Joined: 19 Dec 2002
|Posted: Wed Jan 29, 2020 12:25 am Post subject: Ways to Make Friends While Traveling
|5 Surefire Ways to Make Friends While Traveling
One of the hardest parts about adventuring alone is also the most rewarding.
Outside | Liz Carlson
Saying yes to every opportunity is one way to meet new people and experience adventures you never imagined.
For many, the idea of traveling the world solo is both thrilling and intimidating. And if youíre like me, one of the scariest things is making friends and connecting with locals. Talking to a total stranger in a totally new place, perhaps even in a language that isnít English? For years, that thought alone made me cringe.
But I am here to tell you that the best and most rewarding part of solo travel is often the friends you make along the way. After all, nothing unites people quite like a shared travel experience.
But how do you go about putting yourself out there? Being an American expat based in Wanaka, New Zealand, a beautiful mountain town and tourist hub in the Southern Alps, Iíve seen both sides of the coin as backpackers, travelers, and seasonal workers often try befriending me. Combine that with a decade of international solo travel under my belt, and I have a few tried-and-true tips for making friends on the road.
Ask Lots of Questions of Everyone You Meet
Iíve found that the more openly curious I am, the more people I meet. Mostly this involves asking a lot of questions. Whatís the worst that could happen? Someone doesnít reply and stares at you like youíve grown a second head? Sure, that can happen, but youíll often be surprised. Iíve gone sailing in Greece with people I met in a cafť after asking them to share their favorite local haunts and admitting I was traveling alone.
Follow the Fun
Whenever I arrive somewhere new, I peruse the posters and signs tacked to the walls of cafťs, bars, and even telephone poles looking for cool events, gigs, and shows. I ask myself: If I lived here, where would I go? And then I take myself there. Itís a great way to get away from all the tourist spots tagged on Instagram and into the cool neighborhoods where the locals actually hang out. Not only will you likely make a few friends, but youíll also get to know the city you flew halfway around the world to explore.
Take Your Time
One of the best ways to make friends with locals is simply to slow down. Itís hard to truly get to know anyone if youíre in a new place every night. It took me years to learn this lesson. When I first began traveling, I was like a baby seeing everything for the first time; I wanted it all. Now, instead of running around trying to tick all the spots off my list, I find more value in renting an apartment or house and sticking around in one spot for longer. When youíre buying your fruit from the same fruit lady and grabbing your morning coffee at the same cafť, you canít help but build connections. I once crashed a friendís wedding in Sri Lanka that way after knowing the couple for just four days, but thatís a story for another time.
Say Yes to Every Opportunity
It may seem obvious, but when I moved to Wanaka and went in search of new friends, my personal philosophy was to say yes to everything, whether it was an adventure in the mountains or simply hanging out by the lake. This approach has enabled me to befriend locals no matter where I am, and it has led me to do things like a downhill mountain biking mission for which I was wildly unprepared. Five years later, Iíve yet to get back on a mountain bike due to sheer trauma, but I now count some of the strangers I met on that ride as my best friends.
Though I reckon Iíve got another 20 years before the born-and-bred New Zealanders here in Wanaka accept me as a true local, Iíve lived here long enough for the tourists to consider me one. And let me tell you, while asking questions is a great way to start a conversation, I find myself engaging more with the travelers who treat me like a human instead of a walking guidebook. Having the same old conversation about how long youíre in town and what your favorite spots are gets real old real fast.
This article was originally published on November 13, 2018, by Outside.