Say Hello to Strangers

The world isn’t full of dangerous people, it’s full of friends you haven’t met yet.

As I travel the world, non-travelers always ask me, “Don’t you get lonely?”

My response is, “I am never alone.”

Traveling on your own teaches you many very valuable lessons, two of which are:
1. How to be happy with your own company
2. How to make friends quickly with complete strangers

The first is a deep personal journey I’ll let you embark on in your own time. However, allow me to elaborate on the latter, as making friends with strangers has always been my specialty.

When it comes to saying hello to strangers and making a new friend, it comes down to five simple steps.

1. Look people in the eyes. Project your positive energy with a warm smile. Typically you will get a feel for people with matching energies and will be able to understand if they are receptive to meeting someone new.

Say Hello to Strangers
An invitation for a run through the mountains and laughs shared over traditional food was all it took to become lifelong friends with this wonderful Costa Rican couple.

2. Embrace small talk. Break the ice by commenting on things relative to the moment. If you have a sense of humor, use it.

Anna Purna Base Camp
We met when I thought I had altitude sickness. The bloke in the middle laughed at me and told me we were too low for that to be possible. The next day these guys became my hiking partners, and we eventually hiked our way up to the AnnaPurna Base Camp.

3. Ask questions. Getting to know someone requires effort and interest. You’re not going to make a new friend staring down at your phone screen. It requieres active engagement and a bit of enthusiasm.

Tayrona National Park
I brought this crew together through asking lots of questions. From starting conversations in the middle of the street, to the shared shuttle bus, to the line in Tayrona National Park, our pack kept growing.

4. Don’t be shy. Tell people you are looking for friends to hang out with. People aren’t mind readers, sometimes you need to put yourself out there in order to make things happen.

eating in the hostel prison
We became friends after a free walking tour in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and we all decided to continue exploring the city together, after a quick coffee and chocolate ball, of course.

5. Make plans. After you have broken the ice and successfully engaged someone in conversation, make follow up plans if you want to hang out with this person again. This requires putting yourself out there a little bit more. You can ask them if they have plans that night or that weekend, or see if they are interested in joining you to do  something that you were thinking of doing yourself. Then get their contact information. If you just give out your information, you might find yourself waiting around, and that’s not how you want to be spending your time!

Poon Hill Loop

Of course these five steps are only the beginning. You must always trust your intuition. Don’t go wandering off with every stranger you meet. But do keep an open mind, and the next time you find yourself looking to say hello to strangers and to potentially make a new friend, think of these five steps.

Perfect example of all of the above:

I was recently in Mindo, Ecuador, a place which is best appreciated when you have a local friend who will show you the secret spots. While I was at a public waterfall, a local “lifeguard” reprimanded me for climbing on some rocks and we got to talking. We talked about the nature, the river, the waterfall and our beautiful surroundings. He told me all about how he loved to hike to the waterfalls for free, and I brazenly told him, “I need a friend like you!” and asked him what we was up to the following day. He happened to have the day off, and we made plans to go bird watching and waterfall chasing. With just the right stroke of luck and ambition, I had turned a stranger into a friend, and secured a personal tour of the coolest places that Mindo had to offer. Give it a try and see who you meet.

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