Beside all the adventures and memories, meeting new people and making friends from around the world is what makes traveling so much fun. Travelers, backpackers, and globetrotters all know what it means to be in a place where you don’t know anyone, so in general, everyone’s really friendly, and striking up a conversation is easy.
However, there are two types of people in the world: Those who can make friends simply by breathing, and others who need a bit more of a push out of the comfort zone. To make the whole friendship process a little easier, it’s important to be open and curious while doing something fun that interests you. Preferably, in one of these ten places:
1. Take language classes
If you’re going to stay in a given country for more than two weeks, why not really immerse yourself by taking a language course? You’ll be able to pick up some great phrases to help you on a day-to-day basis, so traveling will become even more fun. Plus, study buddies often turn into travel buddies, which could mean that you basically hit the jackpot.
2. Or join any other classes
Maybe you’re so in love with the rabbit dishes you keep eating in Malta, you decide that it’s time to learn how to cook them yourself, and you join a Maltese cooking class. Or you want to learn how to make a proper origami swan in Tokyo – and of course, there’s a class for that as well. Whatever class you choose, you will be able to make friends with fellow students and travelers – it’s like in school, just somehow more fun because you’re abroad.
3. Live with locals
Now, you can’t just show up at someone’s doorstep and demand that they let you in, feed, and befriend you. But there are loads of opportunities to immerse in the culture by living the local lifestyle – be it couchsurfing or Airbnb. Living in an actual apartment or house is a great way to get to know a city through meeting people, neighbors, and locals.
Why not do something good for both your soul and the community by volunteering? This will not only help you improve the world while giving back to the place you’re staying in, it will also allow you to immerse in the culture and connect with people who care about a greater cause. (And let’s not forget that it’s an amazing way to follow or find your passion.)
5. Eat and drink
Everyone has to eat and drink, and by picking the same restaurant or café, you already have something in common. Simply look around for someone else who is eating alone. This can be risky as the person might actually want to eat alone, but you can just approach them and say, “Hey! I noticed you were eating alone and so was I so I was wondering if I could join you?” You can only win – you step out of your comfort zone and might have a very pleasant conversation.
6. Book a day tour or join activities
A lot of hotels, schools, or cities offer free (or inexpensive) sightseeing tours, excursions, or activities. This will help you explore your new home away from home and gives you insider knowledge you can’t find in a book. Usually, you do these tours and activities in groups, so you’re surrounded by people whom you can talk to and take selfies with. Who knows, maybe you end up checking out that restaurant you walked by earlier, or you continue exploring together.
7. Stay at a hostel
Plenty of backpackers and solo travelers stay at hostels because they tend to be cheaper than hotels. Because of that, you will come across a lot of open-minded people and welcoming situations, like a dining-hall-style breakfast or group activities that make it easy to mingle with others. Plus, everyone usually has great travel tips, so it’s definitely worth striking up a conversation, no matter where you are staying.
8. Reach out to your network
If you have friends (or friends of friends) who recently went to South Africa, message them to see if they have any advice. Who knows, they might not only send you a list of things to do and places to see, but they might even get you in touch with their local friends and you can meet up for coffee or a sightseeing tour.
9. Become a regular
If you’re staying in a given city for a while and you keep going to the same café or restaurant, the staff will eventually recognize you. This is a great opportunity to engage in small talk or get recommendations for things to do and see. Wait staff is used to chit-chat, introducing people, or helping customers, so there’s a good chance that you might even do or see some of the things together.
10. Find a social group
Pretty much everyone who visits a new city or even moves there has some challenges to meet new people or find their way around. That’s why a lot of organizations, like Meetup and Internations, have popped up to help: Weekly and monthly get-togethers help people expand their social circle and get their friendship on.