Originally written for Tournac blog, but it was never posted to that site. Why waste a well-written blog post? :)
Making friends is undoubtedly harder the older we get. But friends make life last longer. Literally. An Australian study found the survival time of older people with a circle of friends significantly enhanced. Harvard showed that a large social network provided a protective influence on cognitive function. So really, it’s not only a fun way to travel, but healthy too. One of the best ways to make friends is to find something in common. Traveling in itself is already something in common with fellow travelers. Using that jumping off point and these handy tips, get ready to meet people, find new travel buddies, and make lasting friendships!
1. Before you go …
One of the fastest ways to make friends while you’re traveling is to start before you even go!
· Ask your friends if they have any contacts at your destination they can share with you.
· Post about your trip on social media and see if any of your online friends are going to be there (try Tournac, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc). There are several Facebook groups that cater towards travelers including Girls Love Travel, Girls vs Globe, Female Digital Nomads, Men who Travel, or any city-based groups to see the upcoming events.
· Sign up for an event you plan on attending and introduce yourself to the group members if there’s a forum or message board.
· If you belong to a worldwide organization, look for a local chapter and go to a meeting. They’ll likely be more than happy to accommodate you and/or tour you around the area.
2. Be open to interaction!
Crossed arms and legs. Nose stuck in a book, a-la Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Scrolling through a phone. Staring at the floor. Frowning. These all say “I don’t want to be bothered.” And that’s cool if that’s what you’re going for, but if you’re trying to meet friends, this could be a huge turn-off to others. The first thing you can do is open your body language and smile. Be approachable. Say hello to people. Hold the door, sit next to someone, or make room at the table.
Finding people open to interaction is just as important as being open yourself.
· Visit the hostel bar (even if you’re not staying there) or go to the common areas. Sign up for a hostel-organized activity. Carry a deck of cards or a game you particularly like (I’m bananas for Bananagrams) and ask others if they want to play. If you like to cook, try making extra for others, or ask them if they’d like to pitch in for dinner. Nothing brings people together like a good meal.
· No hostels around? Visit the most touristy spots in the area. This may not appeal to you, but sometimes you have to go where the tourists go to find others in similar situations.
· Interested in meeting locals? Learn some words and phrases in the local language. Carry a translator or translation dictionary to connect. Try the local bars or markets. If you’re in the area long enough, become a regular at your favorite local coffee shop, bar or restaurant.
· Challenge yourself to talk to someone new in every place you go. Start small by asking the time or offering to take someone’s picture. Then try asking where they are going, if they had a good day, what activities they recommend in the area. If you’ve got a good conversation going, be honest. Tell people that you’re traveling, and you’re looking for people to explore the area with.
· Don’t forget to listen! The most important part of interacting is listening. Sometimes just being a good listener will win you a friend for life. So when you ask a question or start a conversation, genuinely want to know the answer. They might surprise you.
4. Say yes!
Well done! You’ve got an invite to come along on a hike tomorrow. But you already had plans to explore the town. Sometimes you’ve got to be a little flexible and say yes. Maybe exploring the town can wait until the next day. And who knows? Maybe they’ll want to go to town with you.
5. Lean on technology
If you haven’t found anyone at the hostel or the bar, don’t fret! Let technology help you with awesome websites and apps like these:
· Tournac – social network that connects travelers seeking to meet and share authentic travel experience
· Skout – social app created toward meeting people worldwide
· Tripr – social app to find a travel buddy, get advice and find local events
· TravBuddy – research travel, meet fellow travelers and share your advice
· Lonely Planet community forum – connect with more than a million other travelers
· Trip Advisor solo travel forum – ask other solo travelers for advice and find travel buddies
· Backpackr – meet nearby travelers and connect with other like-minded people worldwide
· Internations – connect with other expats in the city, get tips and join events with 2.6 million members
· GapYear – primarily for those traveling during gap year; use the boards to find other travelers
Get to really know a local culture through staying or hanging with the locals. Local accommodations can be found on a few sites including Couchsurfing, Homestay, Airbnb, Homeaway, Bewelcome, Mytwinplace, or Trustroots (having trouble deciding which is right for you? Check out this Hospitality exchange comparison).
You can also meet locals through organized activities, meals, partying or sharing a ride using these websites and apps.
· Meetup – choose your interests and find an event relating to that interest
· Airbnb experiences – learn a new skill in a new place and meet new people
· Tea with Strangers – meet a stranger for tea and a great conversation. Currently only covering 6 cities, they’re expanding globally!
· Eatwith – hosts from home chefs to entrepreneurs entertain with a variety of cuisines
· Bonappetour – explore home “restaurants” and eat with locals in their own homes!
· Feastly – join new friends for unique dining experiences from home kitchens to pop-up spaces
· Ridesharing – only in the US and Canada, post or book a ride to share to your next stop
· Party with a local – connect with other people who love to party
7. Stay Safe
After all, your mother didn’t teach you stranger danger for nothing.
· Listen to your gut – does this person seem trustworthy?
· Meet in a public place with good lighting and plenty of other people
· Check out your new friend on social media – do they have more than 2 friends? Are they following only women? Do their pictures seem real? Do they have a picture of themselves posted?
· Go in a group if possible
· Stay sober (or stay sober enough to leave if necessary)
· Nothing good happens after 2am. At least be back in your room by then.
· Learn a few phrases in the language and show respect
· Don’t flash around expensive jewelry, camera equipment, wallet, etc.
· Pay attention to where you’re going and who you’re with
· Tell someone at home or the place you’re staying where you’ll be for the day
Tell us what you think! What works for you and what doesn’t? Any additions? Things you've done to make friends that we forgot? We’d love to hear about it!