One of the best parts of traveling is the opportunity to meet a lot of people quickly. Whether it’s asking for directions, relishing in the fact that you both speak English, sharing an airport bench on your layover, or staying in hostel room together, you’re guaranteed to meet new people that have the potential to become lifelong friends.
Below I’ve listed the top items I’ve been able to connect to people with and strike up conversation. You’re going to be in line for the Vatican for two hours anyway, might as well meet someone new! By far the best places to reach out and start up conversation with someone are in line, on modes of transportation (plane, train, bus), the people in your hostel, and/or people who are stuck in sticky situations with you (missed trains, security backups, being lost, etc). If nothing else, moments like these give you a chance to practice your conversation skills, a very important skill in business. Many employers nowadays actively seek candidates with excellent communication skills. You can consider it networking; with globalization, having connections globally will definitely serve you in the long run.
Aside from being a good conversationalist, here are a few items to pack in your suitcase on your next adventure as an easy way to start up conversation with someone. Also, check out this article from TED about author Davy Rothbart who explored the world of conversation with strangers in his book, How Did You End Up Here?: The Surprising Ways Our Questions Connect Us. I’ve found these items foolproof:
Deck of Cards
I’ve lost track of how many people I’ve invited to play a hand of Rummy with over the last few months. It’s amazing how handy a simple deck of cards can be. It’s kept us occupied at airports waiting for flights, given us something to do in our hostel at night when we’re exhausted, allowed us to be social while getting cups of coffee out in town, and helped us pass time non-awkwardly with strangers. Rummy’s a great go-to game, everyone either loves it or will enjoy learning how to play.
Spare Change, an Umbrella and a Map
The best way to win someone over is to help them when they’re in need. The extra 10 cents for their metro ticket they didn’t have, the offering of an umbrella when it unexpected downpours, or a quick reference to a map to help someone get back on track are all excellent ways to do good while traveling. Remind yourself how you’d liked to be treated when in similar mini-stress situations, it’s amazing how far the extra 10 cents will go.
An awesome part about traveling is that you have increased control over whether or not you’ll see the person again in your life or not. Therefore, there’s no need to be hesitant about striking up conversation. Confidence is key. We’re all people and I’ve rarely encountered someone who doesn’t return the conversation.
Put yourself out there! Traveling is rewarding when you can leave with new friends. It improves your conversation skills, makes your Facebook newsfeed more interesting, gives you national/global connections, and may leave you with new best friends. Take a peek at the photos I’ve collected of the new people I’ve been able to spend time with while traveling!
Courtney Cerniglia is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point majoring in business administration and Spanish.