Traveling is an exhilarating, exhausting, adventurous experience. When traveling most people choose to go with a group or a partner, however, there are the brave individuals who choose to pursue teaching abroad alone. Maybe it is a trip of self discovery, or your travel partner bailed last minute. Whatever the reason you find yourself moving abroad to teach alone, you should cherish the experience: teaching abroad is one of the best post-college jobs and experiences you can have. These five simple pieces of advice outline how to make the most of your solo traveling and teaching experience while being safe and sociable.
1. Research Hostel Common Areas
One great way to meet international friends while traveling is to choose accommodation that has social opportunities. This applies for teaching jobs abroad as well: while you are looking for somewhere more permanent, you can search for a decent hostel to make your home for a while. A hostel is a great place to meet like minded people who enjoy experiencing the world’s beauty. When looking at hostels, do not only consider the rating, price, and location, you should also assess their common area. This central gathering/hangout place is a great location to meet a friend.
Things that are good to look for is a cafe or bar area with WiFi, this ensures that people will be hanging out in the common area. See if there are any photos of the area. Does it look inviting? Would you enjoy lounging around chatting with your fellow travelers there? Do they have a happy hour or other community event?
2. Take a Free Walking Tour
Most big cities have free walking tours. They are free because the guides work off of the tips from the group that participates. If you want to get to know your new city, but don’t want to wander around alone, this is the perfect solution. Most hostels will provide information about a tour, and sometimes they even provide them. On a walking tour, you will learn history, get to know a city, and might meet some cool people at the same time.
3. Safety: Never Tell a Stranger You’re Alone
When you are meeting people be cautious of who you tell you are alone. If someone knows you do not have any contacts or local connections that could put a target on your back for something negative. People are people everywhere; there are wonderful people and there are terrible people everywhere in the world. The key is to be cautious but not skeptical.
If you are ever uncomfortable with someone, just say “I have to go meet my friends/family/boss (really anyone, just indicate you know someone in the city- even if you don’t). Safety trumps manners, don’t feel like you are being rude or feel guilty. If someone makes you uncomfortable in anyway cut them off and get to your imaginary event.
4. Start a Conversation (Even If It Feels Awkward)
You never know when you are going to meet your new best friend, but if you are too afraid to talk with anyone you can ensure it won’t be during your solo travel. If you think someone or a group of people look nice and fun, go up and introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. A great place to start is a simple "Where are you from?" This can feel very awkward, but just think in terms of “worst case scenario.” If it doesn’t go well it’s pretty certain that you will never see them again. However, you will regret never knowing if the group really was a fun bunch. Maybe you will be invited on the surfing trip they are taking the next day rather than having another day of wandering alone.
It is always beneficial to grow your international network. If you are brave enough to be traveling alone, likely you’ll be doing more travel in your lifetime. It’s so amazing to go see old friends around the world, but they have to be new friends before they can be old friends.
5. Be brave!
Traveling alone can be an intimidating and sometimes lonely experience. You have to remember each day that you are on your own adventure is what you make it to be! Don’t let yourself mope around a hostel and wait until someone invites you out, be proactive. If you don’t have plans, get your tushy out of bed and go adventure. There was a reason that you traveled to a specific location, so remind yourself of that reason. When you are feeling lonely, think about a likely place to meet like minded people. Once you have the answer, go there.
Make the most of your teaching abroad experience. Enjoy your time traveling and make each moment count, you are blessed that you have this wonderful opportunity. Make sure to document your experience and keep in touch with all the great people you meet. Facebook is a really effective way to stay in touch and who knows when your paths may cross again.