We often find it harder to make friends as we age. Many of the friends we still have are those we made as children, or teenagers, or as young adults with small children. Our friends start to disappear for a variety of reasons and we don’t feel the drive to make new friends. We don’t socialise as much, we may no longer have a partner and we don’t want to go out alone. We most definitely do not want to travel alone, because we know we won’t make friends!
In my experience of travelling alone and living in different places where I don’t know a soul, it’s easier to make friends; when you meet other travellers, everybody is in the same boat and you have something in common with them; no shortage of conversation. Just as, when you’re new to an area, people love to befriend you and give you a hand.
As you journey through life and meet local people, or ex-pats, or fellow travellers, it’s fascinating to hear about their experiences; you can use some of their knowledge to help create your own experiences. It’s a delight to meet someone in Cairo (for example), and 30 years later meet up with them in Bali!
When you have spent some time in a country and you return, it’s lovely to be able to send an email and say “I’m on my way!” and be received with open arms.
Of course, you meet many more people who are transient acquaintances. Sometimes only for 5 minutes at a bus stop, or for an hour in an airport! Strangely, I find some of those people stay the longest in my memory. How many people do you remember who were in your life for an hour or so; think about it and you’ll be surprised.
Holiday friends and Real-life friends
Yes, they are very different. Holiday friends know very little about you. If you choose to share your history with them, it will be long after the holiday has ended. In which case, they have become real friends.
Real-life friends, as I like to call them, are usually those people you may meet on holiday, or at a lunch, or at a party and who you come to know longer than a week or a month, and who become part of your every day life; on some level. If you haven’t known them forever, you have at least known them long enough to have shared your history with them and vice versa.
So how do you make friends when you’re travelling? The same way you make friends when you’re not travelling!
These are four simple suggestions that, if nothing else, will start a conversation …
Talk to people
If you’re standing in a queue in the supermarket, waiting for a bus or sitting in a boarding area, start a conversation with somebody next to you. It will alleviate your boredom and theirs and who knows, this could be a lifelong friend in the making. They may have been feeling lonely and nervous and there you are … saving them. When you are interested in listening to them they really open up and you can have a great conversation. One where you swap names and contact details before you part!
People will always smile back! It makes it so much easier to chat. If they don’t smile back, they’re having a bay day or perhaps they’ve lost their sense of humour. But never let them turn your smile upside down. A smile, as you know, is one of the most infectious expressions there is and it is universal. Everyone understands a smile. Only a yawn, which isn’t an espression, is as catching …
Ask questions … but don’t appear to be nosy.
Everybody loves to talk about themselves; give them the opportunity. But please show interest. It’s surprising how different we all are and what amazing stories some people have … mind-blowing!
On their book, their carry-on bag, their hair, their you-get-the-picture … as with the smile and the questions, you’re opening the door. It takes one to start a conversation and you will never be disappointed because you will have some wonderful chats and make some immediate and possibly lasting friends …
You can probably think of more ways yourself to start a possible friendship, but if someone doesn’t talk back, don’t take it personally. They may not be the talkative type.
It isn’t compulsory to make friends when you travel solo, but if you’re open to every possibility, you may be surprised at what can happen.
Some great reading for you …
How to Win Friends & Influence People … you can’t go past it …
14,000 Things to Be Happy About … yes, 14,000 … I could not have written this book. You?!
Do you find it easy to make friends? Do you travel often? How many people do you remember?!