How to Make Friends on the Road

We are excited to have Evelyn Hannon giving the keynote speech at Meet, Plan, Go! in Toronto on October 16.  Evelyn was the first Canadian to look at travel strictly from a woman’s point of view. Since 1994 her mandate has been to inspire females worldwide to travel safely and well. Her award-winning website, and her monthly travel tip newsletter connect 64,000 readers and journalists in over 100 countries. She’s circumnavigated the globe, explored 65 countries and this Fall will be reporting on India and then spending New Year’s Eve in Antarctica. Now 72, Evelyn is considered the “Grandmother of Women’s Travel.” Today, she shares her best advice for making friends while traveling.

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 eight of my tried and true tips for making friends along the way…

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Dress appropriately. Do your research before you leave and find out what is suitable so that you don’t offend the culture you are in. For tips from others who have travelled before you check out, What Should I Wear, Where.

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

 5. 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 traveller.

6. 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.

7. Are you a runner? Ask around – check on bulletin boards, the internet and sports shops for groups that you could join for fun and exercise when you’re away.

8. Finally, a word of caution. Not everyone you meet has pure intentions. That said, never tell a new pal you’ve met on the road which hotel or hostel 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.

Safe journeys, everybody!

Join us on October 16 at one of our 10 Meet, Plan, Go!

events across North America:

Austin | Boston | Chicago | Minneapolis | New York City

San Diego | San Francisco | Seattle | South Florida | Toronto

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