profits around the world. Deciding on a platform to do this can be a tedious task, but one organization that I’ve tried and have confided in is International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ).

Runner-Up: Facebook Groups

In my opinion, Facebook has a lot of pros and cons nowadays. One major benefit that it offers is the opportunity to join groups based on your location and interests (just like Meetup). One thing I like to do is type in a search for one of my hobbies or some tag word and connect it to a city or country that I’ll potentially be visiting. For example: “Expats in San Francisco” yields a handful of groups that usually post invitations to events, happy hours, or random get-togethers between members. It’s like having access to countless digital bulletin boards. I’ve listed this as a runner-up because out of personal preference I enjoy using the previous tools mentioned above even though I can’t deny Facebook’s validity as a resource.

Second Runner-Up: Tinder

Wiktor Karkocha

Back a couple of hours ago when I started writing this post, I never expected to mention Tinder.

Boy, did things escalate…

Tinder doesn’t always have to be about hooking up or dating right? If there’s no one to meet up with on Couchsurfing, or a Meetup, or a hostel, then potentially Tinder could be a way to make friends in a new city or country.

This option is kind of meant to be a joke; I just felt like throwing it out there. In fact, the more I think about it, there probably exists options of way higher regard than Tinder, but this just proves that my mind is in the gutter…sorry Mom & Dad.

The key here, like every other tool I’ve mentioned, is to know yourself and what exactly you’re looking for.  It’s also necessary to be honest with yourself and whoever you end up meeting. Finally, be smart and never put your safety at risk.

********

Thank you for reading this blog! Sorry for the massive delay between posts, sometimes life gets in the way or we put off doing things we enjoy 🙂

Cheers!

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