How to make friends on the road
A lot of people ask me how I manage to travel alone.
Don’t you feel unsafe in a foreign land when there’s no one to watch your back? Don’t you get bored? These are two of the most common questions they tend to ask.
I’ve realised, most people just don’t get the fact that travelling alone doesn’t really mean being alone all through the trip. In fact, it increases the possibilities of your meeting new people and making friends. I have gone on many trips with groups of friends and not made a single friend on the road. On the other hand, I have made loads of friends while on solo trips. Go figure.
I am not the most extrovert of people and starting a conversation with a stranger doesn’t come naturally to me. I have to work on it. But once the conversation starts — whoever initiates it — I can take it from there.
So, in case you are worried you will not be able to make friends on your solo trip, rest assured that you will. The world has enough people and it can afford to spare plenty of friends for you! Here are a few pointers that could make things easier for you in case you’re, like me, not an extrovert. These are in no way genius ideas, but just some common sense which I very often seem to lack at the right moments!
Don’t be immersed in your phone
Pretty evident, right? This is a major turn off for people even if they want to approach you. Say, for example, you’re at a bar sitting alone with a drink but totally engrossed in your mobile phone. It is very unlikely that someone would want to approach you as compared to a someone who is, say, just sitting with a drink and occasionally, maybe, updating their journal. Pubs are great places to make friends. If you’re alone, prefer sitting at the counter over tables because that gives you a better chance of meeting people since everyone will be going up there to order drinks.
It takes two people to make friends and at least one of them has to take the first step. I’ve written about this in earlier posts, but a Dutch guy approached me when he thought I was too looking for the train station at the Bangkok airport. We found out the station together and remained in touch since. It especially helps if you are in the same situation because, in that case, there’s a better chance of you bonding. Also, I have noticed that people who are not extroverts, tend not to ask for help from the local people even if they are in trouble. If they are lost, they’d rather try to figure out the directions on their phones. Avoid using your gadget once in a while and make efforts to converse with actual people. You could end up making a friend on the way to your destination.
A smiles often works as the ice-breaker and leads to conversations. Smile when you meet the eyes of a stranger who you think you would want to strike up a conversation with. A smile on your face makes you come across as a friendly and warm person.
Talk to the waiter/bartender
Instead of just telling them what you’d like to have, ask questions. Ask them which other pubs/restaurants they recommend. It’s easy to talk to them because you don’t have to make an effort to start a conversation with a waiter or a bartender who will be the first to ask you what you wanted. Don’t let the conversation stop at that!
“Tinder is for hookups!” Yes, I hear you saying that. It’s more than just that really. I think it is a great app for meeting new and interesting people in a new place that you are visiting. Give it a try.