How to Meet and Connect with Others When You Travel

Helping someone out is a great way to connect
Helping someone out is a great way to connect

Though meeting and connecting with others is one of the major fears of traveling, it is also one of the most important things about being a traveler.

Here are 7 ways to make meeting and connecting with others an easier task.

1. Be the Conversation Initiator

I used to hate being the one to initiate a conversation. I would have often preferred to endure a time of awkwardness instead of being the first person to speak up. Not that I was rude or didn’t want to talk, I just didn’t know if the other person wanted to talk, and that fear kept me to myself.

Throughout my travels I have however forced myself to meet and greet others in the right circumstances, and guess what I’ve found? The majority of other random people (both travelers and locals) are friendly, eager, and willing to chat.

Hang Out in Communal Areas
Hang Out in Communal Areas

2. Hang Out in Communal Areas

If you’re staying in a mixed person dorm room it’s pretty easy to meet and connect with the person sharing your bunk. It merely takes a friendly “hello,” and you’re already well on your way.

If you’re staying in a private room, you definitely won’t meet anyone locked in your room all day and night. Hang out in the communal areas reading, watching TV or using your laptop and eventually you’re bound to stumble into another person and strike up a conversation.

3. Help Someone Out

See someone who needs some help with directions or needs assistance doing anything else? If you know the answer, or can be of service, step in and try to help them.

I was in China when I spotted a smiling lady pulling an absurdly large cart packed with harvested rice stalks. The cart toppled over and the rice stalks slid off the pushcart into a pile on the side of the road (photo top).

Seeing that she needed some help, I helped her reload the cart which took just a few minutes. She then invited me over to her home for an experience I’ll never forget.

Helping others is the perfect chance to meet and connect.

4. Find a Common Bond

A common bond is often the foundation of a relationship. This by all means doesn’t mean that you should instantly connect with the person who happens to be from your same country (though it could), but rather means that any common factor or activity can be the basis of a connection.

I was in Uruguay with a buddy of mine a few years ago. At that time we were addicted to drinking yerba mate, a local herbal beverage.

A few Argentinian travelers saw us drinking mate, were delighted, and joined us. We ended up all traveling together for a few days after meeting them over some simple bonding mate.

Couchsurfing can lead to some great opportunities.
Couchsurfing can lead to some great opportunities.

5. Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing isn’t just a website to find a couch to crash on, there are so many other ways to benefit from the community.

For instance if you’re heading to a particular city, get online and browse a group specifically for that place. Depending on the size of the city, you’ll probably find an active community of both locals and travelers sharing advice and organizing meet-ups or events.

Though I really enjoy couchsurfing itself, I’ve also had some really rewarding experiences joining couchsurfing trips and met some incredible people from around the world.

6. Use Social Media and Blogs

The internet has revolutionized just about everything we do, travel included. One of the most simple and yet powerful ways of connecting with others when you travel is to use social media to get connected.

Read some blogs, send some tweets, browse some hashtags and with just a bit of effort you could be connected and meeting up with some like-minded individuals for an adventure.

7. Go on a Tour

A tour doesn’t need to be a week-long overland trip, it can be as simple as a day tour or even just a few hours. Whether you take a tour to see a Boca Juniors game in Buenos Aires or to hike through the rainforest searching for orangutans in Sumatra, you’re just about guaranteed to meet someone you can connect with.

In the Philippines I, along with a group of others, visited the famous Batad rice terraces. Though the group had to return to Manila, I decided to stay on and do some more hiking.

Through the group I was able to arrange a local guide (just a normal guy) to lead me from village to village in the mountains of the Philippines.

No matter if you’re traveling solo or with a group of friends, meeting and interacting with others is a crucial part of traveling.

When we accumulate some experience and know a few tricks, connecting with others can be effortless but so rewarding.

Comments

  1. says

    Great advice! It’s so true that most people are willing to chat if you start up a conversation with them.

    My husband and I have started a new rule – “The Elevator Rule”. We’re from England, and things get REALLY awkward in elevators – no one talks to each other at all. So the rule is that wherever we are in the world, and whenever we’re in awkward, silent situations with strangers (like an elevator or waiting in line), we strike up a conversation or make a friendly comment.

    Although we haven’t made any firm friends yet, we also haven’t been beaten up! So we’re going to keep going – it makes the whole situation far more friendly and bearable.

  2. says

    Good tips!! Also, if a local approaches you, don’t be afraid to establish a conversation. Some people avoid talking to locals because of some preconceived notions (the place you are visiting is dangerous, don’t give locals any personal information, etc.). I have learned a lot about culture and history from locals who are willing to share a little bit of their countries.

    • says

      I fully agree with you Ruth, I’ve had some truly rewarding opportunities from taking the time to talk to locals – and it’s a great learning experience as you mentioned!

  3. says

    Dave,
    Quick question: where is that spotless hostel?

    A few years ago in Mexico, I asked to take a picture and ended up invited into a house and urged to take pictures of the family’s Christmas tree, the creche, and their ofriendo set up in their living room. She offered to make me a coffee but I begged off. It was a surprising and wonderful thing to happen to someone who was just learning to use an SLR camera and terribly shy about asking for pictures. Every year I see this woman in front of her home in the mornings and she never fails to recognize me and wave.

  4. says

    Great story Laura, and nice opportunity to shoot some photos. That hostel is in Seoul, South Korea called Phil Guesthouse (I’d highly recommend it).

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