- Be friendly. Smiling at strangers can be scary sometimes, but introducing yourself to person next to you on the train/plane can turn a 4 hour nap into something decidedly more exciting. Like this:
Everyone is free game here. I met a bartender from Omaha, Ne. (my town) in Prague, gotten a free place to stay from the couple that sat across from me on a train and made a NYC business connection while on a tour in Berlin.
- Opt for Couchsurfing or hostels over hotels. You're not going to meet someone if you never go around people you don't know. Apply rule #1 here and you will go far.
- Have travel companions. When you are traveling, (even if it's just down the road to a new restaurant), people may ask if you want company. Accept. Even if you don't know them that well, they will bring a fresh perspective and network of people to your experience.
- Be spontaneous. Don't get too caught up on your agenda. While it is good to have some sort of a plan, you meet the best people when you're least expecting. Many times, this is when you're lost (physically or emotionally).
Had I not taken the "next ferry to anywhere," I wouldn't have found this pelican in Mykonos and learned that the local business owners let pelicans walk into their restaurants.
- Sit at the bar/communal table/in the park near others. Especially when you are alone. No one will approach you when you sit in the corner table by yourself. Sit next to another person who is alone and you already have a friend. Tip: compliments & trivia facts make great conversation starters.
- Help others. If someone else is having trouble with a language, map or their new metro card, help them out. You may hear their story or get an opportunity to share yours.
- Focus on your differences. The idea of meeting new people is to meet new people. Even when you think your differences are too big to overcome.
- Talk too much. You'll never learn anything if you don't learn how to listen first.
- Assume every one speaks English. Even though most people do, it's rude to assume so. Show some initiative and look up "hello" or "please" in a couple languages. Your host or guest will appreciate it. You will probably mess up at some point - laugh about it with your new friends (assuming you didn't accidentally offend them).
- Be afraid to go alone. I know this is contradictory to what I said above, but what if no one wants to join you on a trip to a remote town in Alaska? If you've always wanted to go, you should!
- Forget to take pictures. But remember to put down the lens & enjoy the moment, too.