My absolute favourite thing about travelling is meeting fellow travellers. There is such an amazing diversity in the travel community from people just travelling for 5 years or newly graduated doctors taking a little break before their hectic careers start. I love meeting everyone and learning their stories and tips and tricks.
I have been very fortunate to have been able to meet people and with the power of social media stay in touch with them!
Okay so all this is really nice and wonderful but how do you actually make friends when you’re on vacation?
Stay in a hostel
Not saying that it is impossible to make friends in other types of accommodations but I found most people staying in hostels are open to interactions in a way that people in a resort might not be. Hostels have common areas that “force” interaction so the people that are in those spaces are most likely interested in interacting with others. There are also more likely to be solo travellers in hostels that are looking for people to spend time with. One friend I had met the day before at dinner and while my group were going on an excursion I just asked what his plans were for the day and he had none so we just biked around the town. From me asking if he wanted to bike around has developed into a real friendship where we have both offered a place to stay to each other in our respective countries.
One of the hostels we stayed at in Vietnam had “pod” style areas and we noticed that most of the people in our shared room were not interested in getting to know others vs. the common area of the Vietnam Backpackers Hostel which was full of people smiling and happy to talk.
*Disclaimer* I have never tried couch surfing but I have heard positive things from my other friends. Because couch surfing hosts are opening up their homes to strangers they are generally very nice, interesting and generous people. This gives you an instant person to connect with who will usually take you out and show you the town or at least help you meet new people in the place you’re staying.
Nothing bonds people like a shared experience and working together on an activity. In my “research” activities that are really unique or unusual are more likely to result in a real friendship than others. Think eating caterpillars, skydiving, etc make fast friendships because the experience is so “different” from day-to-day and you always have something in common to talk about.
Start a conversation
This seems like a given when you’re trying to meet new people but it can be really intimidating to talk to someone you don’t know and it can be difficult to develop a conversation from small talk to real friendship. Try to avoid the “common” small talk that you would use at home like “what do you do” because people travelling rarely want to talk about their boring day to day. I like to say “where else have you been” or “where are you going next” because it usually gets people really excited and you can get an idea of what kind of things they’re into and experiences they value.
Usually you will know within a little bit of talking to someone whether or not you “click” and if you feel a connection with someone ask for follow up. This can be “we should go do insert activity tomorrow” or “I’m heading to check out this place, wanna join” or if you meet someone you jive with but are leaving don’t be afraid to say “hey do you have instagram/facebook/twitter? whatever I’d love to stay in touch and hear about your adventures from here”.
Find group meet ups
Use the tiny portable computer in your hands to find groups that do some activity you’re interested in. Extreme frisbee, quilting, cooking, no matter what you’re into there is likely a group you can meet with to do that thing!
Make friends with locals
It’s fun meeting other travellers but if possible try making friends with locals. You will get to experience a place in a very different way. I love when someone from the area talks to me or asks a question because then you can pick their brains on what things shouldn’t you miss or best restaurant. Sometimes they’ll even be interested in showing you around and you’ve instantly made a connection.
We are living in the future and there are so many apps you can use to meet people while travelling! Tripr or Skout are great ways to connect with people before travelling and plan together. Eatwith sounds really interesting as it helps you find local dinner parties to meet new people and try some delicious local dishes.
Meet people on the plane
You already know they’re going to the same place. Use the time you are forced to be together to strike up conversation. At the very least you may find out about something to do in the place you’re going you weren’t aware of.
Have any of you made any lasting friendships while on vacation? How did you meet?