Traveling alone or in a group can start to get boring after awhile, especially if you’ve created your own North American microcosm in your hotel room. One way to shake things up is to reach out to new people. And while it may seem intimidating to meet people who may not speak your language it is excellent practice and extremely rewarding. If it seems scary, you’re right! But just remember you’ve made it this far on your journey, what’s one more risk? Go ahead and share your snack on the train, your cab, or your umbrella, you could be sharing with your new best travel buddy.
I’m not talking about a sweaty, grimy dance club where everyone just rubs up on each other. You can get that in America (see Jersey Shore). I’m talking about a classy joint. In places like Spain and Portugal there are dance clubs in which people, who actually know how to dance, get together. These are the places I’m talking about. What better way to meet people than going to a place that requires partnership. You may feel awkward and out of place but chances are the locals will respect you for trying. Just make sure to avoid any grandiose dance-offs.
Join a Pickup Game of Soccer
Or whatever sport is available. Asking to join in an impromptu game is a great, casual way to meet people from wherever you are traveling. Whether you just stop by for the afternoon or keep coming every week, the experience will help keep you in shape and will give you the confidence you need to operate in a new and seemingly foreign environment.
Stay at a Hostel
This one is a no brainer. And while I don’t condone just spending your time with other Americans, you will often find people from all over the world in the hostel in which you’re staying (including America). In fact, hostels are so conducive to meeting new people it’s almost a requirement. With pub crawls, belly dancers, board games, and soccer matches, hostels can be an almost annoyingly persistent environment in which to meet new people. So don’t be shy and enter with an open mind.
Share a Cab
Not with any creepers! However, if you’re getting a cab from the airport or to a train station, this is a great way to meet people. While traveling in Alaska I shared a cab with a woman who invited me on a weeklong backpacking trip. While I didn’t take her up on her offer, it was a tempting adventure. Just be open to sharing and who know what may come along.
Don’t Say “No” (Within Reason)
Much like the rules of improv, one of the best ways to open yourself up to opportunity is to respond to suggestions with, “yes and…”. Be sure that you feel safe and that you have a way out if things get hairy but saying yes can often open up the doors to great adventure. Whether you end up at a soccer game with a group from your hostel, or on a fishing trip with the couple you sat next to on the plane, accepting invitations from strangers may seems counterintuitive but it can often be very rewarding.
The El Camino de Santiago, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Appalachian Trail all have one thing in common. They are a great way to make new friends. If you are traveling alone or with a group taking it outside is a great way to make new travel buddies. Hiking those many miles would be awkward if you didn’t take the time to get to know your neighbor. Whether you hike with them for the day, or continue your travels together far and wide, you could end up with a new best friend.