Until recently, traveling didn’t contribute to my zest for friendships. I’ve always been very social, but our trips were filled with non-stop activities – meeting new people and making friends wasn’t something I considered.
That doesn’t mean I was unfriendly. It’s just that my interactions tended to be short and sweet with no further communication.
Thanks to Facebook, WhatsApp, the sharing economy and the internet, that’s all changed.
A change Of Pace With More Time To Connect
Almost two years ago, Tim and I visited two cities in Mexico and discovered a new dynamic. While we continued to tour the sights, we had more free time and filled it with social activities.
These experiences were among our favorites on the trip. Even better, we could keep in touch with our new-found travel friends once back home with plans to meet again in the future.
Here are some of the ways that have worked for us leading to (what we hope will become) lasting friendships around the world:
Get Neighborly With Your Host
Airbnb has been a game-changer. We select homes that are terrific value and usually get to live like locals. We’ve also had opportunities to share a meal, a bottle of wine or a conversation with our host many times.
It’s easy to meet up in a shared space after a long day of touring. We get quality social time with our host and have created friendships that last well beyond our stay.
Other hosted options include hostels, Couchsurfing and Workaway. We have not tried any of these yet, but they are on our radar
Visit Websites To Find Local Social Events
There are many websites that help to find in-person activities around the world.
One of our favorite tools to locate gatherings is the event section of Couchsurfing. We haven’t yet stayed with a host, but we have participated in lots of events, which tend to attract people who also love travel. Some of the attendees are locals, some are just passing through.
Several cities boast thriving groups that offer many activities each day. If you don’t see an event that’s a good fit, you can post one to the site yourself.
Who knew we’d appreciate the weekly event of LuchaLibre in Mexico City as much as we did!
In Porto, we joined a last-minute event to watch Portugal play in the European Cup at a local restaurant. We figured the locals would be immersed in the game and were surprised that they were more interested in socializing with us.
Two days later, our host took the two of us under his wing and we walked around his magnificent city for 12 hours. To say it was extraordinary would be an understatement.
At this same Porto event, a Couchsurfer was visiting from Madrid. Since Madrid was our next stop, we exchanged information and made plans to meet. He showed us a local neighborhood we would have not discovered on our own.
Also take a look at events on:
- Mapahub.com (a new online resource for house sitters to meetup around the world)
Reach Out To Friends Of Friends
When a neighbor learned we were heading to Madrid, he connected us to a buddy he thought would like to show us around. We wondered if the friend would have even the slightest interest in meeting us.
It turns out he was thrilled to meet new friends from the US. We spent an incredible day with him. He introduced us to the best “churros and chocolate” we’ve ever had. We sampled sherry and Manchego cheese at Ernest Hemingway’s favorite haunt, and had a hilarious adventure buying cookies from cloistered nuns.
We hope we’ll meet up with him in Munich for Oktoberfest in a few years.
Talk To Strangers
This sounds sketchy but it has worked out so well as a way of making friends, we had to include it.
At a train station on the outskirts of Mexico City, Tim approached a man to ask for help with a ticketing machine. The man and his wife were from Mexico, vacationing in the city for the weekend.
We were going to the same destination (Xochimilco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and ended up spending the day together. After the tour ended we went to a trendy food market and had the best tacos of our trip. We had such a wonderful time with them and know we will see them again.no
The following week, we took a four-hour bus ride from San Miguel de Allende to Mexico City, struck up a conversation with a fellow traveler and hit it off instantly. Our new acquaintance had plans to visit Frida Kahlo’s museum when the bus arrived in Mexico City, as did we. We made a plan to go together and shared many meals before our flight home the following day.
During the bus ride, we learned that he lives in Miami. What luck! We already had a Miami flight booked a few months out. He insisted that we stay with him for a few nights. We took him up on his offer and shared more good meals and lots of laughs in Miami.
Making Friends Online Before Starting Your Trip
Search Facebook for expat groups in the cities you’ll be visiting. If you’re in the House Sitting community, reach out to sitters who may be in an area when you are.
From our experience, house sitters LOVE meeting new people. One of our favorite cities comes up occasionally on the house sitting platform we use frequently. As the platform only allows us to reach out to a home owner when they have an active sit posted, we connect to suggest a meeting when we’re next in town.
One of these examples ended up hosting us for nine days while he was home. We now consider each other family and will certainly be seeing him soon.
If none of the above suggestions appeal to you, consider taking a cruise! You can’t help but make friends.
Facebook has allowed us to maintain contact with a fun Australian couple we met on a cruise in 2013. We will spend time with them when we finally get to their corner of the world in a few years.
Remember To Swap Details
Make sure to exchange contact information so you can maintain your new relationship.
Try to send a friend request on Facebook while you’re together, especially if you won’t have another chance to meet. Grab their Twitter, Instagram or WhatsApp details too.
Hopefully, we’ll meet you somewhere in the world soon!
Tim and Amy Rutherford live outside of beautiful Denver, Colorado. In 2015, they left their corporate careers for a path that includes more travel and embracing a healthy lifestyle. These days, they are active volunteers, house sitters and travelers.
They blog about their lives at GoWithLess.com