Shy? Here are some tips for solo traveling

It can be difficult for anyone to travel alone. But the trials of solo travel can be magnified for a shy person who finds it difficult to make friends wherever he or she goes. I know, because I’ve always been shy. And I found that traveling solo was the best thing I could have done for myself. Being alone in foreign countries forced me out of my comfort zone — which is always a good thing, right? That doesn’t mean it was easy — I shed a lot of tears, called home every other day, and drank a lot of beer to overcome my small-talk impaired-ness.

Although travel tips for the shy traveler are similar for the outgoing traveler, I think it’s more important for bashful people to be conscientious about how they go about their trips, since meeting people can be much more difficult. Here’s what I learned:

  • Stay at a social place where travelers congregate. Hostels are great.
  • Try to arrange sleeping in a single-sex dorm, especially if you’re female — I found it much easier to make friends with other women in that atmosphere.
  • Take a tour, especially one your guesthouse offers. You’ll meet people doing the same things as you. Often I’d end up having dinner with the people I’d met on tour. And we had an instant conversation topic.
  • Carry a book or journal with you; that way, if you feel awkward eating alone you can always pull one of those out instead of staring at the table across from you while waiting for your food.
  • Call home when you get lonely, and look for homey comforts. I’m not advocating McDonald’s, but I may have enjoyed a Starbucks or two when I came across one.
  • Enjoy it! One of the best things I learned while traveling alone was that I don’t actually mind being by myself. I could pick and choose who I wanted to hang out with, and my schedule was always my own.

Do you have any tips to add?