How to Engage Strangers and Make friends while Traveling

27 Aug

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I have always had an easy time meeting locals and colorful individuals while on the road. Here are a few tips to meet more people and have more fun while traveling.

PAVE THE WAY FOR FRIENDS
Go solo or in small groups. Linger, make eye contact and laugh. Break out your video camera and start spontaneously vlogging. Have loose plans and keep room for the course of your day to veer into a new friendship or an encounter with a friendly stranger.

BE READY FOR “YES”
This is the word that will open doors. You don’t have to know what is going to happen, what they will feed you or how you will get back to your hostel, you just have to say “Yes”. Of course you should say “No” if you are talking to drug lords or pushy pimps, use your instincts.

The kids in the picture above are a part of a large family I met at the ruins of My Son, in central Vietnam. They were out on a day trip and notice me vlogging and strolling though the sun lit ruins. We took pictures and they invited me back to their house for lunch, a tour and a meet and greet with about 30 extended relatives.

They said it was not far, maybe 10km, but I wondered for a moment if it was a good idea to follow strangers down twisting roads and into an uncertain fate. Then I remembered that it was not a good idea, it was THE BEST idea, the ONLY IDEA!

These are the types of authentic experiences that arrive as rewards to stepping out of the comfort zone and surrendering to a joyous, mysterious “Yes!”

IF SOMEONE INVITES YOU FOR DINNER, OBLIGE THEM
Even if you are sickened my the Yak butter tea, even if you don’t speak the language.

IF SOMEONE OFFERS YOU A SHOT, OBLIGE THEM
Ladies, I don’t know if you want to follow this course necessarily, but this is my general rule of thumb. Drinking with locals, accepting an outstretched tumbler of moonshine is a ticket to quick friends if not a sour stomach.

SMILE & PRESENT YOURSELF
Put out a good vibe, smile. Don’t skulk or saunter, walk with a curiosity that compels companionship.

ASK ADVICE
Stop people to ask where they like to eat lunch or a good place to swim is. Ask where a good bar to watch the soccer match is and they just may walk you there.

Wandering into a village an asking where a good place to eat has gotten me invites to dine in peoples homes with their family on many occasions.

STAND OUT
In a sea of tourists, trite and predictable, what makes you stand out? What are you offering by way of conversation and cultural exchange? Realize the unique gifts you have to offer to passing potential pals and utilize them.

I know meeting people is usually a matter of circumstance, I also know the more willing you are to go out on a limb and say “Yes” to a new person the more likely that person is to appear.

HOW DO YOU MAKE FRIENDS WHILE TRAVELING?

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2 Responses to “How to Engage Strangers and Make friends while Traveling”

  1. Andi August 27, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    Great tips! Definitely traveling solo helps. And always smile!!!

  2. Moon August 30, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    I love this! I try to live the yes lifestyle as often as is possible and reasonable. As for the open and inviting posture, i have noticed that you move in that fashion and have been trying to emulate it ever since we met.

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