How To Make Friends When You Travel

I have been asked several times how I manage to endure my solo trips without anyone to talk to or hang out with. Also, a lot of readers curious to try travelling all by themselves ask me if there’s any way they can avoid feeling lonely. My simple answer to all such questions is I am never alone in any new place. I usually find a stranger to talk to, a group of hostellers to share a room with, or a warm family to share a meal with. There have been times when I’ve been all alone (in the worldly sense) on solo treks on abandoned hills. But there was still the shuffle of leaves, the chirp of an odd bird, and always, the presence of God.

Learn To Trust New People (Just As You Trust Your Instinct)

How long can one sail alone or only with those one has already known? (I watch tourists take a shikara ride in Kolkata's Prinsep Ghat)

How long can one sail alone or only with those one has already known? (I watch tourists take a shikara ride in Kolkata’s Prinsep Ghat)

I could tell you a hundred ways to meet new people, but you wouldn’t make a single friend if you are always wary of strangers or afraid to reveal anything about yourself. Friendships are forged when you make yourself available to conversations. Don’t always cuddle with a book or appear busy with your phone if you want to look approachable. And once a good Samaritan comes along and greets you, don’t instantly write him off as a characterless person out to cheat you. Trust a little, ask questions that help you get to know the person better, and also talk about your own self. Friendship is a two-way street. You can’t just take, take and take. You must learn to give.

Look For Things To Do With A New Group

Running together is a great way of making new friends!

Running together is a great way of making new friends!

I know so many people who would love to have a lot of friends but are too shy to initiate the conversations. For all of those shy or even introverted people, I’d suggest joining a group that does what you like to do. You will be in your comfort zone when it’s an activity you know, and yet have enough room to interact with people you are unfamiliar with. I personally find running an excellent way to connect with new people. Over the umpteen marathons I’ve run, I’ve made some amazing friends from different cities and continents. It doesn’t matter what you like to do – cycling, painting, cooking, hiking, shopping, or just about anything else. You can find people with similar interests and get those conversations started! The Cuddll app lets you create or join “cuddlls” which are informal social gatherings. You can also chat with other people joining the cuddll and plan for the meetup. Start by browsing through cuddlls based on the date, location or your interest.

Get Away From Your Phone. Get Back Into Real Life!

It's surprisingly easy to chat with a stranger when you need someone to take your picture. (In the great White Rann of Kutch)

It’s surprisingly easy to chat with a stranger when you need someone to take your picture. (In the great White Rann of Kutch)

A strange thing about our generation is how much we love to cling to our phones. We don’t mind chatting for hours as long as we don’t actually have to meet that person. And once we do, we don’t know what to talk about. The app market is full of silly dating apps that do very little to create trustworthy bonds and a lot to encourage casual flings, most of which only remain digital. Cuddll cuts through that clutter and keeps things clean. This is an app to make new friends and meet people in a safe way in groups. And you don’t just keep things virtual but actually go out there, meet and do what you signed up for! Another tip to make friends – ditch your phone once you’re with humans. Phones are very distracting with all of the pinging and ringing that interrupt conversations. You’ll realize you can have meaningful conversations when you truly listen to the people in your group with full concentration.

Cultivate Your Interests

Cooking together or even learning to cook is a beautiful way to connect with another person. (My new-found friend from the Koli tribe in the Maharashtrian village of Purushwadi)

Cooking together or even learning to cook is a beautiful way to connect with another person. (My new-found friend from the Koli tribe in the Maharashtrian village of Purushwadi)

I once had a friend who had no hobbies. (Yes, you read that right!) He would only go to work, come back home, and watch TV with the dinner his cook had prepared. He hated talking to people and found great comfort in being passive. I used to think he was naturally reticent and liked being that way. But he later told me he envied people who could do a lot of things, and he deliberately avoided interacting with anyone because they’d find out he was good at nothing. If you also suffer from similar thoughts, you could try addressing each shortcoming once by one. Don’t have a hobby? Learn something. Don’t know what you will like? Join different classes for a while and stay with the one you like. (That friend of mine later started learning to play the guitar and now also knows how to set up his own tent. He camps with strangers and prefers homestays over hotels for the warmth of the hosts.) The second part of the problem is inferiority complex. You don’t have to be the best at everything. And that’s precisely why you need to meet people who can do things better! You’ll enjoy being around amazing people when you stop worrying about what they think of you and instead focus on how you can learn from them.

Start From Where You Are

University campuses are still one of the best places to make friends for life. (The UPenn campus in Philly)

University campuses are still one of the best places to make friends for life. (The UPenn campus in Philly)

Lastly, you don’t have to be in a foreign land to begin making new friends. Start from your very own neighbourhood or your school campus. You may have spent several months and years walking past acquaintances and yet never had the afterthought to talk to them. Perhaps you could start your first “cuddll” in your backyard over a small boardgame or potluck dinner? Or if  you are a student, gather your classmates over a cricket match or plan a short trip to the mountains! Nature has a wonderful way of strengthening relationships and building trust.

Do you have any tips for making new friends?

Write your answers as comments below! 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more ideas on travelling and finding nice people on the way. Do share this piece with those who are afraid to get out of their friend circle and talk to new people!

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!