“Riding Solo” is a multimedia guide about how to live fearlessly in your own company. Whether you’re at a small event or traveling the globe, this series shares honest stories from real women learning to explore the world as their own plus-one. Experience the full package here.
Real talk: attending events solo can often be an anxiety-inducing affair. Maybe you’ve decided to start networking to secure your next career move. Maybe you’re single with a bunch of wedding invites rolling in. Or maybe you’re finally living your dream and traveling solo (go, you!). All adventures are equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking, mainly because they mean you’ll inevitably have to strike up a conversation with a stranger at some point.
The good news: There are a handful of little things you can do to make socializing solo significantly less intimidating. The even better news: We’re here to tell you exactly what those things are!
1. Do some snooping. Okay, not literally — but paying attention to small details will help you connect with the next cool girl you see in your hostel’s lobby, or the one sitting next to you at your co-worker’s wedding. Maybe she’s carrying a guitar case plastered with Rolling Stones stickers or she has a photo of a dog set as her phone’s background. You can be sure she’ll be down to swap concert stories or chat about her precious doggo.
2. Make friends with your bartender. Sometimes small talk is best left to the professionals. Which is exactly why you may want to sidle up beside the bar when you’re at an event sans a plus-one. Bartenders are experts when it comes to casual banter and can keep you company when you’re feeling like a fish out of water.
3. Accept awkwardness. When it comes to chatting up strangers, sometimes awkwardness — and even straight-up rejection — is part of the game. If you’re striking out with someone you thought you’d totally vibe with, don’t let it deter you from future friend forging.
4. Ask the obvious. “Where are you from?” It’s an obvious question, yes, but also one that’ll definitely spur a conversation, no matter what the answer is. Whether it’s a place you’ve never been (“What’s the one thing you miss most about Dublin?”) or a beloved favorite of yours (“Have you been to the Publican? Chicago is such an amazing city for food!”). You may be surprised to realize how much common ground you’ll find with just some simple geography.
5. Learn the language. We’re not suggesting you devote your life to the DuoLingo app, but if you’re traveling alone, making an effort to learn the basic words and phrases of your current country’s main language is literally the best way for you to make conversation with the locals. Communicating requires comprehension, after all. No doubt they’ll appreciate your effort, however clumsy it may be.
6. Delete Yelp. This is a bold move, we know, but hear us out. Food is the greatest motivator there is, so we’re pretty confident that you’ll have no problem asking the clerk at the indie bookshop where you should grab a bite. Everyone loves sharing their favorite food spots, and who knows, a simple restaurant recommendation could easily lead to a real connection.
7. Keep a book with you. While it may seem counterintuitive, the best conversation starter is often an open book — and you won’t even have to start the conversation this time. Whether your future friend loved it, hated it, has it on their reading list, or just watched the movie version, people love to spark up a conversation about their favorite stories. Just make sure you’re not reading on a Kindle!
(Photo via Getty)