I’m not a social butterfly. In fact, I’m quite shy in person. Still, throughout my years of travel I’ve managed to make countless friends abroad whether on a train ride, staying in their home or on a tour. There's not a particular skill you need to have to make friends while traveling. You just need to be open to breaking the ice and go with the flow.
Here I’ll share with you eight methods I’ve used on my trips to meet people and even form lasting friendships.
The great thing about Couchsurfing is that you will be staying at a local’s home, so by default, you will be meeting someone who could potentially show you around the city or hang out with you. Not all hosts are the same, but from my experience, most of them take some of their time to go out with you, chat, sightsee, or more.
Another good thing about Couchsurfing is that you don’t necessarily need to stay with a host to meet people. The site gives you the option just to meet for coffee or whatever you might plan for the day.
Airbnb is similar to Couchsurfing (but paid), and if you happen to rent a room (not an entire apartment), you could be sharing the common spaces with your host. As with Couchsurfing, many hosts taketime to socialize with you, when they have time.
Hostels are an excellent way to connect with like-minded individuals. You’ll have more chances of meeting people if you sleep in a dorm room, but should you not fancy dorm rooms, many hostels encourage social interactions in their lounges and public spaces. Some hostels even call themselves "party hostels," where all you do is party with the other guests.
Keep in mind not all hostels encourage a social environment. Before booking, read the reviews and see if the "social environment" they have is the one you’re looking for.
I have to say that I’ve met some of my best travel mates on tours. Tours are great to meet people, especially if they are multi-day tours since you will be spending a lot of time with the same "strangers." At the end of the first day, those other travelers will no longer be strangers and if you click with them, who knows how long you could be traveling together. In Bolivia, I met seven other travelers on a 3-day tour. We clicked so well that we all ended traveling together for over a month across several South American countries.
Even if you don’t drink, taking a seat at the bar can be one of the best ways to meet new people. Instead of sitting alone at a table, sit at the bar to eat and chat with whoever is next to you or even the bartender. You’ll see that in no time, you’ll be striking conversations and making friends.
Whether it is a quick session or a multi-session course, taking a class can help form friendships on the road. Not only will you be spending time together in class, but you’ll have a common passion, or desire to learn something, so breaking the ice will be pretty easy. Examples of classes you can take are cooking courses, massage courses, pottery and handicraft courses, learning a language, and more. These vary depending on your destination.
While I was driving around Iceland, I picked a few hitchhikers along the way. Whether it was a short ride or a long one, I struck a conversation with all of them. You might not end up making lasting friendships giving a ride, but you never know! A friendship can happen in the most random ways, just make sure you are always careful when picking up strangers.
I love using social apps, and I’ve met countless people with them. These days Tinder is the most famous, and while it may be associated with dating, know that it is not limited to just that.
Other apps like Meetup allow you to meet and socialize with people with similar hobbies or interests. There’s also InstaMeet for Instagram addicts to meet all around the world. There are hundreds of apps to socialize; you just need to pick the one that is more focused on your desires.
I admit I don’t do this one as often as I should, but chatting with your seatmates on a flight, bus or train ride can not only help pass the time quicker but also form friendships. Just be courteous when breaking the ice and don’t bother someone if they are reading or sleeping.
Ready to be a traveling social butterfly?
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Norbert Figueroa is an architect who hit the pause button on his career in 2011 to do a round the world trip. He's been blogging for over three years at globotreks.com, where he shares his travel experiences, budget travel tips, and a good dose of world architecture. From hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to diving with great white sharks, he is always on the search of adrenaline and adventure. Norbert is originally from Puerto Rico and he is currently based in Milan, Italy... when not roaming around the world, that is. He has traveled to more than 80 countries in 5 continents and his goal is to travel to all 193 U.N. recognized countries. Follow Norbert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.
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