Whether you're a beginner backpacker or a veteran vagabond, all travelers will agree that the best part about travel is the friends you make along the way. Whether you made your travel friend rafting down the Rio Grande in Arizona or hostel-hopping in Hungary, travel friends are friends for life. We travel to explore new ways of life, to experience different cultures, and to learn a different way of living. It's no wonder that the bond created during these novel experiences last a lifetime.
While I've traveled to over 67 countries, it's easy to lose track of the name of the hotel I stayed at in Istanbul or what bus I took to get to Arc de Triomphe in Paris. However, the moments I can never forget are the times dancing in a campervan around the South Island of New Zealand with two digital nomads, the strangers that turned into my friends while sailing the Adriatic on The Yacht Week, and the feeling of everlasting friendship that occurred after meeting a kindred spirit at a CrossFit in Bali. Hands down, the best thing about travel is the people you meet while on the road. Here are my top 5 ways to make friends while traveling:
1. Find your Fitness Friend - Whether you're interested in hiking the red rocks of Sedona or downward dogging your way through Bali, meeting someone with a similar interest in fitness is a great way to make a travel friend.
I personally drink the CrossFit cool-aid and have dropped into CrossFit boxes aka gyms in over 20 countries around the world. While I'm at a new CrossFit, I meet like-minded locals and tourists that give me the inside scoop on the best local spots to visit in the area. While we're struggling through our CrossFit class, we're also forming a bond that breaks through language boundaries.
If you're a yogi, drop into a local yoga studio. If you love group sports, join a soccer or volleyball league. Sports and fitness offer an outlet to converse, connect, and integrate into a community easier than you would at a bar. Think of this as your healthy social lubricant!
2. Travel Apps - Millennials are always looking to stay connected and now there is a social network dedicated specifically to travel lovers! Travello is a social travel tool created by travelers for travelers. This free app is available in over 180 countries and it provides a safe and trusted platform for travelers to connect.
To sign up for Travello, I simply input my information and link my Instagram profile (because if you didn't share it, it didn't happen). I can instantly find other travelers close to me based on my geo-location. I have the ability to filter travelers by nationality, age, gender, or a common interest. I'm a female heading to Peru to hike Machu Picchu in December and I want to meet other travelers in the area, I can add my adventure to the app and start looking for a travel buddy!
There is also a noticeboard for general travel tips and advice based on your location. A mega bonus for the traveler, Travello also has 50,000 free Wifi Spots and comes with an internal Wifi Finder.
3. Free Walking Tours - Whether you're interested in a chocolate tour of Bruges or an all-encompassing experience of New York City, one of the best ways to explore a new place and meet friends is with a free walking tour. The recipe for new travel friends is simple - choose a new city, google your free walking tour, meet up with new friends, and tour your selected city. At the end of the day, you'll come out a seasoned traveler topped with new contacts from around the world.
4. Co-working Spaces - We are in the age of the digital nomad, the wandering workers that live and work remotely. Long gone are the days that individuals work from home. Now, wandering workers can work from anywhere. Digital nomads leverage technology and possess jobs like Web Developer, Copywriter, or SEO Specialist.
While working from anywhere can offer freedom, it can also be isolating. With the advent of work from anywhere jobs, co-working spaces have popped up around the world. These co-working spaces offer digital nomads access to Wifi, workspaces, and most importantly - socializing. You can still have your happy hour, but now it just may be in an exotic location of your dreams like Bali or Chiang Mai.
5. Group Travel - There are a wide variety of tour operators and travel companies that have curated special group trips that cater and welcome the solo traveler. Companies like Backroads and The Yacht Week have put together trips for the like-minded individual.
These companies allow for travelers of all types - solos, groups, couples and families. Plus, they've done most of the vetting for you! For these special travel companies, it's all about quality and not about quantity. The Yacht Week is a travel experience where groups sail around the Mediterranean, Thailand or Caribbean for a week together. While you can join as a group, you can also join as an individual. Backroads is an active travel company where an itinerant will automatically have common interests with their other travelers.