FIVE TIPS FOR MEETING LOCALS & MAKING NEW FRIENDS WHILE TRAVELING
Composed & contributed by Paul Garrett for The Street Edit
I grew up traveling with my parents from the moment that I was born. They took me to all 50 states in the USA, all across Canada and down to Guatemala before I graduated from high school. Some of the most memorable moments on these trips were with locals, such as the time an Eskimo family invited us into their home in Point Barrow, Alaska and treated us to pickled Muktuk (whale skin & blubber). I was only in the second grade, but I will never forget that moment. I can even picture the Muktuk in my mind and remember this man teaching us how they captured the whale that he shared with us. Since then I have traveled much of the world and broken bread with locals in many countries including; Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica, Germany, Switzerland, England, Greece, Kenya, Tanzania, Cambodia and India. Each and everyone of these experiences taught me new perspectives on life, food and friendship. So here are my 5 tips for meeting people and making new friends while you are traveling.
This one seems obvious, but it’s often overlooked by tourists. When a local makes eye contact with you, smile. This creates a receptive energy that can lead to a conversation.
2. Learn & Speak the basic words & phrases in the local language
I know that this can feel awkward at first. I used to be afraid that I would totally slaughter the pronunciation of words and possibly insult my hosts. In reality I learned that if I smiled and laughed at my awkwardness, my new friends were happy to teach me how to properly speak their language. Plus I earned extra respect for trying. So at the very least learn how to say “hello!” A simple “bonjour,” “guten Tag,” “hola,” “namaste” or “jambo” with a smile can go a long away toward making a real connection.
3. Leave your cultural bias at home
We travel to create new experiences and learn from other cultures. If we are judgmental and feel like our own country is superior to the place that we are visiting, we push locals away with our negative energy. Let go of where you are from and embrace learning about new cultures with an open heart and an open mind. Radiate friendliness, warmth and non-judgement. People will feel your positive vibe and be happy to teach you about their country and their customs.
4. If you are traveling on a tour, get to know your guides.
Invite them to have drinks and dinner with you. I have made so many friends this way. One of my favorite memories from India was the night that I drank rum with my guide and his colleague on top of the roof of a palace like hotel under a full moon. We became great friends on that trip and he taught me so much about India.
5. Make friends on Instagram with people who live where you are about to travel
I have made so many real life friends on Instagram and when we finally met in person, it was like we were already best friends. The other cool thing when I met them where they live, is that they were excited to show me around their part of the world. I love that! Getting an insider’s perspective and being taken to cool places that tourists usually don’t know about has been amazing!
So how do you do meet people on Instagram? Start by searching hashtags. If you are planing a trip to Rome for example, search #roma. You can often tell where a person is from by reading their bio and by going through their gallery. Compliment their photos and build a friendly rapport. You can eventually mention that you are planning a trip to Rome and would love their advice on what to see. Once you have created a friendly relationship online, they will be more than happy give you advice, and they may even invite you to visit them.
Master these five techniques for making friends while traveling and you will take your adventures to a whole new level of enjoyment and possibly gain new friends for life!
- Paul Garrett is a writer, a video producer, an award winning documentary director, a photographer and an entrepreneur. He currently lives in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. You can see more of his adventures on Instagram here.