Making Friends on the Road

One of the things I love about backpacking is the ease of making new friends on the road.  Sometimes you meet that new person on a train, an airplane, a hostel, a street, or anywhere.  As travelers, we tend to be very open-minded and welcoming to almost anyone friendly enough to interact with us. We love to create that sense of community with fellow travelers and that feeling of connection with non-travelers.

One of the things that help us make that connection with other travelers is our shared passion for traveling, our ability to exchange our stories, and the possibility to share our current and future journeys with them.

I admit that for me it’s easier to make friends when I’m traveling solo than when I’m traveling with close friends. When traveling with a group of friends, it’s easy to ignore other travelers because you are focused on spending time with your friends.  In many cases, groups tend to portray a sense of exclusivity, keeping other travelers from interacting with you.  But when traveling solo, you usually express a certain openness that tends to charm people, making it easier to establish a conversation, a travel partner, friendship.  I wrote about this briefly as being one of the things you learn about yourself when traveling solo.

Traveling has given me the chance to make friends in many ways, from the most common to the most unusual.  Some of these have become good, long friendships, while others have been ephemeral.  With some of them, I have been able to create a bonding in a way I have never done with some of my life long friends.  But I think I get where that bond comes from…  We share a passion, desire, goal, and ambition. We love to share the past while looking at our future journey.  We want to see the world and get the best of it.

So that you know… I’m not a social butterfly, in fact, I’m a very shy person.  But, traveling has pushed me forward and helped me overcome that “social obstacle.”  One of the most recent road friendships I made was with my good friend Milena when we met at a hostel in Warsaw.  It was a straightforward hello that took us on a long walk through the Old Town and gave us many hours of great conversation.  We clicked in seconds, like if we knew each other from before.  Today we still keep in touch and exchange messages about future travels.

I think my craziest friendship was forged while I got lost in South Korea’s subway system.  I was completely lost in translation and had no idea how to buy the ticket.  It was Saturday at 5 am, and no one was around.  Then suddenly I met these three Americans –Christopher, Alyssa, and Julieth– who were as lost as I was, so our obvious reaction was… “Let’s get lost together”.  We ended up spending our time together in South Korea, and after that, we skipped to Thailand.  We had a fantastic time in Bangkok before taking our own paths.  Up to this day, we still get together from time to time in New York.

I’ve also met some good friends like Jonas through Couchsurfing and Pedro (who is now one of my closest friends in New York) through a long chat on a long flight.

I have learned that the opportunity to make new friends while on the road can come at any moment. You just have to be open enough to accept it and willing enough to develop it. Some friendships will work out while others will just be a short companionship.  But no matter how long or short you keep that friendship on the road; one thing is for sure, they form a valuable part of your trip, of your destination, and of your travel experience.

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19 thoughts on “Making Friends on the Road”

  1. Norbert, great post. Making friends from all over the world is definitely one of the highlights of traveling for me. Meeting a girlfriend aint too bad either!
    Cheers, Jamie from

    1. Thanks Jamie. Definitely, it is a highlight for me too. In the long run, it can even become a benefit for future travels since you now know someone on a given destination than can either be a travel partner or a helping hand (i.e. place to crash… lol).

  2. Thats one aspect of travel that I’m looking foreword to, meeting people. I’m not normally a social person, not exactly shy but I’m not very good at initiating conversations with strangers.

    Traveling solo is going to help me get over that, I hope.

    1. I’m also kind of shy, but I then to push myself a little bit (sometimes) and I make the effort to approach people when it seems appropriate. Starting a conversation sometimes it’s hard for me, but once it’s set, it can go for a while.

      Other times I’m just like “nah… forget it” and spend some time alone… which is not bad at all.

  3. This is such an enriching part of travel, meeting people from all around the world in the most random of settings and situations. Sometimes I can be a bit skeptical of people as I don’t trust easily, but you’re right. If you open yourself up to meeting people and developing relationships with some, travel can be an unending opportunity for connection.

    1. You’re right, trusting is tricky when you’re traveling and meeting people so randomly. But sometimes taking that “leap of faith” can bring many opportunities and connections.

  4. Great post Norbert! I love knowing I have friends all around the world, I can visit and reconnect with, like we were never apart. Some of these friends we only spent small amounts of time with. But that is the bond of travel. I too used to be very shy. I am not anymore. I can talk to anyone with confidence and ease- I owe all of that to travel!

  5. Great post, Norbert! I’m working on a piece right now where I note the irony that it is actually easier for me to make new friends when I travel than at home. Not sure why that is, but it’s certainly an argument to travel more!

    1. Thanks Gray! Actually, it is the same for me. I don’t know if I’m more friendly, or more open, or whatever… that when I’m traveling I manage to meet more people than when I’m at home. Looking forward to read yours.

  6. What a lovely post! I love meeting new people abroad; and like yourself, I’m shy at first as well. I love socializing, but sometimes, I can be that wallflower. Reconnecting with travel friends is great; gives great motivation to get back on the road!

    1. So true, “road friends” can be a huge plus in our travels and they can enhance our experience in any destination. That’s one of the reasons why I love meeting people while on the road. Thanks Ayngelina!

  7. Annie@greentravelreviews.com

    I travel solo a lot and my favourite pasttime is connecting with other people. I agree that it’s easier when going at it alone, something people should put in the “pro”-column for travelling alone 🙂

    Great post, thanks for sharing!

    1. Oh, so true! I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve met on the road, that I’m still friends with, and that I met mostly because I was traveling solo and somehow managed to connect with them in one way or another. It’s a great way to “force” you to have a social presence with other travelers.

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