How To Meet People While Travelling – Ask Alex – Travel Question Wednesdays

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Posted on / by Alex Berger

Ask Alex - Travel Question Q and A every Wednesday

This post is part of the Ask Alex, Travel Question Wednesdays weekly series. To see previous questions click here. To submit your own; tweet it to @AlexBerger, ask it in a comment on this post or send it in by e-mail.

This week’s travel question is from Eldina J. she asks,

Q. “What’s the best way to meet people while traveling without being creepy?

A. –  I operate with a basic general assumption in place.  If I’m sitting somewhere feeling lonely, by myself, or really wishing someone would start a conversation with me – then other people who look to be in a similar situation are probably having similar thoughts.   This may not always hold true, but I find that in most situations it tends to be fairly spot on.  It is amazing how often two people will sit near each other, both hoping the other person will strike up a conversation but feeling too concerned that they might impose, to be the initiator.  On the flip side…don’t be the Italian guy from the train in Eurotrip.  We can usually tell when people are open to being approached/talked to, it’s just a matter of paying attention and overcoming our own personal and cultural inhibitions.

Remember – you’re a traveler!  Travel is all about amazing stories and cool people.  Travelers are usually social and always have a story to share!

But, that begs the question – how to do it?  It is often as simple as saying hello.  If you’re on your own it is typically easiest to approach other solo travelers or travelers relaxing by themselves.  However, don’t let that stop you from reaching out to people, especially if you’re in a hostel!  Hostels are built specifically to help solo and independent travelers meet and connect while on the road.  But don’t stop there!  Once you have made contact with another traveler (or if you’re traveling with a friend) be inclusive! When you see a lone traveler or small group say hello and invite them to join!   Remember – people WANT to be included.  They just may feel awkward or bad about imposing.  When inviting people to join, I find it is usually best to make more concrete invitations.  Instead of, “you’re welcome to come join us if you would like” shorten it up and get to the point, “Come join us!  Here, pull up a seat!”  As subtle as the difference is I find it often makes a large difference in how people respond.  In one they feel like they might be imposing or that the invitation has been offered out of politeness.  In the second it is much more inclusive and feels more welcoming. Don’t worry they can still say no if they’re busy or have other plans.

If you’re not doing hostels, and don’t feel like striking up random conversations in parks, restaurants, museums and on public transport Couchsurfing.org is the next best option.   To be clear, while billed as a free bed exchange, that’s not what Couchsurfing is really about.  It is about community and connecting with other amazing, well- traveled, wonderful people.  When you are preparing to visit a town set up a profile, join groups connected to that town, and then search for people who are willing to meet up for a cup of coffee or a beer.  You’ll be able to do a bit of research and background on the person to make sure it will be a safe situation, and then you can dive in.  Most major couchsurfing communities also have weekly gatherings which everyone is invited to.

Good luck and happy (social!) travels!

Would you like me to elaborate on an aspect of this response? Let me know!

Have a question of your own? ASK IT! Want to see previous questions? click here.

Alex Berger

I am a travel blogger and photographer. I also am involved in academic research into the study abroad and backpacker communities.

9 Comments

  • Christy @ Technosyncratic
    April 6, 2012

    It’s a lot harder for us to meet people while traveling because we’re a couple, so folks are a little more hesitant to approach us. We met some fantastic locals in Saigon last month, though – we were just hanging out in the park and they approached us to practice their English! We talked for almost an hour, then went out to dinner the next evening with two of the girls. It was a wonderful and totally unexpected experience.

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      April 6, 2012

      It is definitely a whole different challenge especially if you’re in areas that don’t tend to be heavily hostel saturated or where staying in a private bungalow etc. is about the same price. I guess it just puts more pressure on you to be the initiator and to include people, who might otherwise not want to intrude on your personal time together.

      That experience in Saigon sounds fantastic!

      Reply
  • Dan
    April 15, 2012

    good advice

    Reply
  • Dan
    April 15, 2012

    good advice Alex. I totally agree with you.

    http://dan-dailyobservations.blogspot.com/

    Reply
  • Karen
    April 29, 2012

    Hi, I’m a 26yr old female who is planning on going travelling for the first time for 3 months in July! I’m planning to fly to Cairns then work my way down to Sydney and then over to NZ for a month! I am travelling alone and excited but sometimes I get very worried that i’ll feel lonely and not meet any friends! Do I go or not?? Any advice would be great

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      April 30, 2012

      Most important things first – definitely go for it! Don’t worry too much about the loneliness aspect. There are a lot of great options to help ensure a social experience. Take a good book for downtime when it does happen, but don’t expect to have too many opportunities to read it. I highly suggest you do hostels as a solo traveler and use Hostelworld or Hostelbookers to look for good hostels with decent ratings. Keep an eye out for hostels that have common areas/hostel bars and then don’t be afraid to relax in them and to say hello to people. Backpackers are pretty awesome and very friendly. Additionally, there are a ton of solo travelers on the road and they are all looking to connect and strike up conversation.

      Another great option is signing up for Couchsurfing, getting your profile validated and then (with a little careful research) reaching out to hosts to meet up for a beer or coffee. Keep in mind that couchsurfing is more about social connections than it is actual accommodation. A female friend recently headed to NZ solo, ended up meeting some cool people in the hostels, and then teamed up to exploring the more rural parts of the country: https://soldelmarstudio.wordpress.com. If you would like, I’m happy to suggest some fantastic female-solo-travel blogs as well.

      You may also like my talk about solo travel on Youtube. Other resources that should help you prepare are my Ultimate packing List site and Travel Resource List site.

      At the end of the day, remember that most people are very friendly. They want to be included and have a conversation, they’re just shy or worried about imposing. Be inclusive and engage them! Also, try checking out some of my older posts about solo travel. Any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

      Reply
      • Karen
        May 8, 2012

        Thank you for your advice!! My flights are now booked! I’m looking forward to my travels however still slightly nervous but I’m sure that is to be expected

        Reply
        • Alex Berger
          May 8, 2012

          Fantastic! You’re going to have a blast. Let me know how it goes! Don’t worry – I think most of us are still a bit anxious before a trip, no matter how much we’ve traveled or where we’ve been solo! It’s all part of the adventure =)

          Reply

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