Let’s face it – we are social creatures. We enjoy making memories more than we love material things, which is why every major U.S. holiday centers around laughing/drinking/eating/celebrating with loved ones – so don’t think that it has to be different when you travel!!
You’d be surprised by how friendly people are when you travel. Automatically, people you encounter will consider you a like-minded, open-hearted person, because you ventured outside of the continental United States. That may change if you start to discuss U.S. politics, haha, but aside from that, people from other countries tend to gravitate to Americans. They stay fascinated by our culture, particularly as many of the countries that I have travelled to still watch a majority of movies and tv shows made in Hollywood! They grow up listening to our music and watching Hawaii Five-O, and they want to share this with you – and ask you questions about what real American culture consists of. By way of example, I remember staying at a hostel in Australia, where we had a neighboring room full of Israeli gentlemen – we ended up singing Boyz II Men songs all night – American culture has truly permeated much of the world!! So here’s my advice if you want to lose sleep so you too can enjoy a sing off with some talented foreigners :-):
1)Sign up for excursions with cool groups – sometimes I look to have private travel experiences, but there are other times where I seek camaraderie with young, like-minded, adventurous travelers who want to have a blast while on vacation. This has two results that work to your favor:
a)Not only do they make the experience more fun, but they often share stories of other places they’ve gone that you may not have considered. Citizens from countries like Sweden, Germany, and Australia, to name a few, generally have more paid time leave than Americans. Thus, the world is literally their oyster. The more adventurous ones have the time to see places that we may not have even heard of. I like to think of them as weaning out the bad from the good for me, so i don’t have to waste valuable PTO on somewhere that is overrated For example, I met a German girl while in Thailand who had been traveling through Thailand for over a month. She was able to knock some items off of our list, leaving only the best places on our to-do list!! You don’t know, what you don’t know, right? So I always make sure I have my phone or a small notepad/pen, so I can jot down local spots that don’t appear on the more mainstream travel websites.
b)The folks on these awesome excursions usually want to be your best friend for the duration of the excursion. I don’t literally mean besties, but they encourage you to stretch yourself and truly enjoy the experience. Remember the German girl I mentioned above? Well, her name was Lauren too, and she decided that anyone named Lauren had to hook arms and jump off a boat in Koh Phi Phi – not something that would immediately come to my mind on my own, but here I am 2 years later writing about it, because it was an exhilarating experience – shout out to Bob’s Booze Cruise in Koh Phi Phi for organizing such a great day! Afterwards we continued to bond over drinks at the neighborhood bar, while checking out our photos from the day plastered on the wall. There are many opportunities like this, world-wide, but you have to look for them. There are certain agencies like G Travels and Cool Dingo Tours that cater to folks from 18-39 who want a fun, adventure-filled experience. Even if you’re on the higher end of that, as I’ve been finding myself lately – don’t be scared – just go for it!!
2)Poll the locals. Again, this depends on what type of experience you’re looking for, but generally, I have always found that people love to talk to the Americans. I’ve been to Australia a couple of times, and the moment they learn that I am not Aboriginal, but rather a Black American, I become an instant celeb. They want you to show them the latest dance moves, music, fashion, and of course, show off that awesome accent, haha. Even if you go to your hotel bar, if you start drinking and having a good time (in a respectable way), it’s magnetic. Often times, I’ll turn to the person next to me, and ask them to participate in a non-official poll about their country (fave restaurant/bar/park/attraction). I’ve never had someone turn me down yet! They are often eager to share their love for their city/country with you, and in turn they want to learn more about where I’m from, which leads to an engaging conversation. Oh and remember that no matter how cozy you get with your new friend, or how easy the conversation is, keep the custom of the country you’re visiting in your mind at all times! I posted a photo below of a pic I took with “new friends” while at a Bedouin camp outside of Dubai. We had a great time talking all night, but as you see, my arms are not touching the back of my new friend, as I did not want him to feel uncomfortable with female contact. Just an FYI 🙂
3)Poll the expats. Ok, so maybe you have had enough sake or bratwurst, and want a good ole fashioned burger. If you’ve been traveling for over a week, it’s not uncommon to miss the type of cuisine you eat at home. Sometimes we’ll head to an expat spot, just so we can hear a dose of American music with a burger – Bangkok had just the spot. Everyone speaks English, and the “locals” give you the lay of the land, from an American perspective. Some expats have lived abroad for as many as 10 or even 20 years, so they have become experts in the own right. They are also eager for you to experience everything their new country has to offer, only there won’t be any language barrier in receiving the info, and you can bond over their old haunts in the U.S. (everyone loves a New Yorker, what can i say?)… After you bonded over how horribly crowded Times Square is, they’ll be excited to point you to the awesome local beach or bar where the locals won’t short change you with cheap alcohol. This has been something that I’ve done in many of the countries that I have visited and I swear by it. Then, when you speak with the locals, they will be impressed by the knowledge you picked up when hanging with the expats – it becomes an information circle, and they’ll let you in on even cooler activities. Again, go for it!!
4)Chill out by the pool or fireplace – so of course this depends on the climate of your destination, but I’ve found either of these spots to be key when meeting new folks. When people are warm, they want to cool down poolside, with some Mai Tais. After a long day of skiing, nothing is more comforting than warming up by the fireplace with a Bailey’s. Again, people love to share awesome experiences, so if open up, and tell them how awesome your run was down the slope, I bet they will to – they won’t be able to help it. In short, go where the fun folks unwind, and you’ll pick up some fast friends!!
The advice above is helpful for those who want to meet others and share experiences while traveling. This is not mandatory – but it certainly does add to the experience, as you’ll be moved to stretch your own boundaries, and may pick up some knowledge that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. And remember….keep a smile on your face, they’re contagious 🙂