We met Jasmine at a hostel in Oaxaca. We found Ben in Baja, Mexico, during a whale-watching trip. We volunteered with Todd and Benita at a biodynamic winery in Tuscany. And most recently, we shared cocktails with Kacie and Cole on our Carnival cruise through the western Caribbean. What do all of these people have in common? They’re our friends, and we met each of them while traveling.
I love meeting new people when we are traveling. It’s fun to hear another person’s perspective on a locale, hear about their experiences and why they’re traveling, and gleam insights into places they’ve been and you may be going. Often they will have their own tips, advice, and stories to share. Plus, for us anyway, it’s great to have another person to pal around with.
Beth and I often think we don’t meet as many people as solo travelers, mainly because we’re always traveling together, which gives us a built-in BFF wherever we go. But looking back over the friends we’ve made during the last decade of travel, I have realized that when it comes to connecting with others out in the world, we do pretty well for ourselves. What’s our secret? Honestly, we don’t have one. We’re not super outgoing or even extroverts, but we are nice and approachable and we’re easy to talk to. With that said, I do believe there are a few ways of increasing your chances of making friends while traveling. Here are four great places to meet people out in the world.
It was dark when we arrived at our hostel in Oaxaca, Mexico. We had gotten a cheap flight out of Tijuana. We were going to Oaxaca for Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) but were on a tight budget. Now I don’t know about you, but after traveling all day the last thing I really want to do is settle into a hostel dorm room. I remember really wanting to splurge for a private room, but Beth was adamant about sticking to the budget, so we found our bunks in the six-bedroom dorm and got comfortable. Enter Jasmine. We were in the room about 30 minutes, when she showed up and introduced herself. We talked for a while that night, and then hung out the next few days, visiting cemeteries and museums. She’s a sweetheart and wonderful artist. And while our paths haven’t crossed again, Beth and Jasmine still keep in touch over Facebook.
Look I know that hostels aren’t everybody’s thing, but if it’s been a while since you last checked into one, then I think it’s time to give them another look. Boutique hostels appeared on the scene a few years ago and have brought a whole new experience to the hostel stay. We rarely stay in dorm rooms anymore, opting instead for private rooms where we can work and store our valuables. But because hostels are more communal by nature than hotels and apartments, we still have a lot of opportunities to meet other travelers even when staying in a private room.
I remember the morning clearly. I had stayed behind to work on a story, while Beth and a few of our friends went out for a whale-watching session. We were in an eco-camp on the Pacific Coast, about 14 hours south of San Diego. Our group came to San Ignacio Bay to get up close and personal with the gray whales that migrate to the bay each spring to have their offspring. As the group arrived back from the tour, I was introduced to Ben, and told that he’d be riding back to the border with us the next day. As we talked over beers, I found out Ben was a music journalist who took some time off to travel through Mexico. We found him on his final leg before heading up to San Diego. The rest is history. We’ve since hung out in San Diego, Paris, and London and collaborated on an album cover for his record label, Tip Top. I know that we will meet again somewhere down the line. If you think about it, tours are kind of cool in that way. Sure, most of the time everyone will go their own way at the end of it. But you never know who you might meet. Tours bring people together who share the same interest, so there’s always a chance you may kindle a new friendship.
I mentioned Todd and Benita earlier, but really I could call any of the people we met at our first WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) friend. We may have lost contact with some, but we have a bond with every one of them that’ll last a lifetime. It’s hard for me to believe, but this September marks the fifth anniversary of that first WWOOF at Fattoria Cerreto Libri in Pontassieve, Italy. We went for a week and stayed two. We were hooked. After the vineyard we WWOOFed again and again and again. Along the way we met more good people, be it the hosts or other volunteers. Therefore our experiences WWOOFing have led me to this simple conclusion: volunteering IS the best way to meet people on the road. Working abroad brings people together and hilarious foreign working situations only help to strengthen those bonds.
Cruise ships are like floating towns of fun; around every corner there is something exciting to do and someone new to meet. My mom met the love of her life on a cruise. And on our last cruise, we met a few people who connected over ship drinks and their love of Alabama football. From Scotch tastings to black jack tables, and waterslides to yoga classes, there are a lot of opportunities to meet people while cruising. Personally though, my favorite meeting spot is one of the many bars on the ship.
We met Kacie and Cole at the Lobby Bar on the Carnival Dream. Beth and I were working on an assignment: An A to Z Guide to Cruise Cocktails, and Kacie and Cole filled in letters: G and M. We hit it off immediately over gin and whiskey, like so many other strangers before us throughout history. It turns out that they’re big craft beer fans too. So we traded stories about our respective beer scenes; they’re from south Louisiana. It was a blast. We didn’t have a chance to meet up again on the ship, but we caught up afterward via email. Really, the great thing about cruise ships is that they’re full of potential friendships, even if they only last a week.
This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind.