Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How to make friends while traveling solo

Some people are puzzled when I tell them that I enjoy traveling solo. Don't get me wrong, I have traveled with family, friends, large groups and small groups and have had some amazing experiences along the way. However I have noticed that when I travel in a group I tend to interact primarily with the people in the group. 

I have found that when I travel solo, I often find myself in situations that I would never have encountered if I was traveling with a group. And, traveling solo forces me to interact and become friends with new and interesting people. Sometimes traveling solo can be lonely, but if you learn to apply a few simple rules of the road, you will never be lacking of community. So I thought that I would share my thoughts about...

How to make friends while traveling solo.
1. Smile at everyone.

2. While waiting in line for an airplane, bus, train or just about anything, give a compliment to the person next to you. Even if you do no speak the local language you can point and give the thumbs up. If you are entering at the same time it is very likely that they will be sitting next to you during the trip. It makes travel more enjoyable if you later need to ask for a favor or advise.
3. Sit in a park and watch the world walk by. Better yet, sit next to someone that is already seated. It may seem strange at first, but as long as you are polite they will usually engage with you in conversation.

4. Share your umbrella if it is raining. Walking side by side with someone builds instant trust. Take advantage of the situation to ask them where a good coffee shop might be located where you can wait out the rain. If you're feeling really bold, invite them to join you for a coffee.
5. Buy snacks that you can share... M&Ms, Skittles, Chips, Cookies. Sharing is caring and it is the easiest way to put a smile on someone's face. Sometimes you might need to make the gesture more than once, because people will often decline your first offer, but not your second offer.

6. Share a table at a restaurant with total strangers. Ask permission first, but this is perhaps the easiest way to meet someone in an open environment. If you succeed in getting an invitation to sit with someone, you will probably end up receiving some great menu suggestions. 
7. Cook and share a meal with someone. It costs about the same to cook for two as it does for one. Have one meal that you can master and share. If you are staying at a hostel it is a great way to make instant friends.

8. Share your music. Carry a headphone splitter. Burn a CD of your favs. Carry some tunes on a flash drive that you can easily share. Music is universal.

9. Be a fan. Wear a shirt from your favorite sport team. Sooner of later someone will see your fandom and enter into a conversation with you. It is a great conversation icebreaker that can lead to other things.
10. Talk to grandmas and grandpas you meet along the way. Young people are fun, but old people have years of wisdom to share and generally know more about local culture than you might guess.

11. Wear nice shoes. Sound strange? It seems like people are always observing my shoes and making comments about them. Whether they are hiking boots, athletic shoes or dress shoes, for some strange reason people are always curious about shoes. It is another great conversation icebreaker. If you don't have nice shoes, try giving a compliment to someone else about their shoes... they'll appreciate it. Strange, but sandals and flip flops do not seem to have the same pull.
12. Do not offer travel advise unless asked. I have given up on providing unsolicited travel advice. I personally hate it when someone offers advice about a place or activity. It builds unrealistic expectations and can ruin the joy that comes from the uncertainty of adventure. Plus, nobody likes a know-it-all.

Once you have made a new friend, be generous and accept their generosity. You will be on your way to creating some long lasting memories.


3 comments:

  1. Nice post! I would love to travel solo, but usually the only time is day-trips on the bike...

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  2. Good travel tips,Troy! The shoe tip is an interesting phenomenon. I figure the shoes hold such high regard, because they are generally the most expensive item people wear. You are being sized up by your shoes. I had a car salesman friend tell me that he would judge a prospective customer by the shoes and watch they wore. People may not be so differant the world over. :-)
    However, it is our differances, not our likenesses that makes the world interesting. -Take care! ~Joe

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