For a change, I’m doing the travel post as Aldo prepares for a three week business trip to Asia. So, sorry the pictures won’t be nearly as spectacular! I spent a lot of time alone traveling to New York last year for probably a couple of months in total, over a nine-month period. As an introvert, I like spending time alone, but eventually, it’s nice to have someone to talk to, so I had to figure out ways to approach people. I’m a bit of an anomaly because I’m an introvert that talks a lot in social situations. But only when I’m comfortable, or had some wine, or as I used to call it, liquid courage. Being “on” sometimes leaves me feeling exhausted at the end, but I have met some amazing people that make it worth it.
Do you feel awkward around new people? Are you traveling alone? If you have trouble starting a conversation with new people or making new friends, there are some ways to change that, even if you’re an introvert. It will take some effort, and you’ll have to step out of your comfort zone.
A brief travel friendship story
New York marked the first time I traveled solo, and it was a huge achievement for me since I’m afraid to fly. I did the trip for business around ten times over the nine months, one of those times for a month. I met Aldo and a friend Michelle while on the month-long leg of my stay. I was so exhausted from a terrible and extra-long trip into the city when I saw Michelle while we waited for the elevator of our hotel. I looked at her and said, “I don’t know whether to go check into my room or just head straight to the bar to grab a quick drink and start fresh.” She said, “Drop your bags off, and I’ll meet you in the bar in five minutes.”
Aldo was in the bar area when we arrived, and we all started talking. Michelle hired both of us to model for her (a first for me too), and we’ve been friends ever since.
Meet people and make new friends
After some reflection and investigation, I was able to find what works for me. Hopefully, you’ll find that there’s at least one or two you can try (with or without liquid courage)!
1.Spend time around other people. You have to put yourself out there to meet others. Try to hang around with other people from time to time, or be in the vicinity of others. Another person can also help break the ice with new people if the other person you’re with can strike up conversations when you can’t. For example, the majority of people I meet are when I’m out for dinner in a place I frequent. Once you’re comfortable somewhere, it makes it easier to chat with others, especially if you’ve seen them there before. If you’re alone, eat at the bar instead of at a table. You’ll find other people alone and you can try to talk to them, or talk someone that works there. I’ve formed great friendships this way.
2.Use social media to your advantage. Connect with people in your area that have similar interests. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are great ways to learn more about the people you meet, especially if you’re shy. You can always direct message someone to find out more about them (e.g. ask their name, are they on any other social media sites, etc.). Just remember to take precautions since you don’t know who is actually on the other end. I have met some great people this way, including Rudi, who has contributed to this blog and I finally met in person when she visited the city!
3.Join a club or volunteer. It’s a great way to meet local people! You don’t need to have common interests with someone to be their friend. In fact, some of the most rewarding relationships can be with people who don’t have a lot common. That said, it is easier to talk to someone you don’t know about similar interests. It could be sports, food, wine, the arts or fashion; the list is endless. If you’re volunteering, you have the opportunity to meet others that are enthusiastic about the same cause(s) as you.
4.Make eye contact and smile. I have “resting bitch face”, so if you see me walking down the street, I probably look angry. But I can’t help it; if I’m not smiling, my face just sits that way. I make a conscious effort to put a partial smile on my face when I’m walking so that I don’t look mean all the time. It’s a tactic that can work for you too. If you have an unfriendly expression, people are less likely to be responsive to you. Try not looking bored or expressionless, or frowning. Don’t fold your arms (it practically screams “don’t talk to me”) or stay off to the side by yourself. These mannerisms may make you look angry or disinterested.
5.Start talking. There are many ways to do this. You can comment about the weather “At least it’s not raining like last week!”. You can request help “Can you help me decide which one of these is a better gift for my sister?”. Or a compliment is always good like “I love your (fill in the blank).” Follow up with a related question such as do you like this weather? What do you usually buy for your sister? Where did you get that jacket? Don’t forget to introduce yourself at the end of the conversation. It can be simple “Oh, by the way, my name is…”. Once you introduce yourself, the other person should do the same. If not, ask.
6.Initiate another meeting. You can talk to someone, but it won’t go any further if you don’t open up the opportunity for another conversation. It’s especially important if you meet someone you aren’t likely to meet again. Seize the day! If you have similar interests, ask them for their number to join you to something coming up. Or ask them to grab a coffee or lunch. If it’s too difficult for you to ask someone in person, ask if they’re on Facebook, Instagram, etc. and follow up with them that way.
If you end up getting along, make sure to keep in touch!
These are some of my tips. What are some of yours?