Backpacker Advice: How To Find Romance On The Road

Life out of a backpack, always on the move, well it can get tough — especially being alone in one strange place after another. It’s not all glory and glamour, far from it. In fact the road can be a harsh mistress indeed.

A lot of us have been there, especially we solo backpackers.

Although day in and day out long-term travelers are doing nothing but meeting people, most of these are fleeting connections. Don’t get me wrong, I love talking with random people I encounter along my journeys. But at some point we all start to desire more.

After all, when living in hostels you don’t always have the most privacy. No real space to call your own or a “love shack” to bring a new-found friend home to. But that doesn’t mean you are doomed forever. Here are a few tips to help make the journeys a little brighter and a little less lonely ๐Ÿ™‚


Keep An Eye Out For Other Solo Travelers

The first key to meeting new people on the road is obviously to look for others traveling solo as well, preferably those of the opposite sex — at least for most of us. Strike up a conversation with them, try and provide a little company. Do not use any cheesy pickup lines either. Just be honest and friendly!

Take Her (Or Him) Out For A Meal Or A Drink

New conversations are much easier to start when you find some common ground to bridge the gap OR something to bridge the gap over, like lunch. A sweet and simple gesture like a free meal helps to get the ball rolling. Trust me, something as easy as that can more often than not be worth the investment.

Bunker Cafe at Basco Lighthouse
A romantic dinner for two at the Bunker Cafe at Basco Lighthouse, Batanes, Philippines

A few drinks to grease the wheels never hurts either, although incorrectly playing this can lead to a one-night stand and nothing else. If this is all you are looking for, so be it. But if you crave something more, if you desire ongoing romance instead of just one night of lust, then don’t overdue it on the drinks.

Offer To Be Their Personal Tour Guide Or Translator

People are always coming and going in hostels. But if you’ve already been in town for a few days it is easy to provide some pointers or advice to the new travelers that are just arriving. For example I recently lived at a hostel in Yogyakarta for fourth months. Saya bule pemandu wisata di Jogja. (I was the white tour guide in Jogja, Indonesia.) During all that time I definitely showed a lot of people around town — even Indonesians on their first trip to Jogja! And did I offer my services to the ladies passing through? You can bet I did!

This doesn’t mean you have to hang around one location indefinitely. Even just a couple days exploring the area will give you a head-start and provide a wealth of information which you can offer to new visitors, such as where to find great food, how to successfully handle local taxis, and what scams to watch out for.

  Do not just regurgitate information from your LP (if you happen to be one of those travelers that carry one) but rather speak from experience. “Every lady loves a man that knows his stuff,” according to my friend Niki.

Bargain For Her/Him, Help Them Find A Good Deal

This one is simple enough but it goes a long way. Haggling with local vendors is a common occurrence while traveling, one that will always go smoother if you are familiar with the local language and/or appropriate prices. While this man traditionally seem like a man’s job, if you are a lady who happens to be of local descent — or better yet speaks the native language — then this is a perfect opportunity for you to put your skills to good use.

Haggling at Khorog Market, Pamir Mountains, Tajikistan
Haggling at Khorog Market, Pamir Mountains, Tajikistan   (photo courtesy of Stephen Lioy, Monk Bought Lunch)

Go Where The Single Ladies Are

Visiting the local bar or nearby bass-pounding club is not the best idea. Instead, visit the beach with a bottle of sunblock and try to strike up a conversation with anyone who looks lonely or bored. Obviously some people are perfectly content alone at the beach, soaking up the sun, so you might not find success with the first person you talk to.

Another idea is to take a local cooking class. These are not just for women — men can have a great time here too! And at the very least you should end up with some good food (hopefully) and/or knowledge gained, even if you do end up leaving by yourself.

Wake Up Early For Breakfast And See Who Is Eating Alone

Don’t be one of those people that sleeps in until noon. That may be okay if you on a one-week vacation from your corporate hell-hole but for backpackers and other long-term travelers, this is a big no-no. After all the early big gets the worm.

Romance On The Road: Look For Women Eating Alone
Photo courtesy of Emily Glover


After Establishing Conversation…

Compliment Her On Her Travels

Find out where she has been, where she liked most, what exciting stuff she has done around the world, etc. If she is carrying a big backpackers bag or staying at the same hostel as you then odds are this isn’t her first rodeo. Just remember not to make the conversation all about yourself.

Walk Her Home

This one never gets old. After the evening is done offer to walk her home or — better yet — if the city you’re in has pedicabs or some other cool, unique form of personal transportation (in other words not the bus or a jeepney) then take a ride that way. It will be faster than walking — which can either be a good thing or a bad, if you were hoping for more time to continue the conversation — but one thing is guaranteed: it is definitely old school romantic ๐Ÿ˜‰

Romance On The Road: A Romantic Ride Home
My friend Incha and I in Jogja (please pardon the rough quality, its a cellphone pic)

Have Extra Coffee, Tea, And Alcohol On Hand

Depending on where you are sometimes the local town closes down by 10pm or midnight. Business owners and employees don’t care how great of a conversation you two are having — if they are closing then “you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.”

