I’m not a social butterfly. In fact, I’m quite shy. Still, throughout my years of travel I’ve managed to make countless friends whether on a train ride, eating in a restaurant or on a tour. There’s not one particular skill you need to make friends while traveling, you just need to be open to breaking the ice and then go with the flow.
Here are eight ways I’ve used to meet people and even form lasting friendships when you travel.
Strike up conversations
Don’t wait for someone else to start the conversation. Make a stranger’s day. Ask a question. Wherever you happen to be in line, in a restaurant or at a museum, start a conversation with someone around you.
Have a few conversation starters handy so you always have something to say to kick off a conversation.
How long have you worked here? Do you like your job? What did you do before this?
Have you been here before? What’s your favorite thing on the menu? Or most interesting exhibit? Or cutest shop? If they haven’t been there before, point out something you found interest.
What do you suggest we make sure not to miss while we’re in town?
We’re looking for a place to have lunch/dinner, where do you suggest we go for the best hamburger in town? (chicken, steak, whatever.)
Give someone a sincere compliment
What a beautiful baby! How old is he/she? Do you have other children?
What a beautiful necklace, dress, or whatever. Where did you get it?
You have a great accent, where are you from originally? How long have you been here? Why did you move here?
Take a hike
When you’re on the trail with someone, it’s easy to strike up an authentic conversation without the distractions of daily life. When you’re surrounded by the beauty of nature, it inspires connection.
Join a tour
Tours are great to meet people. It doesn’t have to be a multi-day tour. It can be a full or half day tour or even a walking tour. You’ll be spending a lot of time with the same “strangers” who are interested in the same thing you are. That’s a point in their favor already. At the end of the tour, those other travelers will no longer be strangers.
Food, wine, and beer tours are already great social events. I have always found these the easiest situations to break the ice. It seems every destination has dozens of local breweries, and brew tours are a common occurrence. Wineries or even restaurants offer wine tastings. Join in the fun and meet other connoisseurs. Beer, wine, food, and socializing always seem to pair well together.
Take a seat at the bar
We often eat our evening meal while traveling at restaurant’s Happy Hour. We find the prices better and it’s usually less crowded. Instead of sitting at a table, sit at the bar to eat and chat with the bartender or whoever is next to you. Even if you don’t drink, taking a seat at the bar can be one of the best ways to meet new people. You’ll see that in no time, you’ll be striking conversations and making friends.
Take a class
Whether it is a quick session or a multi-session course, taking a class can help form friendships on the road. Not only will you be spending time together in class, but you’ll have a common passion, or desire to learn something, so breaking the ice will be pretty easy. Cruise ships, resorts and timeshare often offer free little classes for their guests. I’ve taken classes on ice sculpture making, napkin-folding, scrapbooking and soap-making this way. You can find classes in any destination. Examples of classes you can take are cooking courses, sewing or quilt-making classes, pottery and handicraft courses, and more. These vary depending on your destination.
Visit your local farmer’s market
Farmer’s markets are so much fun, especially if you enjoy cooking and healthy eating. If you do, you’ll find plenty of other people who share your food values, so make a morning of it.
Talk to the farmer’s, ask questions, and invite conversation with other shoppers. These events often have a festive, sociable atmosphere, so make the most of it.
Get to know your seatmates
Getting to know your seatmates on a flight, bus or train ride can not only help pass the time but also form friendships. Just be courteous when breaking the ice and don’t bother someone if they are reading or sleeping or working.
I hope you try some of these ways to connect with people while you travel. It might be uncomfortable at first, but if the other person is friendly and responsive, it could be the beginning of an interesting connection. Before you go your separate ways, suggest getting together again or exchanging email addresses or phone numbers.
Just remember, if you use any of these 8 ways to meet people when you travel, use common sense and stay safe. Do not give out your home address or hotel room number.