Planning for a two month trip this winter and it'll be the first time I have ever travelled solo. I'm a bit of an introvert and have booked a mixture of private guesthouses and hostels to get both experiences. I'm not too concerned about meeting new people when in a hostel but I'm anticipating there will be times where I'll get a bit lonely, so I'm wondering - what are great places to meet others that are open/friendly and looking to socialize? Side note: I'm married and not looking for dating scenes where people want to get picked-up!
As a Canadian we're known for talking about our jobs and the weather as a default but in your experience are there any great topics that are universal relatable when starting a conversation with a stranger in a new country?
Wine Tasting, beer tasting, meet ups, yoga in the park
Hostels can be great if chosen carefully. I'd go for places that have a mix private and dorm rooms as well as a bar or restaurant that attracts locals. You're more likely to meet experienced travelers looking for more than just a party scene and locals interested in meeting visitors.
AirBnB is great meeting local people. You can message back and forth with various hosts to find out if they are interested in socializing. This can be an incredible experience if you find the right person.
I'd also agree that tours can be good. The more specialized the better. You will have at least one local guide with similar interests ready to offer advice and travelers with similar interests on the tour with you.
Walking tours are a neat way to meet other travellers and the locals running them are always friendly :)
You did not say where your travels will be taking you so it is difficult to answer. But you must be a brave person if you plan to stay in a hostel. I travel alone most of the time but stay in hotels where I feel safe and can lock my room and not have my chattel stolen by other guests. I think you will find a better class of people at hotels as I have seen some of the types that stay in hostels and they are kind of seedy.
I guess I would just go to some HH's and talk to people at the bar. I do that locally and meet some very interesting people. Just be sure to stick to the better areas when you do. Avoid areas with bad reps.
You might try couchsurfers.com. You don't have to couchsurf to use it. Many people listed are happy to just meet for coffee or show travelers around. Search for people who live in the in the areas you're visiting who have similar interests as you, and contact them to see if they're interested in meeting for coffee, or a hike or (insert interest here) or just giving you some advice on what there is to see and do in their home town.
Joining some walking or cycling tours of the places you visit can be a good casual way to meet people without having to do it in a dating scene and you will at the same time go some cool sightseeing.
I travel a lot, some time solo, I find humor, light hearted humor appropriate to the scence is one good way to make acquaintances and to be at easy with strangers.
It really depends on where you're going, but in countries like Italy and Spain with a strong coffee culture, coffee shops are a great place to strike up a conversation. Often, a coffee shop has a long bar where people sit (sort of like our N.American bars) and chat. I've met some great people just pulling up a bar stool and ordering a coffee. People talk about the weather, news - you can ask about local things, what do see/where to go. You can even ask simple language questions - like how to say ____. In my experience, people are generally friendly and willing to help.
I find that while on the road, talking about food is the easiest way to start a fun conversation. Everyone eats and everyone is happy to share their favorite places.
Other than that I usually go to bars/restaurants and start conversation with waiters and bartenders. Not only do they have some of the best information about the local area, they are often fun to talk to. On more than one occasion I've been invited to hangout with the waitstaff after hours.
Since you're a bit of an introvert, I think group activities is a good way to meet people. That includes walking tours, group bar crawls, and skills workshops. You can easily find meetups or events on couchsurfing that may strike your fancy. Chances are, you'll meet many others who are just like you.
Remember, most of the time everyone else is feeling exactly the way you are. You both want someone to approach you to start a conversation. Why not be the one who starts the conversation?
You can usually find an irish pub wherever you are....I not kidding. When I get lonely during solo trips, I always find a pub and sit at the bar. Works every time. Also, giant smile and attempts at the local language are always an ice breaker.
Listening more than talking works for me...