Making connections with interesting people is one of the highlights of travelling. After all, the best way to get to know any place is through the people who call it home. Connecting with strangers can be an intimidating for solo travellers, however. Here are some tips for breaking the ice when wandering on your own.
Be bold – and be interested
Introducing yourself to a new person can be a scary idea – but it’s necessary if you’re going to turn them from a stranger to a friend! Be bold enough to initiate contact, and you’ll be rewarded for your bravery. The easiest way to do this is to keep it organic – let your inquiries spring out of genuine interest. Fascinated by the pieces in a quiet Aboriginal art gallery? Chances are whoever’s working would love to share what they know about indigenous art. Is your barista wearing a t-shirt featuring your favorite band? Comment! Everyone appreciates connections – as well as compliments. It doesn’t take much to get someone talking about what makes them tick – just genuine interest. So ask away! And don’t forget to ask their name.
Get the Inside Scoop
If you sense that someone is open and receptive to speaking with you (These people are going through their day-to-day lives, after all. Not everyone will have time for a chat) ask them for their favorite spots in town. Lots of people are proud of where they live- especially when they live in the kind of places people go out of their way to visit- and will be happy to tell you all the coolest things no guidebook could ever reveal.
Leave Leeway to Linger
If you don’t give yourself time to engage, any efforts to connect will be for naught. While there will be times when you have to move on a deadline, try to leave some leeway in your schedule to devote your focus to a conversation. Have space in your schedule to accept dinner invitations and cups of chai or coffee. You’ll seem more genuine and open if you’re not in a hurry to move on – and people will be more comfortable sharing with you that way. The human memories you make will last longer than any sightseeing. Plus, taking the time to really get to know someone is a gift – and when you offer it, you’re likely to receive so much back in return.
Follow Your Instincts
If you don’t feel comfortable with someone, you’re under no obligation to make friends. Listen to your gut, and make it your prerogative to choose who you open up to. You may be more comfortable approaching people in your own demographic. Women, in particular, may want to stick with speaking to other women and family groups. Men might want to be aware of how they come across when approaching young women. But there are, of course, exceptions to these rules. Just follow your instincts, and don’t be afraid to close off if you don’t feel someone is being genuine with you. There are plenty of good people in the world to meet – no use wasting time on the others!