November 8, 2007

10 Tricks to Meeting People While Traveling

morocco, market
Photo by Koffiemetkoek on Flickr

In my article about The Best Travel Experiences, I encouraged you to go out of your way to meet other people during your travels. Sometimes, though, it isn't easy to approach other people and make that connection.

Traveling in a group or even as a pair can make it easy to insulate yourself and avoid interacting with others. As Nath at Ubertramp wrote in his article about the pros and cons of traveling alone, "those on their own will be much more likely to spark up a conversation with others than if they were already engaged within their own immediate sphere".

Sometimes, people are just hesitant to make the first move and engage other people in conversations. They might not have the self-confidence to approach someone or they might not want to bother the other person.

If you are having a hard time making those connections, here are some ideas on how to meet people while traveling:

1. One of the easiest ways to strike up a conversation is to ask someone to take your picture in front of something. If they seem friendly, ask them if they are from the area and go from there.

2. The reverse camera trick is great for meeting other travelers. If you see a couple taking pictures of each other, offer to take a picture of the two of them together. Ask them how they like their camera, and then ask about their travels, where they are from and where they have been. They might even be able to recommend a good restaurant or place to stay.

3. Ask a local for directions, even if you know where you are going.

4. Another reverse trick is to offer help to a fellow traveler who looks lost.

5. If you see a coat, sweater, bag or tech gadget that you admire, let the owner know and ask them about it.

6. At restaurants, ask your server questions about the area.

7. Eat dinner at the bar in a restaurant. The bartender is right there to talk to, and you will likely meet other people sitting next to you. This works anywhere, but I've enjoyed it the most in non-touristy locations where you meet the locals.

8. Sometimes just a smile or an expressive look will encourage someone else to strike up a conversation.

9. Join a local tour to meet other travelers.

10. Go shopping where you can talk to the store owner and other customers. Ask questions about the merchandise, or ask for opinions about purchases. You might learn something new, and it can also lead to conversations about other topics.

If you don't speak the language, you can still learn enough words and phrases to get your point across and understand their response. The connection doesn't have to be lengthy or super involved. It can be a shared laugh or a few phrases. On World Hum, Rolf Potts explains how to have a meaningful experience abroad even if you don't speak the language.

If you have another trick that works well, please share it with us in the comments.