As a long-time solo traveler and an extrovert, I have no trouble traveling alone and meeting people on the road. For the more reserved among us, however, Stacy at the Rambling Traveler posted 10 tricks for meeting people while traveling. I had never considered things I do to be helpful, such as offering to take a photograph for others or coming to the aid of obviously confused or lost tourists, an explicit way to make new friends. That said, I have a few tricks of my own for finding companions and conversation on my travels — find 7 ideas after the jump.
An important thing to remember is that it is in fact easier to meet people when you are traveling by yourself than when you are traveling with a partner. If you’ve never attempted solo travel, this post lists 6 additional reasons why it’s worthwhile to brave it alone.
+ Warm up to communal accommodations, such as hostels. While you and your travel partner(s) may normally stay in hotels for financial and privacy reasons, as a solo traveler you will find it easier to come into contact with others when you are sleeping in the same room, sharing a bathroom, or cooking in the same space. Communal accommodations lend themselves to communal activities, whether it be a group forming to go to a museum downtown, a bar down the street or the grocery store to gather provisions for a common meal. This is an environment where travelers are generally receptive to the types of advances Stacy recommends.
+ Go where the people are. Public spaces, public places, public events and public transportation are where you are going to find people to meet — avoid insulating activities like listening to your iPod, talking on your mobile, riding in cabs or attending movies. Do your journaling or postcard writing in a park or cafe.
+ Join Hospitality Club, Servas or a similar organization. Even if you’re not swayed by the idea of free accommodation with strangers, HC is a great way to meet up with people in the cities you’re visiting — many members who can’t offer a place to stay will gladly take you around their hometown for a day, invite you over for dinner, or meet up for a drink after work.
+ While waiting around, ask your neighbors questions. I strike up conversations with my seatmates (on airplanes and buses, at bus stops, in the airport waiting area, at the laundromat, at the bar) about where they’re from, where they’re headed, and ask their advice if they’re from my destination. I’m also interested in what people do and if they like their jobs. Most of the time, people like to talk about themselves. It’s not only an interesting way to pass the time, it has gained me useful information, scored me free rides to town from the airport, and resulted in offers of accommodation and employment.
+ Eavesdrop and join in the conversation. This is obviously less threatening to a boisterous group than to a couple engaged in serious conversation. I sat in a pub in Dublin once for an entire snowy afternoon and for a good six hours joined in the conversations of the continuously changing tables next to mine. The group of Italian men had me take their picture with a table full of Guinness. The British teens drinking before their ferry tried to convince me that an addressed bar coaster stuck in an Irish postbox without postage would be delivered anyway (mine never arrived). The American military wives and I discussed summer wine events in southwestern Germany. A girl showed off the cute shoes she’d just purchased while her boyfriend rearranged their suitcase to accommodate them. I met an Irish French teacher and his entire walking club, ending their day out with a pint. Finally, an Irish physics student intending to join the military discussed the Iraq war and the future of peacekeeping with me before inviting me along for an evening out with his friends.
+ Relatedly, ask if you can join a table of people who sound interesting. Where language is not an issue, most groups are willing to add another person to the fun.
+ If you’re a member of an international organization, attend a meeting or activity while abroad: Rotarians eat lunch together the world over; a run with the Hash House Harriers can be a great introduction to a city. It is worth researching whether your organization has a club in your intended destination and making contact before arrival.
What other tricks have you found useful for meeting natives and other travelers on the road? Leave your suggestions in the comments.