Many people think of travel as a private experience. Except for the necessary interactions with various service industry workers and other people in other front-facing positions, travelers often keep to themselves. Escaping the world and enjoying the comforts of privacy can be wonderful, however, meeting new people and forging new connections can be equally rewarding. In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that despite the common urge to ignore strangers, most people do tend to want to connect. Luckily, doing so is incredibly easy.
The first and hardest step is to simply move out of your comfort zone. Behavioral psychologists have found that people vastly overestimate the bad possibilities of reaching out. So, ignore that impulse to hide, and try to be polite and friendly. You will be surprised by the amount of politeness and friendliness you’ll receive in return. Asking directions on the street, offering a card game on the train, or even striking up a conversation by asking someone to take your picture can be a great way to break the ice. It can also be useful to crowdsource some new friends through social networks. While you may not know anyone at your destination, odds are that one of your Facebook friends or Instagram followers does.
Those who would prefer a more organized approach may want to explore the expanding world of meet-up apps and websites. Many online tourism communities offer novel ways to meet new people, in addition to more general websites like Meetup.com. Other apps are more specialized. TravBuddy features vacation reviews and encourages members to spend time together on vacation, while BeWelcome matches tourists with locals for activities and events. Badoo uses GPS to match potential new friends, while ePenpal provides instant translation services to make it easier to meet people all over the world.