This past summer, I hopped on an Amtrak train and went across the USA. I spent time in incredible cities; some I had been to before, others were brand new. While in Nashville, Tennessee, I found, fell in love with and bought a small school bus. At the end of the summer, I returned to Nashville, and with a few detours drove him back to San Francisco, via the historic Route 66. It was an amazing summer; one in which I went to discover America; and discovered myself along the way. I completed the entire journey as a solo female traveler; a feat which seems to surprise and delight people of all genders and ages. Here are a few ways I met people while I traveled.
5) Airbnb Experiences: To be honest, I hate promoting Airbnb, after how they—as a company—have behaved in our beautiful City by the Bay; gutting residences, inflating prices, gouging consumers and being overall ass-hats. However, they do have a section on their site called, Experiences, and I used it a lot on my cross country trek.
Experiences consist of a ton of things, from walking and eating tours, yoga on the beach, pottery classes, photo-walks, pub crawls, water excursions, etc.…This is such a great way to meet people and experience a city in a unique way. It’s not the cheapest option—(it is, after all, Airbnb), but, I enjoyed doing ‘Experiences’ a lot.
4) Groupon: Along the same idea, is Groupon. Their section is called ‘Things to Do’ and is substantially less than Airbnb. They have really cool outings and class activities, ie: Tuk Tuk Tours, Dancing, Zip Lining, Wine Tasting and so much more. They also have a section called ‘Travel’, which I have used a lot for funky, hip hotels. They are always a bargain, well maintained, safe and I have not had a negative experience. I love both of these sections in Groupon and use them regularly.
3) Pull Up A Stool: One of my favorite places to meet people is at the local bar or pub. I usually go online and look for ‘dive bars’, because, I have a love of them. (Here is a post I did about a few of my faves in San Francisco. I need to update it though; Trad’r Sams and Emperor Norton’s Boozeland are obvious misses on my list!) As a solo female traveler, you should never get drunk in public. That’s basic safety. Find a good pub, order a local beer and a glass of water, eat and meet locals. I found the fantastic Magnolia, aka: Mags in Louisville and Merry Arts in Cleveland. I fed the jukebox, met fun people, drank local beer and had some of the best times.
This also goes for dining out at a restaurant. Don’t sit at a table by yourself; find the bar and eat there. You will have company—(even if it’s only the bartender—the good ones will make conversation, the great ones will give you inside tips, tricks and recommendations and introduce you to their favorite brews and concoctions, ie: Chicago and Malort.) Never underestimate the power of a great bartender to set you out on the right foot in their city.
2) Hostels: Youth hostels can be one of the best places to meet, greet, socialize, get acclimated and find fun things to do in a city. Hostels often host bar crawls and excursions at a cheap price; you share a dorm with like-minded people—(or if you opt for a private room, and you might for the purpose of a good night’s sleep)—you can still meet people in the common areas. I like hostels a lot; but, as an older person, they require research. Don’t be shy about calling the hostel and asking questions that are important to you; i.e.: noise, demographics, location, etc.…Get specific, otherwise you might end up at something that feels like a frat party gone awry.
2) Facebook: For all its flaws and faux pas, it is obviously, a great place to connect with people you know—(or knew)—from high school or former jobs, who live in different parts of the country. You would be amazed at how many ‘local friends’ you have in places you might never have visited. Facebook is a great tool to find them.
1) Tours: One of my favorite things to do in any city I visit, are walking tours. You can find them online and they cover an array of interests from various neighborhoods, food, architecture, sights, and attractions. They are usually led by locals, docents or retired professionals. Most cities offer FREE tours or tours that are tip-based. I love educational tours and sign up for them in most cities I visit, including my own. A couple of my favorite tours in San Francisco are: Wild West Tours and The Magic Bus—(not cheap, but, hop on Groupon and get a ½ price ticket). Side Note: Everyone wants to visit China Town when they visit San Francisco. In order to understand and enjoy China Town, you really must take a walking tour; otherwise, you will find the experience overwhelming and a huge letdown. A China Town Tour is a necessity. Trust me.