Full-Time Travel FAQ: How Do We Meet People And Socialize?

Emily and I are both introverts, and weren’t too worried about being lonely when we were preparing to become full-time travelers. But we went through some tough times during our first year where we felt very lonely and isolated. We quickly learned that we are not as introverted as we thought. But meeting people as full-time travelers is very different than back home. In this article we will answer the question: How do we meet people and socialize?

We’re going to tell you 8 things that we do to meet people while traveling, and we’ll tell you our 3 biggest mistakes that we have made when it come to meeting people.

We have also made a video on this topic. Check it out at this link: How We Meet People and Socialize.

#1: We Use Social Media

This meetup in Chiang Mai was for an American Thanksgiving celebration.

One great way we meet people is through social media. Facebook has groups you can join that will introduce you to people you can meet.

For example, right now we are in Penang, Malaysia, and there are several groups you can join. It’s common for somebody in the group to post that there is going to be a meetup where you can go meet others.

We’ve met people like this in other places around the world too. In Chiang Mai, Thailand, we went to one of these meetups (it was huge!) and they even had special tables for newcomers. We met people at this meetup and then continued to connect with these new friends throughout our time in Chiang Mai.

#2: We Occasionally Stay In Hostels

Huacachina Peru Desert Snail Travelers
We visited Huacachina, Peru with a group of other travelers staying at our hostel.

Another way we meet people while traveling is by staying in a hostel instead of a hotel. Hostels are much more social than hotels. There is usually a common area in the hostel where people hang out together.

A good way to get to know people in this type of setting is to ask the others in the hostel about what type of activities or sightseeing they have done in the area, and what they plan to do in the future. A lot of times you can join a group from your hostel for some type of sightseeing or activity. This is what we did when we went to Huacachina, a desert oasis in Peru.

For us, this is getting to be a little more difficult as we get older. Hostels tend to attract a younger crowd, and we’re in our mid 40’s now. But we do see other people our age or older people in hostels from time to time. Many of the younger people are more than happy to have older folks join them.

#3: We Connect With People We Already Know

We met up with a former student, Julia, who was living in Arequipa, Peru when we visited there.

Another way we connect is to see if friends we have from back home are already somewhere that we are planning to visit. I am a former teacher and I try to keep in touch with students that I taught. There have been a couple of students that were in the same place as we were.

One former student, Julia, was volunteering in Peru at a physical rehabilitation clinic. And when we were in Argentina another former student, Ellen, was there for a study abroad program.

And why not invite your friends back home to join you where you are for a vacation? They might be interested in visiting wherever it is you are anyway.

Also, many times we’ll meet other long-term travelers somewhere, and then our paths end up crossing again somewhere later.

#4: We Volunteer

Volunteering in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Something else we do that not only helps us meet people but also helps the community where we are is working with a volunteer organization. We have done this several times, and quite often we’re able to get to know and become friends with the other volunteers. And there are so many ways to volunteer: orphanages, homeless shelters, retirement homes, children’s programs, and the list goes on. Some of our best volunteer experiences have been in Haiti, Dominican Republic, Chile, and Cambodia.

#5: We Take A Guided Tour

Sometimes when we’re planning to do some sightseeing we’ll take a guided tour instead of doing the sightseeing independently. This way of sightseeing does cost more than going on our own. But when we’re on a guided tour we have a tour guide that we’re interacting with, and usually there are other tourists on your tour that you can interact with. We have meet many other travelers this way in Norway, Patgonia, Argentina, Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos. And many turned out to be from our same area of America where we lived before we became full-time travelers. We’ve also have taken classes, such as cooking classes, where we meet other travelers taking the same class.

#6: We Try Pick The Right Airbnb Host

Our Airbnb host became a permanent friend when Covid-19 forced us to halt our travel in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.

When we use Airbnb as our form of accommodation we try to book with a host that we think will be someone that doesn’t just rent out apartments, but someone that we can get to know on a personal level.

Finding a host like this can be a little tricky. What we do is find an apartment that looks good, and then read the reviews. If the reviews talk mainly about the apartment itself (“the apartment was clean”, “the apartment had everything we needed”, “the apartment was in a good location”, etc) but don’t mention anything about the host, then they might not be a host that we’ll be able to interact with. But if the reviews talk a lot about the friendliness and helpfulness of the host, then that might be the way to go.

A sure way to have a host that you’ll be able to get to know on a personal level is to book a shared space where you are staying in the same house or apartment as the host. You will share the same living room and kitchen with your host. We have stayed in a few places like this when we are staying somewhere for just a few days.

We had hosts in Montevideo, Urugauy who invited us and some of their neighbors to a BBQ. Our hosts in Chiang Mai invited us to a big party they were having one night. And we were in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia when Covid-19 forced us to stay put for three months and we had an amazing host there who made sure we had food, supplies, and everything we needed for our long-term stay.

#7: We Attend Religious Services

Probably the best way and most common way we meet people and socialize while traveling is by attending a religious service. We understand that not everyone would be comfortable with this. But if you are willing to get out of your comfort zone a little it really is great way to meet people. We have visited several English speaking churches all over the world.

#8: We Get to Know The Locals

This local gentleman lead us to our destination when we got lost in Peru.

And finally, and maybe most importantly, get to know the local people who live in your neighborhood. These are the people who serve you in the restaurants, who are the shop owners, and the taxi drivers. Don’t confine your relationships to just other travelers or people from your home country. Even if you don’t speak the local language, you’ll be amazed at the friendliness of the locals. It really is easy to meet them despite the language barrier.

Now here are the three biggest mistakes we have made when trying to meet people as full-time travelers.

Mistake 1: We Don’t Think We Need Community

The first mistake we made was underestimating our need to meet people and socialize. As I mentioned, we are introverts and were kind of shocked when we started to feel a little lonely after we began traveling full-time.

Mistake 2: We Are Too Rushed

We had an amazing conversation with this monk in Mandalay, Myanmar.

The second mistake is being in a hurry and not taking the time to slow down and enjoy the local people. One of our biggest travel regrets was on a trip to Greece. While walking down the street in the town of Meteora, a man who we think was a local Greek Orthodox priest started a conversation with us. But we were in a hurry to get somewhere (I don’t even remember where we trying to get to). Looking back on that now we wish we had slowed down and taken the opportunity to have that conversation.

We almost made the same mistake in Mandalay, Myanmar when a Buddhist monk started a conversation with us, but thankfully we remembered our mistake from Greece. This monk had an amazing life story that we would have missed if we hadn’t taken the time slow down and listen.

Mistake 3: We Expect Others To Do The Hard Work For Us

And the third mistake we’ve made is not taking the initiative ourselves to meet people and socialize. You can’t just go sit in a restaurant somewhere and expect people to come up to you and ask if you to be their friend. You have to make the effort to get out there and meet people.

So that is how we meet people and socialize while traveling! We want to know your suggestions for ways to meet people. So please leave comments below with any advice that you might have for us.

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