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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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 😉
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.