When you’re living on the road, life can get pretty lonely. It’s hard to form connections and maintain relationships while living a traveler’s life. Yet, ironically enough, on the road is where you’re liable to meet some of the most incredible people. After all, that’s a big part of why we travel. We want to see the world, have new experiences, and meet new people!
Personally, I’ve made some great connections on the road. I’ve met girlfriends with dating apps. I’ve made lifelong connections out of thirty-minute encounters. Heck, I’ve even gotten some sweet perks out of Tinder dates and chance meetings.
So, how can you maximize your chances of finding that significant other or special someone on the road? Well, today we’ve got some tips for you. You can use these while you travel the world solo in your grungy van. You can use these tips while you hitchhike across the states. Heck, you can even use these tips in your hometown.
So, first things first, we need to cover the basics. If you’re a shy person, or aren’t good at approaching partners, don’t worry. That’s OK! It’s not something that most people are born good at. Even the most outgoing guys get nervous about approaching a really hot girl. Even the most confident woman feels butterflies when she talks to that one guy. Heck, plenty of people are attracted to the same sex and have all sorts of extra social challenges to navigate.
No matter what your hurdle is, and no matter how insurmountable it seems, don’t worry. If you just try, and put yourself out there, you’ll feel good. Maybe you’ll get turned down. Maybe you’ll totally bomb. But hey, who knows, maybe you’ll meet someone you couldn’t live without, a lifelong friend or your future partner. The one thing that’s for sure, is if you don’t try, you’ll most certainly fail. So, throw out all your excuses, put a cork in your insecurities, and get ready to feel uncomfortable. Approaching someone you’re really attracted to is rarely comfortable. But when you live on the road, sometimes that’s all you’ve got.
Today we’re going to cover some of the best ways to make connections on the road. You might not be into all of them. Heck, you might not be into any of them. Like I already said, this stuff is scary, uncomfortable, and can feel pretty awkward at times. But trust me, traveling is all about making connections, romantic and otherwise. If you’re not meeting people on the road, you might as well have just stayed home.
#1: Use dating apps
I know, it’s cheesy, it’s awkward, and it can feel pretty contrived. But if I had space to list all the cool people I’ve met on Tinder and all the unforgettable experiences that resulted, this article would be way too long. I dated one girl for a year who I met on Tinder. I’ve gotten countless free places to stay while traveling. I’ve even gotten a free skydiving lesson out of that app. Seriously, it’s not all bad.
A lot of people think that dating apps, especially Tinder, are shameful, contrived, and completely uninteresting. After all, it’s all about judging people based on a couple of photos. And hey, it’s true that six photos and three hundred characters could never contain the depth of an entire person.
However, if you use dating apps wisely, and for the right reasons, they are an incredible tool for a traveler. If you want to learn the local language, meeting a girl who’s bilingual is one of the fastest ways. If you want some tips on the best places to party or the best restaurants to eat at, your latest Tinder match is likely to have the inside scoop. And yes, if you’re really smooth, you might even be able to get a place to stay, do laundry, or cook for a couple of days. I’m not making this up! After all, life in a car can get pretty old.
The secret to using dating apps effectively is to stop thinking they’re shameful, make an honest profile, and look for friends, not one-night stands. I mean sure, if that’s what you’re into, I’m sure you’ll find your fair share of fast flings. But there’s so much more out there. Press like for cool bios, for crazy photos, and for people that just seem real. The trick is to find good people, not hot people.
#2: Approach people at local bars
Notice how I said, people. Whether you’re a guy or girl, no matter what floats your boat, the secret is the same. Don’t just approach perspective partners, approach everyone. Approach that shy person in the corner, approach that rowdy group at the bar, approach that couple that’s been on the road for months.
At first, this may seem difficult, and sometimes it will be. But trust me, it gets easier the more you do it. That’s because you start to realize that when someone is unapproachable, that’s a flaw in them, not a problem with you. However, most people you’ll meet on the road will be psyched to swap some stories, share a beer, and meet a new friend.
This is especially true if you’re on the traveler’s trail, so to speak. In bars and hostels where you’re surrounded by other travelers, just about everyone there is looking to meet new people and hear some stories. It’s not only a critical part of making new connections, but it’s also one of the best ways to plan your trip. People’s recommendations are usually far more reliable than TripAdvisor.
So, I’ve been working in hostel bars for a long time now, and I’ve developed some tricks for when conversation doesn’t flow as naturally as I might like. If you don’t know what to say, or how to spark a conversation, start with the basics: “Where are you from?” and “How long are you traveling for?” work perfectly well in travel hostels. You’re sure to wind up with material for another question by the time they’ve answered that simple opener.
If you’re the traveler and you’re meeting a local, then you’ll have to get a little more creative. “What do you do for work?” and “What’s your favorite thing to do on a night out around here?” both work fine if you don’t know what else to say. However, if you’re ready to get more creative, go for it! One of my favorite ways to get into a deeper conversation is to ask people about one thing they’re proud of, one thing that their mother doesn’t know about them, or one thing they really want to do in their life.
Just remember that you’re traveling. Chances are you won’t see any of these people again, and it won’t do you any harm if you make a fool of yourself. Worst case scenario, you experience a couple of minutes of awkwardness. Best case scenario, you hit it off with a new friend, lover, or soul mate. And if you make a habit of making friends, you’re sure to have some wild experiences, get some great travel tips, and make some memories that will last a lifetime.
#3: Go to events and try new things
One of the most important things to remember while you’re traveling is that you’re out here to have a good time. You left home to see the world, try new things, and grow. At least, I assume those were somewhere on your list. So, don’t forget to go do things!
