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Creating Meaningful Connections While Traveling

Our journey as long-term travelers has brought us immense joy, but there has been one challenge we did not anticipate.


A travel lifestyle can feel very isolating at times.


My husband and I are two people very social people. For decades, we were immersed in a broad social network through our businesses, children’s schools, professional organizations, neighborhoods, charities, and clubs. But now, in our travels, our social circle is primarily just the two of us and that quickly starts to feel very small.


Exploring breathtaking landscapes and immersing yourself in the rich history of your travel destination may feed your intellect, but connecting with people in meaningful ways feeds your soul.


Studies show that the importance of a strong sense of community is vital for our emotional, physical, and cognitive well-being. Thus, the quest to find creative ways to have meaningful human interactions while traveling quickly became a high priority for us. We realized meaningful connections rarely happen by chance. The waiter at the restaurant does not have time to discuss politics with you!


We needed to find a way to intentionally place ourselves in situations conducive to genuine conversations and connections. While the path to building connections is unique for everyone, here are some valuable insights and approaches that have helped us to connect with fellow travelers.



BOOK BOUTIQUE ACCOMMODATIONS WITH COMMON GATHERING PLACES


Large hotels offer lots of amenities such as fitness centers and restaurants, but I have found the larger the accommodations, the less intimate the interactions are among the guests. Smaller venues, such as boutique B&Bs, provide the perfect backdrop for meaningful conversations with other guests. A communal breakfast table facilitates not just a meal, but a relaxed opportunity to linger over coffee and learn details of your fellow travelers’ backgrounds as well as share your own experiences. Occasionally, this might result in spending the day together exploring a common interest.


EAT WITH A LOCAL


We are always on the lookout for unique ways to connect with locals and one of our all-time favorite experiences is to break bread with a local resident at their home. We have discovered an easy way to facilitate these connections is through a platform called Eatwith.


EatWith hosts Jose and Luis in Mexico City

Eatwith is a brilliant website that connects adventurous travelers like us with hospitable locals who host a dinner party in their home. There is a reasonable fee for the experience and have found the hosts to be great cooks and lovely conversationalists.


You can trust that Eatwith has thoroughly vetted the hosts, and their glowing reviews reassure you that you are in for a safe and delectable experience!



We’ve had wonderful evenings eating delicious local dishes with individuals who have lived their entire lives in the place we are just visiting for a few weeks. They have entertained us with stories about growing up, living, and working in the area. We have had deep conversations covering diverse subjects including politics, the economy, and local customs. There is always much laughter and an occasional tear.


We arrive as strangers and leave with a feeling like we have local friends that we would enjoy seeing again.


SHARE A MEAL WITH YOUR HOST


Every now and then, our travels grant us a delightful surprise—an opportunity to share drinks or dinner with our gracious hosts when we opt for a rental or a home exchange. Now, not every host may be up for this adventure, but when you find the ones who are, you are likely in for an extraordinary experience that will leave lasting memories.


Family Asado in Mendoza, Argentina

In Argentina, our host invited us to join them for their family’s Friday night asado.


An asado is both a technique of cooking over an open fire as well as an event. Like the American “barbecue”, the asado typically goes on for hours and consists of grilled meats, wine and conversation.


The event starts with building a fire to provide the coals and then roasting several types of delicious meats, usually beef, pork, chicken or chorizo throughout the evening.




Not only did we have the pleasure of spending time with our host, but we also got to meet their adult children and friends who stopped by throughout the evening. The asado was much more than a meal. It was the perfect way to immerse ourselves in the vibrant Argentinian culture.

Travel becomes truly special because of these surprising moments when people we don't know become our friends, and we get to truly experience a different culture. As we said goodbye to our new friends from Argentina, our hearts were filled with thankfulness for the amazing experience they had given us.



DEVELOP YOUR ONLINE COMMUNITY


The internet is a treasure trove of opportunities to connect with other travelers from around the world. From finding inspiration for your next adventure to travel tips and hacks, the online community is a robust space for sharing information with like-minded people.

The desire to connect beyond the digital landscape, however, is a sentiment often shared among individuals who embrace a long-term travel lifestyle. The internet can help facilitate that too.


The Facebook group GoWithLess – Nomadic Life, Early Retirement, Travel Hacking, House Sitting, does a wonderful job creating a forum for travelers to share their locations each week so that travelers in a common location can meet-up in person if they are so inclined.

We have had the opportunity to do this in both Mexican and Argentina and I am sure we will continue to do so in the future. Meeting people who share the common bond of a travel cultivates an immediate sense of camaraderie. Conversations flow effortlessly and lasting friendships are developed quickly.


GoWithLess Friends in Mexico

GET SOME EXERCISE

Padel Tennis in Buenos Aires

Discovering local sporting facilities is a fantastic way to stay active while immersing yourself in the community. Whether it's joining pickleball clubs in Mexico or padel clubs in Argentina, we have discovered abundant opportunities. From hiking groups to niche sports, there's likely a welcoming local group that shares your passion.


It’s been a great way to get some exercise, meet new people, and enjoy our favorite sports while exploring new places.





ITS OK TO BE A TOURIST


When we first started traveling, we would cringe at the sight of a large group of people following someone around speaking into a microphone and waving a large umbrella while leading a tour group. We were travelers, not tourists! But do you know who is on those tours? People to talk to and slowly we began to re-evaluate our aversion to group tours.

Though still a work in progress, we have learned a few things about using tours as an opportunity to connect with other travelers. Large group tours typically feel like herding cats and do not provide the right environment to connect with others. However, we have found some things that have worked well. Walking tours usually consist of smaller groups and the time spent walking between locations makes for easy conversations. Food tours are also a great way to explore the local culture and bond with fellow travelers over a meal. Generally, the smaller the better as the conversations get more intimate with fewer people.


Food Tour in Rio de Janeiro


MAKE IT EASY TO STAY IN TOUCH

"Purrfectly Packed" Family from the Ferry in Argentina

Occasionally you will have a chance encounter with other travelers and would like to stay in touch, but it can be awkward to share contact information. Social Cards (as opposed to business cards) have been the perfect solution for easily sharing our contact information.


For example, we met a lovely young family while exiting the ferry between Uruguay and Argentina. We shared enough of our stories in our short encounter to know that we would enjoy speaking further, but exiting a ferry while juggling a baby jogger and a toddler was not the ideal time to write down contact information. Our social card was an easy way to share our information.


They reached out the next day and we were able to set up a fun dinner that would likely not have happened otherwise. We learned during the dinner of their inspiring story making the decision to take a break from their steady jobs in the U.S. and travel the world with their one-year-old and their CAT! Check out their adventures at PurrfectlyPacked.com.


SUMMARY


Ultimately, the true joy of travel lies more in the connections you forge along the way than in any physical destination. Make the effort to create these connections and you will be richly rewarded with memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.

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