Traveling alone can be a great way to explore new places and have new experiences. However, for many people, the prospect of traveling solo can also be daunting, especially when it comes to meeting new people. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make connections while you’re out and about. Below, we’ll go over some tips for meeting people at parks and outdoor spaces.
1. Step out of your comfort zone
Meeting new people requires taking a step outside of your comfort zone. As a solo traveler, it can be easy to stay within the confines of what feels safe and familiar. But if you want to make new connections, you’ll need to be willing to take some risks. That might mean striking up a conversation with someone you’ve never met before or accepting an invitation to join in on a game or activity.
One way to make stepping out of your comfort zone easier is to remind yourself that you’re in a new place and that this is the perfect opportunity to try new things. Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
For some people, stepping out of their comfort zone might mean pushing themselves to be more social than they normally would be. For others, it might mean putting themselves in situations that they find uncomfortable (like starting a conversation with a stranger). Whatever it is for you, try to recognize those moments and push yourself to take the plunge.
2. Look for common interests
When it comes to meeting new people, having common ground can be a great starting point for conversation. If you’re hanging out in a park or other outdoor space and see someone doing something you’re interested in, take a moment to chat with them about it. You might find that you have more in common than you thought.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions to learn more about the other person’s interests. People love talking about the things they’re passionate about, and by showing genuine interest, you’ll make them feel more comfortable and open to conversation.
If you’re finding it hard to identify common interests, you might try scanning the area for stickers or logos that suggest a shared interest or hobby. For example, if you’re a fan of a certain band or musical artist, you might see someone wearing a t-shirt with that artist’s name on it. Use that as a starting point for a conversation.
3. Be open to meeting people of all ages
One of the great things about public outdoor spaces is that they attract people of all ages and backgrounds. Don’t limit yourself to only talking to people your own age. You might find that you have a lot in common with someone decades older or younger than you. And who knows, those cross-generational friendships can be some of the most rewarding.
Of course, it’s also important to be aware of the social norms surrounding age and age-appropriate behavior, especially if you’re traveling abroad. What’s considered acceptable behavior between people of different ages can vary widely depending on cultural and social norms.
Keep in mind that there’s a difference between being open to making friends of all ages and actively seeking out friendship with someone significantly older or younger than you. The important thing is to be open and friendly to everyone, regardless of age.
4. Join groups or classes
Many public outdoor spaces offer group activities and classes. This is an excellent way to meet people who share your interests while also participating in an activity that you enjoy. Examples might include yoga classes in the park, bird-watching groups, or pick-up sports leagues.
One of the benefits of participating in these group activities is that you’ll have shared experiences to talk about. Plus, since you’re all there for the same reason (to learn something new, get some exercise, etc.), you’ll have an easy icebreaker to start conversations.
Be sure to keep an eye out for flyers or advertisements for these sorts of events. You might also be able to find information online using community message boards or social media groups.
5. Invite others to join you
If you’re planning an activity in a public space (like a hike or picnic), consider inviting others to join you. You never know who might be looking for something to do and eager to make new connections.
Of course, it’s important to use your intuition and be respectful of other people’s boundaries. If you invite someone to join you and they decline, recognize that they might not be in the right headspace to make new connections at the moment. Don’t take it personally.
On the other hand, if someone seems genuinely excited about the idea of joining you, that can be a great opportunity to make new friends. Just make sure you have a clear plan in place (where you’re going, what you’ll be doing) and stick to it.
6. Practice active listening
If you want to make connections with new people, it’s important to be an active listener. This means paying attention to what the other person is saying and asking follow-up questions to show that you’re interested and engaged.
Active listening is also about picking up on non-verbal cues, like body language or tone of voice, to get a better sense of how someone is feeling. For example, if someone seems nervous or uncomfortable, you might tread more lightly with your conversational topics. If they seem excited or passionate, you might ask them to elaborate on what they’re talking about.
7. Be respectful of personal boundaries
When you’re trying to meet new people, it’s important to remember that not everyone will be receptive. Some people might be shy, wary, or just not in the mood to chat. Always respect personal boundaries and avoid pushing the conversation if someone seems hesitant to participate.
Another important aspect of respecting boundaries is being mindful of how personal or intimate you’re getting with someone you’ve just met. It can be tempting to overshare or dive deep into your personal life if you’re feeling a connection with someone. However, it’s important to remember that not everyone is comfortable with that level of intimacy right off the bat. Take things slow and let the conversation develop naturally.
If you’re finding it hard to gauge someone’s boundaries, pay attention to their body language and how they’re responding to you. If they seem uncomfortable or like they’re trying to create distance, take a step back.
8. Take safety precautions
As a solo traveler, your safety should always be a top priority. When meeting someone for the first time, choose a public location and let someone (a friend or family member) know where you’ll be and who you’re meeting. If you’re feeling worried or uneasy, don’t be afraid to walk away or end the conversation.
Try to keep your wits about you and avoid letting your guard down too quickly. If someone seems sketchy or overly pushy, trust your instincts and stay away.
It’s also a good idea to have a safety plan in place in case of emergency. This might include carrying a phone, carrying pepper spray, or carrying other self-defense implements as appropriate.
9. Use technology to your advantage
These days, there are plenty of apps and websites that can help you connect with other solo travelers or locals in the area. For example, websites like Meetup allow you to find groups based on your interests and participate in organized activities with others. Other apps (like Hiking Buddies or Couchsurfing) connect you with other individuals who are looking for someone to share an activity or explore a new place with.
It can be a great idea to do some research before you depart so that you’re familiar with the technology available to you in the area where you’ll be traveling. That way, when you’re out and about, you’ll be able to quickly and easily find other like-minded people to connect with.
10. Be open to new experiences
Finally, if you want to make new connections while you’re out and about in public spaces, it’s important to stay open to new experiences. This means being willing to try new things, take chances, and embrace whatever opportunities come your way.
Some people might be drawn to you because you’re clearly on a solo adventure and they’re interested in chatting about your travels. Others might want to bond over a shared interest or hobby. Whatever it is, stay receptive to new possibilities and be willing to take advantage of them when they arise.