However if you have some extra refreshments then the conversation can continue regardless of whether or not the rest of the town is still awake. Of course the mood and events of the night dictate what type of refreshments are most appropriate, so just have a couple options on hand. You don’t need large portions, just a few small packs of coffee/tea or a bottle of local wine/liquor should be more than enough.


What Are Your Thoughts?

Is Love On The Road Even Possible?

Have Any Other Additional Suggestions?

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel." ย  Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

23 thoughts on “Backpacker Advice: How To Find Romance On The Road”

  1. Glad you liked that market photo!

    One other thought: just be present! I’ve had so many conversations start just because I was one of a few people not stuck on a laptop or smartphone in a common room, and some of these turned into friendships that last well beyond the city they started in.

    • Oh yes, that is definitely a great point. I hate when the common room at a hostel is full of people but totally silent b/c everyone is on their devices doing their own thing. Mingle people! It’s okay to connect in real life. That having been said, I do need my Twitter, so my phone is always close by. But at least I can multitask or ignore it when the moment calls for that.

      And thank you for letting me use the photo — sure beats the one I had of me that I was originally going to put in there.

  2. Still wear of course, dont think so any guy dare to approach me now :p i put my pic on linkedin profile the ones who add me on their professional network is from middle east..LOL

  3. Great tips, Derek. Part of the allure of traveling when you’re single is meeting so many unique people and the possibility that you will find love along the way.

    • Completely agree. I’m a huge flirt on the road too. I rarely act on these flirtations but still find it fun nonetheless. However being single for so long gets lonely after a while. Embarrassing as it may be sometimes I just miss having someone to cuddle with while I sleep. Sshhhhh!!

  4. Love? I’m not so sure, but romance for sure! It is not that difficult as some think, and I’m not saying that because I’m a Girl ha ha ha As soon as you are open and with a smile on your face things will come your way, all kind of things, not only romance and love related! Nevertheless great post!

  5. Great tips! Just remember when you’re in another part of the world, it’s YOU who’s the exotic one! I asked my the artist tattooing me in BsAs how we should approach girls down there, he simply said “speak to them in english, it’s exotic!” haha. Though I do prefer to make some attempt at learning the local language, even if it’s just a bit, it can help tons.

    • Good point. I’ve had enough short few-day flings with girls in cities around the world because of that exact same reason (“oh he’s white, so hot!”) — hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t be mentioning that here :/

      Anyway my angle with this post was more geared towards picking up fellow travelers rather than locals. That way when you do wander on at least there is a chance you won’t be continuing on alone. That’s also why my last serious relationship with a local lady ended — I wanted to keep traveling but she had no desire to leave her country. So alas, after several trips back to see her we finally parted ways.

      That having been said, I love Asia for many many reasons, but one of the biggest has to be — as you said — because we are the exotic ones here. Everyone wants to take photos with me, from girls barely of school age to women twice my age. You’d think over the years they’d lose their fascination with white folk but for some reason it just hasn’t happened…and probably never will. Guess that’s good for us, huh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Ah yes….love on the road. I’ve been the casualty of a few lovely (but ultimately failed) relationships – I’m not sure if travel was responsible for the failure, or just hastened the process.
    I’ve also had a few fun flings here and there, and those are lovely too….but they kind of get old as well.
    But we forget it’s just as hard to find love “at home” as it is on the road. Same sh*t, different pile, me thinks….

    • Very eloquently put Nora and a great point as well. I never had the best of luck with relationships even back when I had a stable home so I’d be a fool to think I’ve mastered things now. That having been said, (and I already hate myself for resorting to a pathetic cliche) they say it is better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all. Hopefully this post at least inspires a few of our fellow travelers to give it a shot. And thanks for stopping by and sharing your two cents — I’m honored that The Professional Hobo has stopped by my blog for a visit and happy to have finally written a headline that caught your eye ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. I like this post, How come I just found it!! *new stalker :p*

    Based on my experience, love on the road is lasted not more than 2.5 months. More than that the fun feeling or ‘desire’ toward him is just a history, unless, you decide to travel together, there’s possibility to maintain the relationship and chemistry.

    But now, speaking of love on the road.. woazaa Derek, all cute guys I met on the road or crushed on me are BRONDONG.. You know what Brondong means… Hmm, it’s Indonesian slang, it maybe not an issue for Western but an issue for Asian… especially girl.

    Brondong means young guy, or college-age guy.. see, most of backpackers I met on the road are Brondong, and they thought I was younger than them, damn.. Your ID card stated that you’re a student, my ID card said I’m an employee.. so, I bang my head against the wall.. why oh why?? And some or a lot women are not confident with their age, when I knew guy I met at the hostel and he treated me for beer and had a plan to continue great night with me were younger than me, it turned me off… He’s still on gap year, me, entering my serious years… Love on the road?? Hmm, it’s just temporary…


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