Whether you have had the opportunity to travel frequently as a lifestyle, or occasionally for vacation or work, you’ve probably learned that the best part of your experience can be not just the places that you visit, but the people you meet along the way. Traveling gives us the chance to open our eyes to new landscapes, architecture, food, music, art, and activities of someplace new. All these amazing places inspire us with their beauty and unique charm that is foreign to us, yet the cultural traditions, local norms, and the people behind it all usually leaves the most lasting impression. When you travel, your experience can be changed for the better by meeting great people and sharing that experience with them. Not all good things come easy, though, and there can be a little bit of tact that comes in socializing in this way. Here are a few simple ways to make friends while you travel; friends that can last a lifetime!
When you travel, you’ll be going to a lot of busy streets, unknown places and in public spaces. If you want to interact with others around you, then you’ll need to present yourself as friendly. No matter where in the world you are, and what language is spoken, smiling is the universal symbol of friendliness and happiness. Whether you are engaging in conversation, asking for directions, or trying to make a new friend with a passerby, show yourself as friendly and approachable. A simple smile can go a long way.
2. Start the conversation
So many people want to make new friends, and may be interested in you, but are too shy to initiate an interaction. Wherever you go, start your day with the decision that you will start at least one conversation with one stranger. If you share a train or bus ride, find yourself sitting next to someone at a coffee shop, or a stranger at a cocktail bar, then be the first one to give a friendly smile and “hello” in any language. If the conversation goes no where and they are not interested, then you’ll probably never see them again anyway. But most people in these environments will be friendly and a conversation and relationship can begin if you smile, use good judgment, and ask questions.
3. Ask Questions
The best way to make a new friend is to be friendly yourself. Taking an interest in another person lets you know right away if this is someone that you’d like to spend time with, and it allows them to feel as if you are interested in them. Ask basic questions such as where are they from, what do they do for work, what is their favorite thing to do in this city, etc. You may never know what kind of similarities you may have, and they may just have something new and neat to tell you that you didn’t know before.
4. Be open-minded
If you are traveling away from home and your normal life, you will inevitably encounter many people with different ways of living as you do. Depending on how far you venture out will change how extreme these changes, but it is a good idea to know what kind of cultural language is considered inappropriate so you avoid it, and what is considered polite so that you can use amicable language instead. When you meet people that are different than you or that have different beliefs than you, take it as a learning experience, not an opportunity to put your views on them. In Italy, it is common for locals to smoke at restaurants, and blow their smoke around others without it being offensive. In Asia, there is a lot of raw seafood and a lot of delicacies in France that people eat. If a cultural difference like this catches you off guard, try your best to hide any confusion or disgust that may be interpreted as rude. Attempt to be open-minded to different ways of living and you just might learn something.
5. Be yourself
When you travel to a new place, it is important to be mindful of the locals’ ways so you can be respectful and pleasant as a visitor in someone else’s hometown or country. However, don’t let this respect be oppressive to your uniqueness. When you travel, people think you are exciting! They want to know why you are here, where you are from, why you look so different, speak so different, etc. Be bold about who you are, proud of where you are from and don’t be afraid to share a little about yourself and your life with new friend that you meet.
6. Ask the locals
Tourism boards, Yelp reviews, and Google results are all wonderful ways to find out what to do in a new place, but the locals always know the best spots. Sometimes the locals will keep their secrets from trying to protect it from a tourist crowd, but if you respect the privacy of it and make friends with the locals, they may show you around and give incredible recommendations.
7. Keep your plans fluid
If you are someone who travels with a strict itinerary, it may be hard for you to meet new people and try new things. Go into your trip with the idea that something unexpected, spontaneous will happen. Sometimes, these people and places that happen off of our schedule are the best parts. Plan the major things you don’t want to miss, but don’t give yourself strict time parameters, that way you can stumble into a cafe you see along the way and remain in a conversation as long as you feel like it without stressing about getting to the next destination.
8. Use good judgment
No matter how friendly someone is, you have to have your guard up. Travel in pairs is the best policy, and make sure when you meet new people, you remain in public and safe places. When traveling, you can meet amazingly friendly and trustworthy people, but you’ll have to be smart and use good judgment about who that is which is always a part of safe traveling!
9. Stay connected on social media
When you meet good people around the world, don’t let them go so quickly! Before you part ways, get their social media info. Don’t exchange phone numbers or addresses as that is too vulnerable, but find them on social media and follow them to keep in touch if they are a relationship worth maintaining. You may never know, they could come to visit you sometime in the future, too!