This post is part of the Ask Alex, Travel Question Wednesdays weekly series. To see previous questions click here. To submit your own; tweet it to @AlexBerger, ask it in a comment on this post or send it in by e-mail.
This week’s travel question is from Eldina J. she asks,
Q. “What’s the best way to meet people while travelling without being creepy?“
A. – I operate with a basic general assumption in place. If i’m sitting somewhere feeling lonely, by myself, or really wishing someone would start a conversation with me – then other people who look to be in a similar situation are probably having similar thoughts. This may not always hold true, but I find that in most situations it tends to be fairly spot on. It is amazing how often two people will sit near each other, both hoping the other person will strike up a conversation but feeling too concerned that they might impose to be the initiator. On the flip side…don’t be the Italian guy from the train in Eurotrip. We can usually tell when people are open to being approach/talked to, it’s just a matter of paying attention and overcoming our own personal and cultural inhibitions.
Remember – you’re a traveler! Travel is all about amazing stories and cool people. Travelers are usually social and always have a story to share!
But, that begs the question – how to do it? It is often as simple as saying hello. If you’re on your own it is typically easiest to approach other solo travelers or travelers relaxing by themselves. However, don’t let that stop you from reaching out to people, especially if you’re in a hostel! Hostels are built specifically to help solo and independent travelers meet and connect while on the road. But don’t stop there! Once you have made contact with another traveler (or if you’re traveling with a friend) be inclusive! When you see a lone traveler or small group say hello and invite them to join! Remember – people WANT to be included. They just may feel awkward or bad about imposing. When inviting people to join, I find it is usually best to make more concrete invitations. Instead of, “you’re welcome to come join us if you would like” shorten it up and get to the point, “come join us! Here, pull up a seat!” As subtle as the difference is I find it often makes a large difference in how people respond. In one they feel like they might be imposing or that the invitation has been offered out of politeness. In the second it is much more inclusive and feels more welcoming. Don’t worry they can still say no if they’re busy or have other plans.
If you’re not doing hostels, and don’t feel like striking up random conversations in parks, restaurants, museums and on public transport Couchsurfing.org is the next best option. To be clear, while billed as a free bed exchange, that’s not what Couchsurfing is really about. It is about community and connecting with other amazing, well traveled, wonderful people. When you are preparing to visit a town set up a profile, join groups connected to that town, and then search for people who are willing to meet up for a cup of coffee or beer. You’ll be able to do a bit of research and background on the person to make sure it will be a safe situation, and then you can dive in. Most major couchsurfing communities also have weekly gatherings which everyone is invited to.
Good luck and happy (social!) travels!
Would you like me to elaborate on an aspect of this response? Let me know!
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Bio: Arizona native Alex Berger is more than just a traveler. He’s a 20-something communication and cognition masters student at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, a business professional and graduate from Arizona State University with degrees from Barrett, the Honors College and the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. He wrote his undergraduate thesis on virtual worlds and their impact on society, and he’s fascinated by the synergy between education, technology, business and travel.
He’s visited 30-plus countries and is the founder of the Travel Resource Network, a series of travel websites dedicated to sharing travel adventures, knowledge, tips and tricks.