Are you one of those people that walk into a room, laughs, and starts chatting away with everyone? If yes, good for you. I’m not. In fact, for most people, it is rather difficult to connect with strangers. Even people who seem confident, outwardly, often claim they’re shy. Initially, I thought this feeling would magically go away when traveling. It turns out that you take this away with you, wherever you go. Just because you’re abroad, doesn’t make you more outgoing. The good news is, though, that travel presents you with a ton of opportunities to make friends for a lifetime. But how do you meet people when traveling?
How to meet people and make friends for a lifetime?
Here are our top tips to connect to strangers when traveling. I found it hard to start these habits myself, but once I did, I never had to spend a day in solitude again!
To someone who has seen a dozen people frown, scowl or turn their faces away, your smile is like the sun breaking through the clouds – DALE CARNEGIE
Cheesy, yes. But smiling is universal around the world. Even if you’re not the person to start a conversation, a bright smile will encourage others to do so. The first step to meet people, traveling or not.
2. Put your phone away!
This is not only good to remember for travel, but for life. When has it become a habit to pass our time playing with your phone? If you’re out for dinner by yourself, resist the temptation to play Candy Crush. Watch the people around you, smile at them, or eavesdrop (creepy, but fun!). Try to see the world around you through your eyes, not your Instagram. Imagine the most interesting, beautiful and drawing person sitting next to you on a bus ride. Now, what would seem more inviting: if they gave you a big smile, or if they were completely transfixed by their phone?
3. Surround yourself with people!
How are you going to meet people in your single room on the outskirts of town? It’s not impossible, but improbable. One option is to try the dorm room. You’ll have to say at least hi to the people that share it with you. If that’s not for you, make sure you’re at least in a place where there are like-minded travelers. In a family-style guesthouse, you’ll find the more relaxed crowd. In a party hostel on the strip, you’ll find exactly these kind of people. Think about who you want to surround yourself with.
4. Ask questions
People love themselves. It’s in our nature to be egocentric, after all, we’re the person we spend the most time with. Let people talk about themselves. A simple “Hey, where are you from?” can spark an unusual conversation. Try to know a bit about the world so you can show them you’re interested in their country. As long as you don’t ask their opinion about Brexit or Trump, you’re good to make friends. Also ask the typical traveler questions – where have you been before, what do you do, where are you going? And go from there. Are you going to Argentina? Fantastic, have you tried their mate tea before? Try to be genuinely interested – every person has a story to tell. And remember their name!
5. Keep an open mind
You might already lie tucked in bed when someone jumps into the dorm and asks who wants to join them for a pub crawl. Or maybe someone had the utterly stupid idea to go tubing. Whatever it is: try being open-minded about it. Say yes more often. That doesn’t mean blindly following strangers, but try to be spontaneous. The best memories are created that way, and it’s awesome to make friends. It can also be helpful to have an open itinerary, because if you do meet awesome people in a wonderful place, you might want to stay a little longer.
6. Join a tour or group
Alright, guided tours are sometimes deemed the evil of the traveling world. And while I agree that they’re often expensive and exploring on your own is more fun, it’s an excellent way to meet people. You’re forced to spend a significant amount of time with strangers, and traveling forged tight bonds. If a ten-hour bus ride doesn’t give you the opportunity to start a conversation with the passenger next to you, I don’t know what will. Remember: smile!
7. Volunteer or do a hospitality exchange
Depending on what kind of journey you are going on, this could be an excellent option. It saves you money, gives a unique inside into the life of the locals and introduces you to many new people. Websites like workaway.info provide a platform to find hosts online. These offer you accommodation and sometimes food in exchange for helping with tasks in their business, hostel, farm, boat or maybe home. And additional to an accommodation you get a connection to the host and often their friends or other helpers. A great opportunity to make friends!
I have gotten so attached to some of the people I met through work away, that we continued to make months-long travel plans together. These are few and far in between, but make the whole journey that much better!
Alright, one last tip to remember: everyone feels this way. Pretty much anyone who is traveling will be able to relate to you. The wonderful thing about traveling is that you don’t need to think about judgment. You won’t ever see those people again, so don’t worry about making a bit of a fool out of yourself. That will only make you more likable.
Alright, what are your tips for meeting new people and making friends on the road? Share your stories in the comments!