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Authored by Rebecca Crawford

Even if you like traveling alone, or you’re already with a group, that doesn’t exclude the possibility of meeting new people as you’re making your way around the globe.

Travel is all about getting to know a different culture, or different mindsets to enrich your own way of seeing things. That’s why we’ll give you our top tips on how to make new friends wherever you go.

Nonverbal Communication

This is the most important tip, even before you meet someone new. When your eyes meet, you know if that person is interested in starting a conversation or not. So it’s good to smile at least slightly, and maintain eye contact for a few seconds.

Studies show that people who use a rich nonverbal communication, with lots of significant gestures, can make friends more easily. It’s also easier for them to maintain these friendships, thanks to the mirror neurons.

The theory is simple: we like to form friendships with people we perceive as similar. So if someone mirrors our behavior, e.g. smiles when we smile, we’ll tend to like them more.

Key Gestures to Use

➡ Large gestures.

➡ Open palms.

➡ A suggestive mimic that gives an effective nonverbal feedback.

➡ Eye contact, but only for a few seconds so it’s not creepy.

Group of travelers

Small Talk

There’s an art with small talk, and it’s good to know the ropes if you’re to make new friends. It can all start with a simple, but funny remark on their outfit, or with a witty pun about the weather. Or a simple “Hello” can always be a great start.

Either way, try to include the context and visible mutual interests into the small talk. You can also focus on the people you’re trying to make friends with, get them talking about themselves.

For instance, ask them about what cool things you can do there, or find out where they’re heading next – did they just book a holiday to Jersey? Ask them!

Share Things

Say you’re camping and you have a portable oven or a camping coffee maker. If other people in the camp don’t have these things, you can invite them over so they can use yours.

After that, you can ask them how long they’re planning to stay, if they prefer coffee or tea, what they like to eat and so forth. You can even suggest an impromptu dinner party, a barbecue, or maybe a hike together.

Even if you like traveling alone, or you’re already with a group, that doesn’t exclude the possibility of meeting new people as you’re making your way around the globe.

Be Helpful

If you see someone struggling to set up their tent or to fix their car, you can easily make friends by saying “Hi, mate, can I give you a hand there?” If you don’t know how to help them, it can still be a funny start to offer your assistance.

Just make sure not to give any unsolicited advice that would seem like you’re barging into their personal life. So don’t tell them they should be using more eco-friendly products, or try your vegan lifestyle.

Also, some people prefer not to be helped. Just read the nonverbal cues. That’s the case with photographers who prefer to pack their own tools, for instance. You’ll recognize these people by how focused they are when doing a certain thing, so it’s best not to interrupt these.

Empathize

If someone is complaining, don’t offer new potential solutions from the first. That might go against your instinct, but you should just listen, nod, and say “I get you, man”.

Only after the person has done talking, you can ask them: “May I offer you some advice?” And try to look at things from their own point of view, not yours.

If someone is complaining, don’t offer new potential solutions from the first.

Talk About Your Shared Interests

There’s nothing like a “hey, I’m into swimming/ trekking/ archaeology too!” to spark up a conversation. But ask them about what they like about that common ground too. So if you’re into the same sports, like biking, you can ask them what mountain bike grips they prefer.

Don’t make things about yourself, and don’t keep the conversation too neutral either. We know it’s hard, but you can feel your way around things by asking the other person things about themselves.

Develop New Interests

Even if you can’t find a visible common denominator to discuss, you can always learn new things. For instance, if you see someone sky diving, you can simply start by saying: “Hey, I always wanted to do that” or “How does it feel doing that?”.

After that, you might get invited to do sky diving with them. Which means you might even discover you like doing that, so it’s a win-win.

Learn New Things

One of the best things you could do is learn new skills and abilities at home. If you’re going to Italy, you can brush off some of that old history knowledge and give other tourists trivia tidbits. Or you can learn a few words in the local language in case you want to make friends with the locals.

But the key here is not to show-off, at least not too much. You want to seem interesting to other people, but you also want to seem approachable. Otherwise, they’ll just tell you to get off your high horse, and that will be the end of your history lesson.

Even if you like traveling alone, or you’re already with a group, that doesn’t exclude the possibility of meeting new people as you’re making your way around the globe.

Keep Your Promises

Say you’re hiking in a remote location and you see someone else there. Their phone battery just died, so they’re asking you to take a photo of them, and send it to them after.

If you do that, chances are you might meet again, maybe do a hike together or socialize around camp. But if you keep neglecting to do what you promised, you’ll certainly mess it up from the get-go.

Be Yourself

This sounds like a cliche, but it’s only been repeated so frequently because it’s true. You can focus on others, be witty, learn new things and follow all our advice so far, but still keeping true to yourself.

That said, what do you feel is more important about making new friends? What methods did you try so far? Were they useful? What backfired? Leave us a comment and tell us all about your experiences.

