The thought of solo travel can be terrifying but it might be to your surprise that being on your own can actually make making friends on the road is a little easier. I found this to be true. This is how I make friends while traveling solo:
1. Leveraging Hostels for Excursions: I have only stayed in a hostel once and I cannot say it's my favorite type of accommodation. However, I see hostels as a tool.
Context: I was in Medellín, Colombia a few years ago visiting two of my good friends and while I came on vacation, they still had to work during the day. As you could imagine, I was trying to make the most of my time there so my friend recommended that I go to a hostel to meet people. When I arrived at the hostel, it was pretty empty ( I guess I came on a slow day or maybe the travelers were out for the day) but I snagged a few excursion brochures and signed up for the ones that peaked my interest on my way out, i.e the Escobar and the rock tour , Guatapé and Paragliding in the Colombian Andes .
I had SO much fun on both excursions and met pretty incredible people. I was also envious that they had month long holidays to just travel and enjoy life.
A good portion of travelers who stay in hostels are also solo travelers so my other recommendation would be to hang out in the hostel common area and make friends that way. Everyone is pretty friendly and welcoming!
2. Joining Facebook groups: If you are traveling solo and looking for community, I recommend joining a Facebook group where Americans, Europeans, Canadians (to name a few) and Expats from around the world can exchange tips, insight, experiences and ideas, among each other and with English Speaking Colombian friends( in this instance), for Travel, Living, Working and Retirement purposes.
Who knows, you may gain life-long friends from any of these groups :)
3. Learn the language and strike up conversations during transit: Learning the language is always a great way to make friends with locals! The locals actually appreciate when you are trying to communicate with them in their native tongue.
Context: My first international trip was with my immediate family to Paris, France and Monaco, the South of France in 8th grade. I was SO excited for the trip that I learned a little french to be able to speak to the locals. Everyone was super appreciative and literally bent over backwards to help my family and I get from point A to point B. I have since returned to Paris quite a few times as an adult and each time had a different experience. Part of my most positive experiences there were times when I spoke french. I am in no ways saying that in order for you to travel overseas do you have to know the language (in some countries you do) but it certainly helps being treated well!
4. Be approachable and allow for spontaneity: I think the best sparkle to life is allowing for spontaneity whether you are traveling or not. I feel the same about being approachable! Both open the doors to opportunity and endless possibilities! Solo travel is only as rewarding as you allow for it to be.
Context: One time my sister and I were in Australia; I was visiting her while she was studying abroad there and we were looking for Bondi beach . We walked through a residential neighborhood and asked two guys where the beach was. They gave us directions and invited us to their housewarming later that day. We did not attend the housewarming. However I am sure it would have been an experience for the books!
Another time, I was in South Africa and met friends through a former partner. They invited us to their house for a braai and we enjoyed a meal with the family and learned more about the South African history and culture. This was an amazing and memorable experience!