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Making Friends on the Open Road...

Evelyn Hannon

Remember back to your first day in grade one? You came into school excited but a bit worried that you wouldn't have anybody to talk to. Who will you play with at recess? Who will sit beside you in the lunch room? Well, hold that memory because setting out on a solo journey could include much the same set of emotions.

I've never been afraid to travel solo. I've been doing it for the last 37 years and I love it but I do work on ways of meeting folks along the way. It's important to me. I feel cheated if I don't connect with the locals. I'm bored if I don't chat with other travelers along the way.

Here are my 26 tips for making friends along the way...

Seek out connections even before you leave home. Chat with women who've traveled before you. Make note of their tips, advice and contacts. Some of your best adventures will begin that way.

 

Speak to your friends and neighbours who were born in the country you're travelling to. There is a grandmother here or a sister there who will happily provide some wonderful connections for you. (And, even if they can't suggest contacts to you they will certainly share their expertise on how to dress appropriately and stay safe. This is a perfect time to ask).

 

Become a member of an organization that fosters the exchange of homestays. Women Welcome Women, promoting visits between females in over 60 countries, is a perfect example and a practical way of getting to meet the locals.

 

Join SERVAS an international network of hosts and travelers building peace by providing opportunities for personal contact between people of diverse cultures and backgrounds.

 

Avoid large, impersonal hotels. Opt for a more friendly bed and breakfast experience where guests enjoy the morning meal together and often linger with coffee and great stories.

 

Many solo travellers tend to choose hostels because they are looking for travelling partners. Take advantage of that fact. Don't like eating dinner alone? Pack your favorite tunafish casserole recipe and offer to cook dinner for your new hostelling pals. You will be a very popular Journeywoman.

 

Eating in a cafe? Keep an English book or newspaper on your table. Inevitably someone will recognize either the book title or the newspaper and will strike up a conversation. Likewise, you can be the first to comment if you notice someone reading a book that you've already enjoyed.

 

Look for restaurants that offer communal seating at large dining room tables. Journeywoman has tried this at the warm and welcoming Pain Quotidian bakery, bar and cafe all rolled into one as well as Wagamama a chain that serves tasty noodles dishes worldwide. The fun part of these restaurants is you never know who will sit down beside you and what the conversation will yield.

 

Bonus -- Don't tell a new friend where you're staying...

Never tell a new pal you've met on the road which hotel and (gasp!) what room he/she can find you in. If arranging a rendez-vous meet the person at a neutral yet busy spot. Leave a note in your room describing who you are meeting and where. In case you run into trouble authorities will, at least, have some idea of your circumstances.

More ways to meet people as you travel....

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