Forget about who you’ll meet, or where the hottest girls hang out, or any of that nonsense. Just go out and do things that sound fun to you. If you want to go skydiving, go skydiving. Want to learn to scuba dive? Sign up for a course. Want to see some ruins? Book a tour.
If you fill your travels with unique and eye-opening experiences, you’re sure to find some like-minded people along the way. Not only that, but you’ll probably have a better chance of hitting it off with them too.
I know so many travelers who get caught up on chasing connections when they should be chasing experiences. They’ll go to the same bar all week because they’re hoping to hit it off with some hot girl there instead of waking up early and going out on a tour or spending the night at a salsa class. Life is for the living, and if you’re not out there doing it, you won’t be as attractive to the people you’re trying to meet in the first place.
Don’t forget that they want to meet someone interesting too. Trust me, you’ll have a lot more to talk about tomorrow night at the bar if you spend the day on an elephant tour in the jungle or hiking to the top of a volcano. See where I’m going with this?
Not only does getting out and seeing the world enhance your experience and get you into groups of like-minded people, but it also gives you a more interesting story to tell when you finally do get a Tinder match or meet a cute guy at the bar.
#4: Focus on yourself
Wait, what? Yeah, that’s right. One of the most important parts of making quick connections on the road is to focus on yourself. It’s like we just talked about. You need to be out there doing cool things, collecting crazy stories, and making memories that will last a lifetime. After all, that’s what life and travel are all about.
It’s not just about having the coolest story at the bar though, it’s about growth. Attractive people are attracted to people who progress. No one wants to date some loser who’s trapped in the twelfth grade. They want to meet someone inspiring, someone courageous, someone who will challenge them and make their heart flutter.
So, spend time on becoming a better person. That’s not just about doing lots of crazy things, it’s also about spending time self-reflecting, setting personal goals, and working to become the type of person you will be proud of. That’s how you foster some of the most attractive traits you can have. If you focus on being your best self, others are sure to notice, and the chances are that you’ll attract other people who share your values.
I recommend journaling. This gives you space to set goals, to self-reflect, and to keep track of all the crazy things you’ve seen and done. I also recommend waking up early and practicing some form of exercise. Whether that’s yoga, a morning run, or a shitload of pushups, it’s sure to show. Exercise isn’t just about being strong and thin and fit. It makes you feel good. The better you feel, the better you’ll look.
#5: Don’t hold any expectations
This is the last, and the hardest tip to get the hang of. It’s straight out of the polyamory playbook, and it doesn’t come naturally to most people. After all, we are hardwired to want more, to be possessive, and to get jealous. It’s human nature. However, on the road, all the expectations we can easily build up around relationships are a sure way to smother a flame. No matter where you meet someone, it’s important to keep an open mind, not to judge them, and to be unconditional in your feelings.
Besides, they might be interested in you now, but in love with someone else who they’ve known for years. They might just want a one-night fling. They might be quickly falling madly in love with you and be terrified of what that means. You never know. If you just let each connection form as it will and be what it becomes, you’ll have a lot more success dating, and loving along the way.
Be honest with people, be true to your feelings, let others be true to theirs. Don’t expect any more than what someone’s already giving you, and even then, be ready for the next moment to be different. That way you’ll make friends, not just lovers. Get their info, stay in touch. Even if you can only talk for thirty minutes before you catch your flight or bus, you never know when you might get to pick up where you left off.
Lastly, a story
A year ago, I was in a cafe in Guatemala. I had just finished breakfast and was writing in my journal when I noticed a gorgeous woman walk in and order coffee. She sat down and started working at a table near the front. I had clearly seen her at least notice me. Normally, I’m not terribly shy anymore, but let’s be honest, I’m not used to just walking up to strangers in cafes and saying “hi, you’re pretty”. After all, what was I going to say to this girl? I basically had nothing to go on.
But, something about her made me certain that I had to say something. So, I walked up, stumbled over my words, and said something to the effect of “Hey, I think you’re gorgeous, what’s your name?”
It sounds so simple, but hey, she was flattered, and she smiled. She told me her name, and somehow we got to talking about what she was doing there and where she was from and all that. Unfortunately, I had to go catch my bus, but I asked her if she’d like to meet up for coffee some other time so we could talk more. I got her contact info and said goodbye thinking, wow, that was scary.
But unfortunately, we never had time to go get coffee. I had to leave the country in a couple of weeks, and we both were busy with jobs, travel, and life. But hey, at least we were Facebook friends, right?
Flash forwards one year
I’m back in Guatemala and this girl, who I’ve never talked to since, posts on Facebook. She’s landing in Guatemala City in six hours and needs a ride. It just happened to be my day off, and I have a car. So, I say, “what the heck?”. I figured a gorgeous girl like her would get a ride in an instant. But it turns out, I was the only offer.
Since then, we’ve had that coffee we never got. We went to the beach together and played in the ocean. We’ve talked about life, love, and what makes us feel passionate. I don’t know what will come of it, or whether that matters. But I do know that I’ve made an incredible friend, from a fifteen-minute connection a year ago. All because I had the cojones to walk up to a stranger and say “Hey, I think you’re pretty. What’s your name?”
The lesson is this: if you put yourself out there, make genuine connections, and hold no expectations, you never know what you’ll find. Thirty minutes now could turn into a lifetime later.
So, the next time you see a pretty girl, go talk to her. The next time you see a handsome guy, ask him his name. Life is short, and the road is long. It’s a lot better if you have people to walk with along the way.
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