How to meet people while travelling (or living abroad)
Published on June 4, 2020 / Updated on January 8, 2024
Every single person should solo travel at least once in their lifetime. It builds confidence, improves your people skills, and helps you trust in yourself more because you learn how to overcome challenges. Solo travel is not just about being “solo”. It’s about sharing those experiences with people you would’ve otherwise never met and learning from them. And there is no better way to meet those people than online travel communities. Adriana gives her tips on how to make the most of your solo travel experience.
My solo travel story began when I was in my final year of university. I had wanted to travel for so long, but finally got tired of waiting for someone else to join me. I had heard of a university colleague of mine who had some distant family in London and she arranged for me to stay with them at the beginning just to get me started. My only travels prior to that were family trips to Mexico and Hawaii that involved sitting around at some fancy resort. I quickly realised that wasn’t my style and decided to take this new opportunity in London.
After a bit of time there getting my bearing, I decided to leave my friend’s family in London and venture out on my own around northern England and Scotland. This was the door opener to a whole new world. Being alone gave me the opportunity to travel exactly how I wanted and meet the people that I wanted. And most importantly, it gave me confidence like nothing ever had before, because solo travel can often involve overcoming immense challenges. You have to believe in yourself, be vulnerable, and put yourself out there in a whole new environment. Solo travel gave me the courage to travel even more, and my next trip involved traveling around 10 European countries with just a backpack. It was an amazing experience and even though I was travelling “solo”, most of the time I wasn’t alone, because I found how to meet others with online communities. These communities opened my eyes to the beauty of different people, new languages, and cultures. I strongly believe that without these experiences, I wouldn’t have had the courage to move halfway across the world to Germany and learn German (I now live in Hamburg).
So, if that sounds like something you’d like to do too, then here are some great online communities you can join to meet likeminded travellers.
In my opinion, Couchsurfing is by far the best online travel community in existence. There is an app in addition to the website and you can use it both to connect with other travellers and even find places to stay during travelling (perfect for students on a tight budget). When I was in Madrid before I did a language exchange study abroad, I stayed with a girl and her boyfriend for a few days (this was about 5 years ago) and even though her and I only spent a few days together, we had so much fun that we are still in touch today.
The Couchsurfing community also works to find people to travel together with. On the way back from visiting my family in the US 3 years ago, I decided to take a few days layover in Reykjavik, Iceland and do some exploring. Super conveniently, there was another couchsurfer who wanted to do a road trip around Iceland on the same dates of my layover. So I wrote to him and we found two others to complete our road trip crew. It was one of the best experiences of my life and we were quite the expert road trip crew going through Iceland in the beginning of January.
Meetup is another great online community, because it is mainly events-based. So if you’re solo traveling in a new city and want to meet others, I strongly recommend to see what Meetup events are happening. In larger cities there are often multiple events every night so you’ve got a good amount of options to choose from. They’ve also got a great calendar option if you’d like to save their events when you’re doing travel planning.
Internations functions similarly to Meetup through events. It’s heavily expat-focused so there’s a good bet that you’ll meet likeminded travelers if you go to these events. When you create a profile with Internations, you can also connect with individual members to stay in touch later on. It’s one of the largest online expat communities in the world, so even in smaller cities there are likely to be Internations events.
If you’re a female solo traveller, there are also online communities specifically for women on Facebook. I really enjoyed this, because sometimes with the mixed groups there can be some concerns about personal safety. I’ve found that everyone on these particular groups was really wonderful and supportive of women’s issues in particular. So if you’re having a woman emergency, you will absolutely find help here.
Here are 3 of my favourites:
WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a more niche travel interest, but still a really awesome one if it’s your thing. When I myself was a Couchsurfing host, I hosted others on their way to a WWOOF experience and some of them had been traveling this way for years. Basically the way it works is you apply to work and live on an organic farm. You help them out with farm work, and in exchange they give you free room and board. One guy I met worked remotely from his computer part time and the rest of the time was a WWOOFer so he could afford the transportation costs in between locations.
You’ve likely heard of Bumble (the dating app), but they’ve got a newer version called Bumble BFF. I found this option useful again as a female solo traveler, because I could focus on female friends. It’s also on a lot more individual basis, so if going to a large Meetup event sounds like too much, you might consider meeting one person through Bumble BFF instead.
Backpackr is an online community explicitly for backpackers that’s mostly commonly used as an app. When you use their app, you get unique discounts on food travel accommodations, and local tours. You can also connect with other users to meet or make travel plans together. The basic version is free and comes with an interactive map to help find all special offers.
Knowing the basics of a language can also have a really positive impact on your travel experience. Visit the Lingoda website and sign up for your free 7-day trial with our native speaking teachers today!