The desire to meet new people when traveling stems from one of the major drawbacks of the nomadic lifestyle – loneliness.
While some personalities can survive days, weeks or months without talking to another human being, there are others who crumble after 48 hours without social contact. There’s nothing wrong with either. Whichever you are, you can rest assured there are plenty of others out there just like you.
Yet for those who do require regular social contact, loneliness can ruin traveling. I’ve personally gone a few days max without talking to anyone about anything more than the basics of survival such as ordering food, train tickets and booking hotels, but I know other nomads who regularly go a month or more between any substantive conversation.
I can safely say this would drive me bonkers! I like my alone time, but I count myself among those who regularly like to check in with other human beings and would even go as far as to say I require this for my well-being.
So what’s a nomad to do when on the road, amid the endless coming and going of people, with nobody to really talk to and get to know?
Here are some great ways to meet new people when traveling.
Let’s say you arrive in southern Thailand after an epic solo trip around India and you fancy relaxing for a few days and re-centering yourself and reconnecting with people. The full moon party scene of the islands just doesn’t appeal to you, and 90% of the people seem like those you left home to get away from.
What are you to do in order to meet like-minded people? Take a class, that’s what!
Thai cooking classes, yoga retreats, detoxes, language courses, Thai boxing retreats and all manner of other classes are available. That’s just covering the example of southern Thailand. The truth is, these types of classes are available all over the world and not only will they help you meet new people when traveling, but they’ll likely teach you something about the country you’re traveling in as well.
Finding classes you might like to attend is easy in this internet age. Just hop on Google and type class type + location and you’ll find them. Alternatively, if you’re trying to switch off and unplug while you travel, check out hostel and guesthouse billboards.
If you’re signing up, you can bet other people are as well. This is one of my favourite ways to meet new people when I am backpacking.
Use Social Apps
This may seem lame to Gen-X and older, but those in the millennial generation will be much more at home with meeting people online.
There are many excellent apps now available for meeting like minded people. Even Tinder, which has a reputation for being a meet-for-sex app, has plenty of people on it who are just looking to make friends.
If you have a smart phone, which you should to make your life as a nomad easier and to reap the benefits of being a digital nomad, using apps can be a great way to meet people based on common interests, or just because you like the look of them. Hey, nobody said ‘meeting people’ had to be strictly platonic, did they!?
Stay Over with Them
I remember when I visited Cambodia back in 2011. I was ‘sort of’ seeing a girl in Indonesia and so wasn’t really fully open to embracing the people I met on the trip, and I went into a weird self-contained bubble where I felt my connections with others were not as great as they usually are.
So, I decided to try staying with some people through Couchsurfing. Rather than being cooped up in a 12 man dorm or cockroach infested guesthouse, I decided to accept the offer of a Scotsman and his American girlfriend, both longtime nomads, to stay with them at their apartment in Phnom Penh.
It was a fantastic experience. After a little joke or three to break the ice and a cold beer, we were automatically buddies. Staying together broke walls down faster than they’d usually come down, and before long we were sharing life stories and felt we knew each other very well, all without having left the sofa yet.
This turned into a few trips out to the pub and a tour of the city for me from two people who knew it, loved it, and didn’t want to charge me to show me around. I felt instantly better and more connected when I left them, and while I didn’t stay long in Cambodia, I did feel more ‘socially inclined’ for the rest of the trip.
Couchsurfing is a fantastic way to meet new people when traveling, and it saves money into the bargain!
Hit the Pub
One thing you will find in virtually every pub in every major city in the world is a forlorn and lonesome traveler.
This may seem sad, but it’s actually great for fellow travelers, because most people in a pub on their own are out with the intention to socialize and are probably feeling as lonely and lost as you, making it much easier to interact with them without risking social rejection.
Just head to a local pub, probably one recommended in a major travel guide like Rough Guides if you want to meet fellow travelers, order a drink, and hit the pool tables if they are available. Pool is a great way to break the ice as it allows for something else to focus on other than the conversation, meaning quiet periods aren’t quite so awkward.
A few beers and a couple of games of pool can turn people who barely know each other into the best of friends. Give it a go if you want to meet new people when traveling!
Meeting New People when Traveling is Easy!
There are lots of ways to meet new people, but being on the road makes it difficult precisely because being on the road is transient. Saying hello and goodbye constantly can be utterly exhausting and can take a toll on people not used to it. Long periods of travel can make one feel isolated, alone and even sad. In these situations, settling in for a few days or weeks and reconnecting with people is essential to restore some balance and order to life.
Whatever your personality type, there should be something on this list that appeals to you. Don’t be afraid to try them all to see which works best!