Solo travel is always a daunting prospect. From meeting new people to making friends, gearing up for a solo adventure comes with its own host of anxieties.
Even the most seasoned of solo travellers can be filled with dread at the thought of how to break the ice when they’re meeting people for the first time.
It’s totally normal to worry about making a good impression, and we all worry about making friends.
And while it might sound easier said than done to just go with the flow, there are a few simple tricks that can help you feel less awkward about getting to know the other people in your group.
Challenge your anxieties
If you’re worried about breaking the ice with people you’ve never met, remind yourself that 99.9% of our fears are actually ‘F.E.A.R’ — False Evidence Appearing Real,’ says Cat Williams, author of Stay Calm and Content.
‘Even if we’ve had a previous experience that didn’t go well, it doesn’t mean that will happen again. Feel the fear and do it anyway and you’ll prove to yourself that it was just that, ‘F.E.A.R’. Practice using your imagination — who do you know who’d find this situation easy and put yourself in their shoes. How would they feel, what would they say? Once you’ve done it for 5 minutes you realise you’re doing it on your own and it turns into positive excitement’.
By visualising the conversation, you can reflect on how you interact when meeting new people for the first time.
Take an interest when meeting new people
‘Instead of feeling self-conscious, take an interest in the other people in the group’.
Solo travel gives you an excellent opportunity to probe deeper when meeting new people, in a way that is totally natural and genuine.
Flash Pack’s off-the-beaten-track holidays to destinations including Mynamar and Belize tend to attract likeminded people, so chances are you’ll find you’ve got plenty in common with the other people in your group.
But if you’re still stuck for an opener, small talk is a great way to get the conversation started.
‘Talk to people about their journey, the food at dinner, ask about their background, what’s brought them on the holiday or what activities they’re looking forward to. The more you listen and ask people about themselves, the more you’ll make them feel at ease. This takes the pressure off the situation and in turn will make you feel more relaxed,’ says Rasheed.
Be an early bird
If meeting new people makes you feel nervous, another great tip is to arrive before everyone else.
This gives you time to chat to your guide and find out more about the day’s activities. It’s far less overwhelming than turning up and there being loads of strangers.
In doing so, not only do you acclimatise to your surroundings, but you also have the ability to initiate conversations naturally as and when people start to arrive.
Taking time to adjust to the vibes and easing your way in gently takes the edge off meeting new people quite substantially.
Older but not necessarily wiser
Once we’re in our 30s and 40s, it’s easy to pick up bad habits when we’re meeting new people without even realising it.
‘You might be unaware, for instance, you’re too much of a joker in a group. Or you might have a tendency to dominate conversations,’ says Rasheed.
‘Ask friends and family for constructive feedback, they might say you need to ask more questions or listen more, so you can modulate how you come across. And try and get a sense of the group early on as you don’t want people to feel over or underwhelmed’.
And while it’s great to have a helpful checklist of ways to break the ice, both Rasheed and Cat also advise there are certain things you should definitely try to avoid when meeting people for the first time.
‘A good guide is to think of what would put you off from talking to someone,’ says Cat. ‘Whether it’s standing too close to someone, asking too many personal questions, talking too much about yourself, being rude or gossiping or appearing too needy or aloof. Then try not to do the same.’
Reflecting on what you’re looking for in other people, in turn, makes you a better conversationalist. It means you can prepare mentally for meeting new people and put your anxieties at ease.
Know your limits
As tempting as it might be to have a drinks for Dutch courage, it’s not the best idea to get drunk at the welcome reception.
‘If a glass of wine makes you a bit more relaxed and chatty then great, but if it means you’ll be telling everyone your life story then you should probably avoid alcohol,’ says Rasheed.
Don’t overstep your own limits when meeting new people – there’s nothing like a drunk to put a downer on things.
Live in the moment
Put down your mobile or camera so you don’t miss out on shared experiences.
Absorb as much as you can with your senses, and if you’re chatting to someone, make sure your focus is entirely on them.
‘There’s nothing worse than someone looking over your shoulder when you’re talking to them and trying to build a rapport,’ says Cat.
‘People notice these things. Don’t feel you have to be talking to everyone. But if you are speaking to more than one person make sure you pay attention to each of them equally’.
When meeting new people, don’t just jump into a conversation if you’ve joined a group for the first time.
‘It pays to be measured, advises Rasheed. ‘Listen, nod, smile then after a few minutes introduce yourself and gently contribute. A good way to do this is to validate or agree with a comment someone’s just made.’
Be a considerate conversationalist, and make people feel like they are listened to, and the interaction will flow smoothly.
Just be yourself
When it comes to breaking the ice with people, don’t feel you need to wear bright clothes or be the loudest in the group to stand out or try and fit in.
Dress for yourself and the activity. The more comfortable and relaxed you feel, the easier the chat will flow.
The wonderful thing about solo travel is that it allows you to let your guard down and share experiences when meeting new people, turning strangers to friends in a heartbeat.
Check out these 3 epic adventures to meet likeminded people:
Discover Vietnam & Cambodia
Journey into limestone grottoes and caves by kayak, behold the splendour of Angkor Wat at sunrise and tuck into delicious local cuisine.
Lose yourself in the magic of Myanmar
Explore a land of floating villages by long-tail boat, bathe elephants and discover the ancient temples of Bagan by bike.
Step into snowy Sweden
Journey through the landscape by twilight, learn about the lives of traditional Sami herders and chase the Northern Lights in the land of ice and snow.