Meeting People Abroad


Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. The host for this month is Reach to Teach, here you can find other similar articles. I’ll be posting a new ESL related article to this blog on the 5th of every month. Check back for more articles, and if you’d like to contribute to next month’s Blog Carnival, please get in touch with me at, and I’ll let you know how you can start participating!

Read the rest of the articles here.  

This month’s topic is How to Meet People Abroad.

Meeting people when you’re backpacking is as easy as breathing. Depending on where you go, it can actually be harder to get any time for yourself. Travelling solo is really only leaving your home by yourself; you won’t be alone for long, unless you want to be.


Step by Step Guide to Making New Friends Abroad:

  1. Check into a hostel.
  2. Wait for someone to show up, either in your room or in the common area.
  3. Ask them where they’re from or wait for them to ask you.
  4. Congratulations, you are now friends. Feel free to spend as much or as little time together as you want.


Meeting people abroad is completely different than meeting people at home. And it’s funny when you compare the two. At home, you’d never approach a complete stranger, and ask them a couple of generic questions, and then spend the next 72 hours straight with them (eating together, sleeping in the same room, taking turns arguing with rickshaw drivers, taking turns being sick; doing everything together). But that’s how it goes on the road.

There are five ice breaker questions: Where are you from? How long are you staying for? Where have you been? Where are you going? What’s your name?

After a while, it does get a little boring of having the same conversation over and over — and once you meet a few people, everyone’s travel resume gets mixed up in your head. I stayed in the same working hostel for a few months in Perth and there was talk amongst us long-termers that we should start making collector cards or t-shirts that had the answers to the five questions on it, so we could keep track of everybody.

Travel relationships are special. They are quick, intense, and frequently turn into long lasting friendships (I am still in regular contact with someone I only spent one day with in Argentina five years ago). It’s easy to get along with anyone on the road, no matter their background, I think, because you are on the same wavelength — you want to see what there is to see, eat good food and drink beer, all as cheaply as possible.

Time is different on the road, too: spending an afternoon with someone is like spending a week with them back home. A month is like a year, etc. Maybe it’s because the rest of your life is stripped away: you’re not worried about rent or work or that jerk who keeps parking in your space. Everything becomes an adventure, especially the bad stuff. The heroin addicts who scammed you out of 500 ruppees, or the stray dog you saw eating a diaper, or the guy who vomited all over your bag on the train, or the maggot you saw doing the backstroke in your dal, or the scooter that broke down in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night: it all becomes a good story. Sharing travel horror stories over a few beers with fellow backpackers is some of the most fun I’ve ever had.

Just like the experiences you have while travelling — whether it’s having your breath taken away on the top of a mountain in the Himalayas or fighting a donkey for the outdoor bathroom while you’re sick — the people you meet are just as indelible. I’ll always remember the Americans I had my first rakia with in Turkey, the Brazilians I spent Christmas with in Buenos Aires, and the Russian girl who gave me her perfume on my birthday in Goa because she didn’t have time to get me a present.

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