As a solo traveller, one of my priorities when I land in a new destination is to get out and make some friends. The thing about making friends in new places though is that we’re the newbie trying to get into an already established group of friends – and that isn’t always easy, though not impossible. As a slow traveller I spend at the very least one month in each location, so it’s important for me to blend in with the local culture and make friends so I don’t get lonely. Throughout the years I’ve developed a few ways to make friends that have worked for me. The thing to keep in mind though is that, while it is easy to meet people, making friends might take a little more effort and require an open mind to local cultures.
Not everyone is open to making a friend whom you invite into your life, who then leaves in a few weeks or even days. A lot of times, the onus is on you to keep the lines of communication open. So if you want to meet up with new friends, it might be up to you to get in touch. Each city/place will have at least one person I like to call Patient Zero – that person who is outgoing, seems to know everyone, where all the good food and parties are, that is open to meeting new people and is always organising or hosting or invited to things. You know that person. I’m sure you’ve met at least one. If you’re lucky enough to make friends with this person, then buckle up, as your social problems will soon be over. However not everyone is lucky enough to bump into Patient Zero – at least not every time one is in a new location. For those times, try these little tips and techniques I use when I land. Some are cool, and some are distinctly not sexy. But hey, you do what you gotta do!
I put this in because I’ve heard from some friends that hostels are easy ways to meet other travellers and socialise. I don’t stay in hostels (Airbnb girl all the way!), so I can’t personally testify, so you let me know in the comments if this is true for you. The problem with meeting people in hostels is that you’ll only ever meet other travellers and kinda remain out of touch with the local culture. If that is the experience you’re going for then go right ahead, but if not there are other ways to meet people.
2. Social Media
I use social media the most when trying to meet people. Which social media? I use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It requires a little bit of effort and a little bit of social stalking (!!) but I promise it’s worth it.
On Facebook I’m a member of a few travel groups like, Global Nomads, Nomads, Digital Nomads around the World, and Location Independent Global Entrepreneurs who have members who are all over the world. Every time I land in a new location I post a message in each of these groups asking if anyone else is around and I almost always get a reply. It also feels relatively safer because you get to check out their Facebook beforehand. Though never let Facebook overcome your better judgement. So far I’ve met some really cool friends whom I am still in touch with through these groups. Many are expats living locally and have integrated into the local lifestyle. I met the wonderful Amy from Nomadtopia and firecracker Claire Pelletreau through this method.
Twitter and Instagram
Hashtags are an awesome search tool. Both on Instagram and Twitter I search for the hashtag of a local city. For instance if I am in Barcelona, I look through #Barcelona and also #travel. It might sound a tad bit stalker-ish, but trust, it works. If I see they look interesting, then I leave a comment on their Instagram photo, “Hey I just landed here, would love to make some new friends. Wanna grab a coffee?” Not everyone replies, because yeah it’s a little weird but some people will. I met the wonderful duo from Jetsliketaxi through Instagram.
On Twitter, your hashtag search might take you to a Twitter account – this is how I met Earl from The Wandering Earl in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. It’s definitely not something you’ll do back home, but you ain’t home anymore more are you, Dorothy? And a quick note to some won’t hurt anybody. Just don’t turn into a weird stalker leaving messages demanding a reply.
Local bloggers are great to get in touch with. Get on Google and search for “[enter location] blogger” or “[location] food bloggers” or whatever else you fancy and you’re bound to find something. Local travel bloggers are usually more open to meeting other travellers rather than say, fashion bloggers. Again, a quick note to them that is casual and non-threatening will be enough. They’ll either meet up with you or not.
4. Couchsurfing and Internations
There are websites specifically for meeting people. If you’ve not heard of Couchsurfing, now is a good time as any. Aside from hosting travellers, a lot of cities hold Couchsurfing meetups where locals and travellers get together to meet each other and generally have a good time. There are numerous language groups too if you’d like to practice your language. Internations has the same concept of getting people together but is catered more to the expat community and you’ll find a slightly more professional crowd gathered at their events. Just a quick note, I’ve been to a few of these events and while I have met some interesting people, I found them to be more of a big pickup party and for the most part found it hard to really get to know people and make friends. However, every person’s experience is different, so don’t let mine stop you. Sign up on any of these websites to get started!
5. Meetup and classes
Meetup is a little different in concept – it is a place to meet up over something you’re passionate about. So if you want to meetup with others who like to knit, code, hike, run, learn a language, read books – anything really, Meetup is a great place to check out. What better way to unite people than a common interest right?
Another good way to meet people who have the same interests is by taking some local classes. When I joined a local wine tasting class in Aranda de Duero, Spain, I met some really wonderful friends who helped make my stay there a whole lot more colorful! I’ve joined yoga classes, knitting classes, entrepreneurship courses, beer and gin tasting etc. and met many interesting people.
6. Coworking Spaces
If you’re someone who is working and travelling like myself, then it is always a good idea to join a local coworking space. You don’t have to be there everyday – that can get expensive – but even once a week will give you access to the people and activities happening there. It really is not only a great way to meet people and make friends but also to get tips about where to go, and what to do from people who really know. Plus most coworking spaces hold different weekly events, who knows you might be interested in a few!
A few things to remember
At the risk of sounding like your mother, always remember to meet new people you’ve met off the internet in an open, bright space with other people about. I cannot stress this enough. All the same rules of meeting strangers apply here – even if you’ve checked out their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Be open to being the one reaching out to people. There’s no shame in that – well, maybe you might feel some initial embarrassment, but honestly, no one cares. At all. I’m not even kidding about this.
Don’t force yourself to go to events or things that you really don’t want to go to – more often than not you’ll meet people at these events that won’t be of the same wavelength as you. Once I forced myself to get on a Erasmus Boat Cruise, full of young 19 – 25 year olds. Which sounds great in theory, but we had nothing in common and I woke up with a hangover I couldn’t even brush off with a shrug and a “Worth it!” That said, don’t sit at home all the time either.