FOR FURTHER READING. CLICK TO VIEW ON AMAZON ↓

 

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How To Start A Conversation And Make Friends

 

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How to Win Friends & Influence People

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How to Make Friends as an Introvert

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Rebecca is a USA writer and hiker at hikingmastery.com. Her favorite hike to date is the Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal. While this hike usually takes 16 days, she likes to slow down, and enjoy the mountains and company of other adventurers, so it took her 28 days.

Photo credits: Group of travelers by Tourism PEI / Stephen Harris.

    22 Comments

  1. Great tips! Making new friends eases out the discomfort and unfamiliarity of a new place.

    • Absolutely, it’s nice to connect with people for shared experiences, even if you’re only friends for a day!

  2. Some of the closest friends I have are people that I have met throughout my travels and by living in different countries. Even when I traveled solo and wanted to be away, it was always a good thing to meet new people and share things 🙂

    • Fantastic to hear! I’m the same, I may not talk to every one of the friends I have met throughout travels all the time, or stay in touch constantly, but we can always reach out and it’s like no time has passed.

      It’s nice to mix up solo trips with company from time to time, and the friends you meet along the way are the most incredible people. It’s nice to have shared memories with people from all across the globe!

  3. Thanks for these nice and effective tips. There is nothing worst than being shut out of the universe. Irrespective of the quite time one intend to have, there is need to balance up by communicating with humans.

    • You’re welcome Lydia 🙂 I agree, I think that even for those of us who enjoy our own company, it’s nice to balance it out with human connection as well 🙂

  4. Some good tips. It is so easy to cut yourself off from the people around you when travelling, with headphones and sunglasses etc.

    • Thanks Marcus and Mel – absolutely, we’re living in an age where we’re so disconnected from people, that I feel we need to make an effort to bring that human connection back 🙂

  5. Its not difficult to make new friends, but you have to ‘want’ to do it. Then it just starts rolling on its own. Great tips here.

    • Absolutely, the first move is always the hardest when it comes to meeting new people, but it does then start rolling from there 🙂

  6. When you’re travelling with others it’s easy to shut the rest of the world out and stick to your own little group. That also makes it harder for others to approach you! But I’ve found that asking advice from other travellers and talking about places to go/avoid works well – and it helps break down the ‘force field’ around a group of people travelling together 😀

    • Absolutely – that force field among a group of travelers can often be quite intimidating and difficult to break if you’re traveling solo, but asking advice is a great ice breaker, you’re right 🙂

  7. Small talk always works! I love the tip about developing new interests as well. That can really help you grow as a person. I love meeting new people and connecting and learning more of their life stories. Awesome post!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Shruti! Absolutely, I’ve spent some really fun days overseas with the people I’ve met, doing activities I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise. It’s a great way to broaden your interests and try new things. Really can help you grow and step out of your comfort zone 🙂

  8. As I’m a pretty shy person it is uite difficult for me to make new friends while traveling. But I know how important is to have friends far away from home when you travel alone. All I use sometimes is a big smile which makes everything much easier 🙂
    It is also nice to speak some foreign languages to show people that you care about their cultures – sometimes just a “hello” in a tropical language just to make people happy 🙂

    Best,
    Kasia

    • It definitely helps to quell that homesickness when you’re able to connect with people you meet abroad. I agree with you that a big smile is always the key!

      Definitely on making an effort to speak the local language, always a great ice-breaker even if you get it very wrong (lol has happened to me many times). Always makes people smile!

      Happy travels Kasia, thanks for stopping by!

  9. Great tips Meg and I can subscribe to them all. Often one of the most underrated one is empathy and it’s not very to build this skill…but it’s so essential to building lasting relationships.

    • Thanks Siddhartha, glad you can relate to the post 🙂 Absolutely on empathy – it’s something which sadly seems to be lacking these days, but you’re right, it’s so vital to relationships, an ability to show interest in and relate to another person 🙂

  10. Making friends while traveling is so important. All the tips mentioned are so important.But I feel genuine friendship happens without friendship, there is a common spark which seems to bind strangers into a friendship.

    • I agree, which is why I love meeting people on the road – everyone traveling usually has similar interests which makes it really easy to make friends and connect with people who all have the same spark 🙂

  11. Meeting people while traveling is one of the things I enjoy the most, they can help you notice and understand things that may pass unnoticed when you are on your own. I find it difficult to meet people when staying in a hotel and not a hostel though, as you go from your room to your planned activities and back, any tips on how to meet people when doing short trips?

    • Hi Liza, glad to hear you enjoy meeting people traveling too! Yes, totally agree that it’s more difficult to meet people in a hotel – it has a much more “private” atmosphere than a hostel does.

      One thing you could do is consider booking private rooms at hostels – then you don’t have to share your accommodation with strangers, but you get the social atmosphere. I’ve found that to be a pretty great balance as I’ve grown older and starter to prefer private accommodation.

      Otherwise hanging out in the hotel’s public places when you have down time or work to do, ie if you take your laptop to their lobby instead of surfing the internet in your room, or head to their bar. It’s still more difficult than a hostel, but you’ve got more chance of striking up a conversation with other people in the public spaces too.

      Hope that helps!

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