How to make the most out of 4 social travel apps?
Sometimes (solo) travelling is all about not being connected other than with your soul and surroundings, but let´s face it there are times when travelling alone can be hard or lonely. Apps that help you connect with other like minded people might just get you through that moment.
The power of these apps is in the people that use them…..some thing the creators of the app can not control. They facilitate, but can not guarantee the quality of the experience. Although having an open mind is probably the best way to a fun adventure, here are some tips to make the most of these apps.
The basic idea of Blablacar is getting from A to B by car by sharing the costs. However, it is also a great way to meet people that are going in the same direction as you are. Of course you could just go for the cheapest offer, but I suggest you do some research. First of all, check where the driver is from. Is he a traveller? Great! You might continue your trip together after you have reached your destination. Or maybe you prefer a local who can tell you all about the place you are going to.
The reviews usually tell you if the driver is chatty or more of a ´let´s get there as soon as we can´- kind of person.
Information about the other passengers is harder to get. If the driver already has some seats booked, they might have left a message that reveals a little about themselves. You can at least find out the language they are communicating in. If not, let them surprise you. The concept usually involves people that are open to meeting others or they would have taken different transport as it is not necessarily the cheapest option..
I assume most travellers are familiar with the platform where locals offer their couch to travellers in exchange for a nice conversation, getting to know a new culture and hear about travel experiences. However, nowadays Couchsurfing is much bigger than offering a place to sleep and in most cities events are being organised where it is all about meeting other people (locals and travellers). Some of these events are organised by hostels or other travel related companies and usually need to be paid for. No problem, just make sure what to expect. Google the company to get some reviews before you book.
Other events are for free. Many cities have weekly Couchsurf meetings held at the same location. If you are a bit hesitant to just rock up, you can ask a question in the comment section. You will see other attendants will react as everyone is in the same boat. Ask who is coming from your direction, so you can take public transport together. Most likely someone will want to tag along!
There are several apps that give you the opportunity to eat with locals and other travellers. Great, cause eating alone is for many solo travellers still more of a necessity than a joy. Which is a shame as food is such a big part of experiencing a culture! There is eatwith.com, eatwithalocal.com, BonAppetour.com……..find out what is on offer during your stay, but make sure to check 2 things if besides nice food having a social event is part of your reason to book. First, if it says how many seats are left, check what the total is. You might have an amazing night just you and the chef, but if you are expecting a big group of international people, you might get disappointed.
Second, check who the other guests are. Did they book separately or are they travelling together? Again, you can have an amazing night with a group of people that have known each other for years, but still it might not be what you expected of the night.
Nowadays there are so many Meetup Groups that no matter how eccentric the hobby, people gather to do it together. The idea behind Meetup is to bring local communities together, but there are many activities out there that are perfect for travellers: think a wine tasting in Lisbon, a yoga lesson on the beach in Spain or a hike through the local forest. Some of these things can be done in a more traditional organised tour, but Meetup has that extra thing where people do not only come for the tour but also to meet other people.
Meetup has one big disadvantage though: people do not feel committed. Signing up and showing up are 2 different things. Apparently if 50% turns up, it is a successful event. If it is a Meetup you need to pay for on forehand, this will be higher. If it is a free Meetup, check the older events: are there any photos, did people leave messages, are there good reviews, is the organiser (inter)active? These are all signs that people are more likely to come when they say they will and cancel if they can´t.