Travelling is an adventure. But it can get quite lonely, especially if you’re volunteering in a rural area with limited internet connection and lack of running water. If you’re travelling alone, staying in your location for a prolonged time, or just keen on making new friends, there are always ways to connect with locals and fellow travelers alike. So, whether you’re looking for new friends or trying to meet someone a little more special, we know of a couple of ways to find people to share your time abroad with.
The Dreaded App: Tinder
Ahhh Tinder…we’ve all had some odd experience with it, whether it be downloading the app for fun during your first year of university or taking the backseat and letting your friends explore the harried world of online dating while you wait to hear their horror stories (my chosen route), we all know that tinder doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for success. When you go abroad, however, it becomes a different story. Plenty of travelers, either solo or in groups, use the app simply to meet up with people and explore the area they’re in. So bite the bullet, download it, and meet up with new friends during your travels. The app loses a bit of its inherent seediness when traveling, but of course be smart, don’t meet up with people in isolated places, and stay in groups if possible. Other than that, happy swiping!
The Social Network
The same theory applies to Facebook. Even though we’ve all heard the classic “no one uses Facebook anymore except my mom”, we all still have one and we all still use it. And more importantly, travelers us it! Use Facebook to find events in your area that you’d be interested in going to or even find a Facebook page specifically for travelers in your area. It will likely be full of people who are looking to meet up and try new things.
Ask Where the Locals Go
This is a good tip for the bigger cities you may visit during your time abroad. If you’re staying in Jaipur, or working with Bobbi Bear in South Africa and are taking a quick trip to Cape Town or Johannesburg, finding where the locals go will likely lead you to places that will be cheaper and less crowded than the touristy areas. More than that, the lack of tourists will make you seem more interesting right away. I can personally attest to this tip, using it often when I first arrived in London and whenever I travel to a new city. I’ve found servers are a great source for this information; since they’re generally a younger, friendly type, they’ll know all the best places to go, whether you’re looking for a coffee shop, bar, or park to hang out at. So, go where the locals go and let your fascinating foreign accent lead the way.
Stay in Hostels
Another tip for your weekends away. When travelling to a new city, hostels are a great way to meet new people and make new friends. The typical “dorm” style of hostels is perfect for forcing friendships out of close quarters and lack of personal space, making these places notorious for young, adventurous people to meet likeminded friends. Hostels know their customers and will cater to the young, outgoing people staying there, often putting on events for you to meet new people. Another advantage is that they tend to be quite cheap, helping you save money along the way. There are a ton of great websites, like hostelworld.com, that show ratings and reviews of different hostels, covering everything from cleanliness to location to friendliness of staff. This will help you pick a safe, engaging hostel where you’re sure to make new friends.
Do What you Love
Like making friends in any other place, you’re likely to meet people you connect with when you’re doing things you enjoy. Hey, you’re volunteering abroad, so there’s something you already have in common! Having something in common gives you something to get the conversation flowing when you’re first meeting people, making it easier to strike up a friendship.
If you’re looking to get out and explore a little, a quick internet search will likely point you in the right direction. There are a number of websites, such as meetup.com, that plan events for you. You can find anything from visiting art museums, to sports matches, to knitting clubs, so just toss in your ideal plan and your location and get going.
Put Yourself Out There
Truly the most simple advice of all. I have found that there are very few people out there who aren’t trying to make new friends, so it generally pays off to just take a chance and introduce yourself to someone! Especially in a volunteer setting where people are from all over the world and are spending time in a completely new environment, people are likely looking for a friendly face! If you feel as though you’re someone that can’t just strike up a conversation with strangers, volunteering is the perfect opportunity to give it a try. The group you’re with is already limited, so you’re going to be interacting with them regardless. Making the first move with this small group will make it easier to do it when you join a larger group in the future, and then it will become easier to approach people when you’re travelling to new places.
While these are just a few tips on how to meet new people when you’re travelling abroad, there are countless ways to develop new connections and make lifelong friendships while you travel abroad. The common theme is to find what you love (like volunteering!) and find other people who love the same thing. Bon voyage!
To read more about our volunteer abroad programmes, click here.