My first trip to Asia also happened to be my first trip as a solo traveler. Traveling alone does take some practice. Meeting people in Asia is nothing like meeting people in America, and people here are different than in the west.
For starters, unless your goal is to be by yourself all the time, you have to be comfortable with rejection. Some travelers really aren’t interested in meeting other people on anything other than a superficial level and don’t respond very enthusiastically when approached by someone they don’t know. Others aren’t interested in you because you’re the wrong sex, aren’t good looking enough, or the wrong age. The key is to never give up – to keep trying and putting yourself out there. You can get past that fear of rejection and truly open your heart to traveling in a foreign country, and a wonderful new world of connection awaits that is so different than the way people normally interact with one another in the West.
Keep in mind, that as with everything in life, it’s all about your attitude. The attitude that you project out onto the world is the attitude that you will find being returned back to you. If you greet the world with an open mind and an open heart, then that is what you will get in return. If you are afraid or apprehensive, you’ll get that returned back to you as well.
So first, the obvious: no staying in hotels. Stay in a hostel, in a bunk bed, in a room full of other people. Find a hostel that has lots of public seating areas.
Do something interesting while you’re there. Work on a drawing. Write in your journal. Play with some cards. Read a good book. Play an instrument. Smile and say hello to people when they walk in. Introduce yourself to new people checking in. Ask where they’re from, where they’ve been, what book they’re reading, where they’re going next. Comment on something that someone is wearing. Eavesdrop on people’s conversations and feel free to insert yourself into them. Invite people out for a meal. It’s easy!
Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work the first time, or if there is no one that you really care to talk to or spend time with. That’s OK too! This is the perfect time to spend some time getting to know yourself. Write, read, draw, pick up a new hobby, start a journal, take an online class.
I was able to meet all sorts of travelers by doing all of these things. But by far my favorite part of Indonesia wasn’t meeting other people doing the same thing that I was doing; rather it was the unplanned part, the part that just happens when you’re open to possibilities. That’s the part you can never plan for, and that’s the most exciting part of travel. So if you’re looking for a list of the best hostels to stay in or where to get the cheapest nasi goreng, sorry, you’re not going to find one here!
The memories that I will cherish about my travels in Indonesia have to do with goofing off diving with Harmain, getting picked up and whisked off by random strangers on a scooter to an unknown destination, meeting Zul on a local commuter boat, and getting on stage in Kuta and belting out some Eagles tunes in front of a bunch of drunk Ozzies.
Up next.. Thailand here I come! 🙂