Other versions of this title also could be ‘How I’ve maintained friendships when travelling’. It goes without saying that everyone is different in how they approach something, however I do want to give my own insight into the topic of forming friendships when travelling. I mean, you know I love communication and that is something which has been very beneficial to my travels. When I really think about it, I’ve kept in touch with so many people I’ve met whilst abroad, whether that be the Air BnB host or a stranger on a plane who turned out to become a good friend. The concept of meeting people when travelling can be daunting, although these tips might hep as I’ve included various ways to go about forming friendships.
One of my favourite ways to form connections with people is to get chatting on the plane. Now, I know this might not appeal to everyone but hear me out! Not only is it one way to pass the time, but it gives you a chance to find out so much regarding all aspects of life. Obviously, you’ll be able to gage pretty quickly whether someone wants to talk back or not but if they do, ask questions about where you’re headed. If that person is local, you’ve pretty much hit the jackpot. One time I even met up with the person sat next to me and we explored a tourist landmark together. This might be something to consider for solo-travellers who feel anxious about adventuring alone (although always trust your gut instincts). Of course, if you don’t want to meet up with the person after the flight then that’s okay! You could always exchange social media handles instead.
Without a doubt, one of the easiest ways to form friendships abroad is to book yourself into shared accommodation, such as a hostel or a shared apartment block. You’ll find communication daily as you’ll gain a buddy, or 5, to roam with. In fact, shared accommodation is usually my preferred way to travel. Although, it’s important to point out here that shared accommodation doesn’t necessarily mean a shared room. When I use Air BnB, I quite like to rent out a room, rather than an apartment, as just the kitchen/living room amenities are shared. This is where the best conversations seem to happen from my experiences!
Now, engaging in tourist activities may lead to friendships formed with other tourists, but what about the locals? Well, I do have a few suggestions for this one. You could try travelling to the outskirts of tourist hotspots and ask locals about their recommendations on what to do/where to go. You could also stop by events outside popular tourist areas, for example, local village fairs or markets. Attending a street food market away from the tourist hub in Barcelona was one of the most memorable ways I connected with local residents.
Speaking of tourist activities though, don’t underestimate the power of ‘Eventbrite’ for finding classes and events. If you are travelling for a longer period of time, I can personally vouch for attending language classes. Seeing the same people every week for a certain period of time will give you an opportunity to form friendships! I attended a linguistic school in Barcelona to learn Catalan and it was fundamental for erasing loneliness during that trip.
Reach out on socials! These days, a quick search of a keyword can bring up thousands of results on social media. If you see a post on a cool location, why not pop a little message asking any questions you might have about said location? There is no harm in asking. I did this for a trip to New York, after I saw a restaurant someone posted about but was genuinely unsure how to get there. I also wanted to know whether there were any allergen-friendly options. After a few back and forth question-and-answer messages, the individual and I followed each other on WordPress.
For the adventurous, when you next find yourself asking for directions from a group of tourists heading the same way, ask if you can tag along! I mean, if you’re walking the same way anyway and want some communication then what’s the harm? I can’t speak on behalf of everyone but if someone were to ask me if they can walk with me to the direction I was heading to, I wouldn’t say no! *As mentioned above however, it’s important to follow your gut, stay street-savvy and stick to zones with plenty of people around.
So, what about maintaining friendships made abroad?
It may seem tricky to keep in touch with someone you might not see again, however that doesn’t mean the person who you met MUST turn into a memory. I’m sure most of us will agree small things make such a big difference when keeping in contact. Whether that’s sending an annual birthday message or congratulating the individual on a new job, communication doesn’t have to be lost. So, reach out occasionally. It really is that simple. You’ll also maintain the benefit of knowing someone in a city/country which isn’t your own, a valuable resource for travelling.
This post was inspired by my story of travelling to the US to meet my online best friend after 6 years of friendship. Whenever I am in the US, I let her know. When she came to Europe, she let me know. We probably speak once every few months and have only seen each other twice in person but that doesn’t stop me from calling her one of my closest friends. The joys of social media, right?
See you in the next post!