Travelling alone? 4 easy ways to meet people abroad

Anna Brech

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Want to meet people? Travelling is rife with the potential for new friends, and you can bump into them anywhere – from bus stops to gigs, shared dorms and beyond.

“I’ve met SO many people while travelling whom I’ve learned so much from,” says American Teha Kennard (below), who quit her consulting job last year to go travelling.

“Just yesterday on a free walking tour of London, I met a 22-year-old student from Brazil when I started talking to her about how cold it was. She’s wonderful and we had dinner after the tour and are now connected on Facebook.”

“That same night I  managed to get a last minute 20 pound ticket to see the show Kinky Boots and struck up a conversation with a woman in my row who it turns out is in the band Girls Aloud,” adds Teha.

“You really never know how or where you’ll meet new people who you can connect with!”

Frankie Flower (above), who  recently left her corporate career to train as a ski instructor in British Colombia, feels the same way.

“Three weeks in and I’ve already met many new people, of all ages and from many walks of life, local and foreign,” she says. “I think I’ve made more connections this year than I have in the last ten.”

Read more: Solo travel fuels this major happiness habit

Meeting new people on the road is easy – but it takes a little getting used to your first time around.

So, in the spirit of adventure, here are a few tips from fellow travellers to help make you the leap:

Start small, and be funny

“Small comments can strike up conversations, which in turn could lead to lifelong friendships,” says Canadian Dennon Stein, who loves to travel alone.

“Case in point, I was sitting in my dorm room in Patong, Thailand, ready to check out because I was the only one in it. It was boring and I had no one to talk to for three days. I made the decision to leave, went and had a shower but when I came back, my dorm was packed and I had missed the initial meeting.

Read more: The life-changing magic of meeting new people

“I kinda came in under the radar, so no-one really noticed me. Two guys from Canada, three Brits, one German, one Belgian and a French guy. They were asking the Canadians about Moose Milk ice cream and the Canadians looked baffled. They had no idea. Why? Because I’m Canadian and Moose Milk ice cream does not exist, so I had to add my quick wit to the convo… I said, ‘Seriously guys’ as I raised an eyebrow, ‘And how in the hell can you milk a moose?!’

“It was a hilarious ice breaker and it helped start an epic night with a dozen people, 30 days of having a couple of travel buddies and a friendship that continues to this day. When you’re travelling, we all have that in common. That’s your common ground to strike up a conversation and it doesn’t matter where you’re from, what colour of skin, sexual orientation or creed. Get involved, be yourself, share your thoughts, and when in doubt, drink until you’re funny.”

Let travel be your opener

Like Dennon, traveller Robyn Hathaway thinks the common ground of travelling is a natural route in.

“I think talking to complete strangers while travelling is easy in the end, despite the nervousness, just because everyone is in the same boat,” she says.

Read more: One trick to overcome your fear of travelling alone

“Having the experience of travelling together means there’s the opportunity to skip the small talk and go straight to the one thing everyone has in common – travelling, even when it’s your first time.”

On a group trip with Flash Pack, Robyn says she and her fellow travellers broke the ice on an overnight train, by playing a game of ‘if you were on death row, what would your last meal be?’

“I think we all knew each other better after that!” she says.

Create the opportunities

“Instead of renting a car on your own, take public transport,” says London-based designer Arabel Lebrusan (above centre), who took a sabbatical  last year to travel the world.

“You will meet other travellers guessing if it’s the right bus… so, it’s the perfect set-up to start a conversation.

Read more: How to start conversations with strangers

“If you stay in Airbnb, it’s easier to make friends if you choose to share your house with others, as you will easily meet them in a ‘safe’ environment and the conversation will just happen naturally. The same goes for hostels, it’s usually easy to just crack a conversation at the breakfast table, or while people are having some beers at the end of the day.

“The typical, ‘How long are you staying here?’ Or ‘what’s your next destination?’ is the easiest place to start.”

Don’t doubt yourself

“Don’t be awkward about it,” says Dennon.

“If you’re standing in line in Hoi An, waiting for some Bánh Mì and someone else is standing in front of you or behind you, smile and say something. C’mon, you’re funny, intelligent and adventurous, you can do it, you’ve made it this far.  Even if it’s something like ‘too hot for pho’, ‘I’ve been living off of these since I’ve been here’ or ‘best one I’ve had yet.'”

Read more: 5 great reasons to travel with strangers

The same goes if you’re at a Dai Pai Dong in Hong Kong (above), or taking a mooch around Lima’s beloved Pisco bars.

So, what are you waiting for? Jump in and let the good times roll.

Photos: Shutterstock/Flash Pack/Instagram/travellers’ own


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