I consider travelling alone to be both a blessing and a curse. Right now I'm on a working holiday abroad, making my own schedule, seeing only the sights I want to see, and not feeling at all worried about someone else. It's fabulous, except, of course, for the loneliness.
Meeting people when you're alone is tough, especially if you're not willing to use dating apps and want to do it the old fashioned way. I've put myself in such a position for the past two weeks. After an awkward and difficult beginning, I now have about 15 new friends I hope to see again.
I've never been one to rock up to a bar alone, casually stand there with a beer, and talk to people. It's daunting for us Kiwis and feels so unnatural.
We feel judged for being alone and having no friends. We awkwardly engross ourselves in our iPhones so it looks like we're just waiting for someone. We're not as loud as Americans or as bold as Australians, so shrinking into the background is, unfortunately, quite easy.
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Yet there's a trick to meeting new people when you're by yourself. You need to fine one single other person to be a wingman (of sorts) for other new friends. While making friends alone is difficult, once there's two of you, I've found people just gravitate towards you both.
Firstly, this is because we're all attracted to people who look like they're having fun. When you see somebody with relaxed body language who's laughing, they are approachable. They appear more carefree and more up for new connections.
Then there's the accent. The Kiwi accent is absolute gold for friendmaking when you're outside New Zealand. Everybody, no matter what country they are from, adores us and the way we talk.
There's always an immediate conversation starter because everyone you meet will either have dreamed of coming to New Zealand, or will have been. For a tiny country at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, our pull factor is intense. If you place upon yourself the role of ad hoc national representative, using your wingman to tell others you're a New Zealander (or at least hear you speaking), you'll find a wealth of things to converse over with people you've never met before.
As I said, friendmaking as a duo is so much easier than doing it solo. Your confidence rises as you realise people aren't hard to talk to, and everyone has some form of social anxiety anyway. The more people you meet, the easier it is to pick-and-choose which you want to spend more time with, too.
However, single-serve friends (the kind you'll banter with for an hour and then part ways) are somewhat straightforward to make. What I've found important is to take those single-serving moments, and extend them out for a period of days so you can form a proper friendship.
Creating a social media connection (I've been using Instagram) is the swiftest way to keep in contact, but I'm sure I don't need to tell you that. Even if you're somewhat anti-social media in your normal life, it's vital to have at least one profile for these purposes. All of them have instant messaging functions and this is the ideal way to communicate and keep your new friendship going.
You also have to be bold with a new friend and invite yourself to things. Don't wait for an invite, just ask them what they are doing the next day and ask if you can join. It's completely acceptable in the travelling community and doesn't feel out of place (again, it feels very forward for us Kiwis but we need to get over that).
Other things to incorporate are the local greeting (e.g. if you're somewhere where people kiss twice on the cheek, follow suit whenever you meet anyone new), a certain level of politeness with every person you meet, and, of course, the ability to look new people in the eye and just smile at them.
Of the people I met while travelling alone, one I saw every day for seven days straight and with others I saw at least two or three times.
We're all still communicating daily. With one I've even planned to meet back at the same place this time next year. When you're travelling alone, I've found, there's no shame in putting yourself out there. The only thing you can lose is your loneliness.