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How We Actively Meet People On Our Travels

So much of travel is the people we meet, the conversations we have and the friends we make along the way.

Here’s how we go about actively meeting new people on the road.

Stay local

With the diversification of the accommodation market in recent years, it’s now easier than ever to stay with locals.

Before rushing to make that hotel booking, try searching for an Airbnb or couchsurfing host, arranging a homestay, or doing a housesitting assignment. Not only will you likely save money (or not have to pay for accommodation at all), but you’ll gain invaluable insight into a country and culture, all while making amazing friends.

By staying local, we’ve shared meals, explored new places and learned what really makes a place tick with new friends who know where it’s at.

For example, our German host, Michael, took us to a favourite local burger joint.

Burger night with Michael - Berlin, Germany

And our Turkish hosts, Özden and Cemre, taught us about Turkish food and culture, and showed us their Istanbul.

New friends - Istanbul, Turkey

Participate in events and gatherings

You may go to regular meetups at home, like dinner with friends or your monthly book club, but have you ever thought about participating in these kinds of gatherings while travelling?

Websites like make it easy to see what’s happening in a city and join events without the commitment of joining a group for the long-term. If you’re going to go out for dinner, attend a festival or explore a new place, why not do it with some new faces and open doors to learning something new?

Even participating in one-off events or joining a regular meetup just once can start some wonderful friendships.

In Warsaw, we attended a photo walk with Polish photographers who showed us some of the most interesting places in the city and told us stories that really put Polish history into context for us. We’re now all friends on Facebook and continue to share and comment on each others’ photography.

500px Photography Meetup - Warsaw, Poland

And in Berlin, we joined an international group of locals, expats and travellers for a fun night of bowling.

Bowling meetup - Berlin, Germany

When you spend longer in a place, there comes the opportunity to join the same groups on multiple occasions and really cement friendships over several meetings.

During our most recent 6-week stint in London, we got really involved with the local Instagram group, Igers London. With several events happening every week, we were never short of friends to hang out with on the weekends. We went on photo walks, had drinks and attended festivals together, all while taking fun pics and sharing them on Instagram, a medium that keeps us connected even though we are no longer in London.

Igers London Meetup - UK

We even spent a week photographing Turkey with Instagrammers from around the world in another event we discovered on Meetup.

Tip: There are Instagram communities in cities around the world, some more active than others, but all very welcoming to visiting Instagrammers, whether to join scheduled events or just meet up for a coffee. Search for ‘Igers [insert city name]’ or an ‘Instameet’.

Instameet - Turkey

Talk to people

Now I’m not suggesting trying to accost every random person on the street into a conversation, but we are continually placed into situations with new people on our travels in which we have the choice to either engage or stick our headphones in and block the world out. Scenarios like sharing a cabin on a train or taking the same tour give us an easy “in”. Introduce yourself and find out a bit about the people around you. Sure, sometimes the conversation might not really go anywhere, but at least you’ve made the effort. On the flip-side, you might end up meeting some awesome new friends who you really hit if off with.

Had we not taken the time to chat with the owners of a café in Vietnam, we wouldn’t have had the experiences we did in the Mekong Delta, and we wouldn’t have been here at their house after a wonderful home-cooked lunch. Click here to read about how they effectively adopted us and became our extended Vietnamese family.

Vietnamese Family - Cai Be

If we didn’t talk to Katha on our Kinabatangan River cruise in Malaysian Borneo, we wouldn’t have exchanged contact details and been able to meet again in her hometown of Stuttgart when we travelled to Germany. Or share a traditional German Christmas with her and her family. Or meet her parents for dinner again just a few nights ago here in Turkey!

At the Christmas markets with Katha - Stuttgart, Germany

How do you meet people on your travels? What experiences have you had that you wouldn’t have had otherwise by engaging with locals and other travellers?

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5 Ways to Look Like a Seasoned Traveller (even when you're not) - Notes of Nomads

Tuesday 24th of June 2014

[…] Tip: Do your research or ask someone you trust/without a vested interest in your purchase before buying. If you don’t have any friends locally, you can make them. If you missed, here’s our post about how to meet locals while travelling. […]

Grace Buchele Mineta

Monday 26th of May 2014

I like the idea of using I've used it to meet people in Tokyo (since I just moved here) and it's been wonderful - since it's not exactly easy to go up and start a random conversation with someone busy in Tokyo.

My husband and I met this really great Peruvian guy while waiting for a tour of Lima - he ended up showing us a couple of GREAT restaurants and some "can't miss" spots of the city!

Jessica Korteman

Monday 26th of May 2014

We've really enjoyed using Meetup. It certainly helps to break the ice when you're in a situation where other people are there to socialize and meet others too. We ended up organising our own monthly events in Tokyo - photo walks mainly. We'd love to do that again whenever we return.

Love the informal tour guide friend you made in Lima. When these random encounters happen, they're wonderful!


Saturday 24th of May 2014

Great tips, Jessica! I hope to employ many of these once we get to Latvia. I really want to make some local friends while we're there!

Jessica Korteman

Saturday 24th of May 2014

Thanks Heather! I have no doubt you'll make the most of your time there! Living as an expat, I'm sure there will be lots of opportunities to make lasting friendships. Can't wait for your Latvian adventures! :)


Sunday 18th of May 2014

I used Meetup at home (in Sydney) but never thought to use it while I'm away, thanks for the great idea. In India I've found the easiest way to meet locals has been the chai stalls and street food stalls, there's always people hanging around these and I've struck up many conversations over a samosa. Otherwise simply asking someone on the street for directions or a restaurant recommendation is enough of an in to start a conversation.

Jessica Korteman

Monday 19th of May 2014

Hi Nick,

We too hadn't thought about using Meetup on our travels in the past. But now we are, we've been loving it! I'm sure you'll find some great meetups to join too.

Yes, heading to where the locals hang out, especially if you're obviously "not from around here" is a great way to initiate conversation. Bet you've got some great stories from those chai stalls!

Thanks for stopping by. Now we've discovered your blog, we're looking forward to following :)


Sunday 18th of May 2014

Great tips. I'm glad I got to meet you both in Dublin!

Jessica Korteman

Monday 19th of May 2014

Thanks Mindi! It was awesome to meet you too! How are things with you?

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