Why you should try and meet locals while traveling
When you travel abroad, you can follow your itinerary, stay inside your bubble and keep your conversations limited to your travel companions. Or, you can branch out and meet locals while traveling. It’s more comfortable to stay with what you know. But in order to get the most out of your travel experience, you might need to stretch yourself. Strike up conversations wherever you go. The rewards are immense.
Top 5 Reasons to Meet Locals While Traveling
1. Out of comfort zone
Travel is all about getting out of your comfort zone: new foods, new places, unexpected delays, and language barriers. Meeting new people while traveling is yet one more way to stretch yourself. Why do we hesitate to put ourselves out there? Fear of rejection, awkwardness, or simply being unsure how to begin a conversation: these are some of the top reasons we avoid meeting new people. Like any other skill, striking up a conversation with a stranger is something you will feel more comfortable doing the more often you try. Stepping out of your comfort zone in this way is so important for building your confidence and people skills.
2. Cultural Immersion
If you really want to get immersed in culture and language, there is no better way than to meet locals while traveling. You will learn more from talking to real people than you ever will from a guidebook or even the internet. The best way to learn is by asking great questions. But remember, your destination is not just “your destination.” It is someone’s home. Be a respectful, curious, engaged listener wherever you go.
3. Authentic experience
Do you want to know the best places to get tapas in Granada or the best place to watch the sunset along the Seine? Talk to a local! The right person can point you to the food, sights, and experiences that the tourists don’t know about.
4. New opportunities
If you want to see the world in a way you never have, you will have to do something you’ve never done.
Making friends while traveling abroad is a great way to open doors of opportunity. This is especially important if you’re traveling solo with the intent to have a more unique, personal experience. By stepping out and meeting new people, you might find yourself with opportunities you wouldn’t have if you kept to yourself. Perhaps it’s an invitation to someone’s home, a family party, or even a simple tour around town. If you want to see the world in a way you never have, you will have to do something you’ve never done.
5. Lifelong friendships
If you have the opportunity to form a really meaningful connection with someone while abroad, you could very well find yourself with a lifelong friendship. You might even find yourself inviting your new friends to visit you at home, or with an invitation to return to theirs (with somewhere free to stay). Overcome your nerves and strike up a conversation — it will be worth it!
How to meet people while traveling
1. Start a conversation
At coffee shops, in restaurants, parks, and on public transit… The best way to meet locals while traveling is to simply start a conversation.
2. Work or volunteer
If you plan to go abroad for a longer stretch of time, do some volunteering or pick up a part-time job. Working with other people is one of the best ways to connect with them.
3. Stay with locals
Are you interested in trying something besides a traditional hotel for your accommodations? Try Couchsurfing. If you find an Airbnb option to rent out just a room of a home (rather than the whole house), there’s a good chance you’ll be able to connect with your host.
4. Friend of a friend
Get the word out that you will be traveling abroad. Using your Facebook, Instagram, or other network channels, you can say something like, “Hey, friends! I’ll be traveling to Japan this summer. Does anyone have friends or family I could meet while I’m there?” Be sure to use your discretion when sharing specifics about your trip online.
5. Use an app
Don’t be afraid to meet new people, both locals and other travelers, as you travel abroad. Connecting with others is truly one of the best things about traveling!