Why you shouldn’t be scared to start your first solo work and travel trip + 5 tips for getting connected
One thing that keeps many of us from travelling the world is that we don’t have any friends who are willing or able to join us on our trip of a lifetime. I have to admit that I had the same problem when I went on my first 10-month adventure – a working holiday in Australia back in 2003. I went anyway and I now believe that it was one of the best decisions I have made in my life, because I learned two very valuable lessons early on in my travel career:
1. Around 50% of long-term travellers travel alone.
Everyone is keen to meet other people and nothing is easier than meeting cool people when you travel. You don’t even need to be the most outgoing person. Just be friendly and you will get to know loads of people quickly.
2. Your real friends will still be your friends when you return from your trip.
When I was in Australia I felt a bit disconnected to my friends back home (that was when we didn’t have Skype), because we were all too lazy to write emails etc. Back home after 10 months, I realized that actually almost nothing had changed since I left. After two beers and a great welcome-back party it felt like I’d never left. I made the same experience over and over again.
Since then I have travelled extensively, sometimes solo and other times with a group of up to 10 friends. I think there are advantages and disadvantages to both.
To make it a bit easier when you travel, I’d like to share a few tips with you on how you can get connected and build a great network of friendly people quickly, no matter where you go.
5 easy ways to get connected and meet great people quickly when you travel solo
Learn a language
Learning a new language is one of the best ways of connecting with other people when you arrive in a new country. This is because most of your fellow language students are also new to the destination you visit, so they are eager to connect and explore the city in company. Many language schools also organize loads of fun social events which bring together language students from other classes. I’ve done language courses with exspanish.com in Buenos Aires and casadocaminho.co.br in Rio de Janeiro, and met loads of great people while doing so. I can highly recommend you doing it too if you want to make a longer work and travel stop.
Finding people who share the same interests as you is one of the best ways to get connected. Be it playing Basketball on the courts of Rio de Janeiro or kitesurfing in the Philippines, there are many activities you can do that will help you connect and build a wide network of great people quickly if you work and travel alone.
Stay in hostels
Staying in hostels is the best way to enjoy a new destination right from the moment you arrive. We all know that staying in a 4* hotel might feel a lot more comfortable but you are way more likely to be experiencing the city alone by yourself. Hostels are far more social and you will meet other people who are travelling the same route as you. Always remember that most people who stay in hostels are travelling alone as well. What often seems to be a big group is most likely a bunch of travelers who have just got to know each other over a short period of time. A good icebreaker to get the conversation started when arriving alone in a new hostel is to just ask some of the other travelers if they can recommend any restaurants nearby. You’re most likely to be invited to join them for dinner and have a fantastic introduction to your new destination from your first night onwards.
Go to Couchsurfing events
A problem with hostels is that most people only stay in your current destination for a short period of time and will move on after a few days. If you plan to do a longer work stop in one destination and don’t feel like doing a language course you should check what kind of couchsurfing events are happening you’re your city of choice. Cities like Buenos Aires, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro or even Hong Kong have thriving CS communities with events happening on a daily basis. Taking part in these events will not only help you meet loads of people who will be staying in the same city for a longer period of time, but will also help you connect with locals who can give you tips on finding cheap apartments and much, much more.
Do multi day trips
Couchsurfing events are great but they don’t happen everywhere, especially if you are visiting some of the smaller amazing destinations in the Webworktravel Guide. And sometimes just spending an evening with a bunch of people from your hostel won’t give you satisfying connections either. In that case I can also recommend you to take part in multi-day-trip activities. These include sailing tours from Panama to Colombia, visiting lonely islands in Indonesia, cruising on the Amazonas River in Bolivia or going on multi-day hikes in Thailand. Sharing experiences together for a longer period of time is another fantastic way to really connect with travellers on the same route as you, while doing something epic that lifelong memories are made of.
Remember that these are just a few tips for getting connected. In my experience when travelling to an unknown destination I have never spent more than a day or two alone before meeting some great people. In retrospect I can say that wherever I went, it was often the people I met in the first few days that had the biggest impact on my continuing travels. Some of the people I met when I first arrived in Australia 2003 are still my friends to this day. The same accounts to my first days in South Africa and South America as well. Your fear of embarking on your first work and travel trip alone really shouldn’t keep you from exploring the world! Just do it. I really hope you take the step and have an epic time exploring this amazing planet while working online ;-).