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Connections for the Solo Traveler

No one understands traveling like an expat. However, traveling alone is another matter altogether. If you’re going to be flying, driving, or otherwise moving between locations in the near future and you’re planning on doing so alone, here are a few tips to help shake those dreary feelings of solitude and stay connected with others as you go.

Treat Your Travels Like a Mini “Expat Adventure”

Just because you’re likely used to spending longer times abroad doesn’t mean a shorter trip has to be much different. As you travel, remember that there are thousands upon thousands of others around you who are in the same boat (or train or plane) as you. You’re all temporarily misplaced, even if it’s just for the weekend.

Therefore, in the name of expats everywhere, be fearless in your willingness to connect with others around you. Engage in conversation, look for opportunities to ask questions, and try to find the threads within each of your narratives that relate to one another.

Even if you can’t find a specific thing that you can relate to, look for anything from their choice of luggage to a sweet arm tattoo that you can use to show interest and spark a conversation. However, as always, make sure that you show careful respect for personal and cultural boundaries when doing so.

On top of the social thrill that this kind of behavior can unleash, getting connected can also be a great way to find out about a new place, gather tips, and locate hotspots that you may have otherwise been unaware of.

Think About How You Choose To Connect

Everyone communicates differently. In fact, you can typically break down different communication styles into four broad categories:

  • Intuitive style: An intuitive communicator is goal-oriented and always looking for the bottom line in a conversation.
  • Analytical style: Analytical communicators love stats and figures. They love to communicate in an informed manner.
  • Personal style: Personal communicators love to connect, see things from other people’s points of view, and serve as mediators.
  • Functional style: Functional communicators love the process. They enjoy instructions and formulas, and their communication is very structured.

If you can identify how someone is communicating with you, you can adapt your own responses. Conform to their preferences in order to encourage rather than squelch their style, thus prolonging the conversation.

Listen Actively

It’s easy to stay in your own head, and stepping out of your comfort zone and talking with a complete stranger is an intimidating proposition. However, there are a few things that can make this experience less intimidating and more rewarding:

  • Take time to actively listen: Listening to others actively and empathetically isn’t just something that counselors are paid to do. It can be a great way to show another human being that you genuinely value what they have to say.
  • Speak to them in their language: If you’re traveling internationally, try your best to talk to others in their own language. You don’t have to worry about your level of language skills, either. A simple “hello” or “how are you today?” uttered in another tongue can be a warm invitation for your new acquaintance to reciprocate by trying to speak to you in your language as well.
  • Utilize technology: Remember, Google Translate is always a click or finger tap away. If you’re trying to connect and language is a barrier, pop a phrase or two into an online translator and let the communication commence.

All It Takes Is a Little Effort

While you never know how each attempt to connect is going to play out, the important thing is that you try to connect in the first place.

Looking for a shared interest or unique talking point can open up a chance to bond. Showing respect through active listening can encourage others to engage with you. Being sensitive to another person’s individual style of communication can enable you to overcome any cultural or personal awkwardness and speak directly to the heart.

Remember, though, it all starts with a simple willingness to try.

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