Building Lasting Friendships on the Road

One of the main reasons given for wanting to travel is to meet interesting people from all over the world. I can’t tell you how to make friends and I assume that if you’re reasonably social and not a dickhead that you will meet people as you go. Then again, if you are a dickhead then you might very well attract plenty of your own kind to hang around with too. If you can play nice with others and make friends at home, then you will do fine on the road.

What I can say about making friends during your travels is that the friends I still have are not people I’ve met in a hostel over a few days of sightseeing by day and boozing by night. The friends who last, at least for me, are the people who I initially spent a good amount of time with, sharing some common experience beyond just travelling.

Early on in my travels I remember being eager to swap email addresses with pretty much everyone I had a conversation with. Everything was so new and exciting and everyone I met seemed to be doing something amazing and have a great story to tell. I guess now I’m less impressed by stories of backpacking and I need to really get to know a person before I decide that I want to stay in touch. For me, getting to know a person isn’t something that happens over a few days.

The friends I’m still in touch with after spending a summer living in Ireland in 2000 are the ones who also spent the summer living there, working crap jobs for beer money. Same goes for my year-long trip around Australia in 2001 – my friends from that trip are the ones I picked fruit with for several months in various spots across the country. I’ve got a gang of Australian friends from my five years living in London, plus plenty of local pals. The people I’ve met volunteering are some of the best friends I have and I chalk that up to spending not only a lot of time together but also to sharing some pretty amazing experiences along the way.

No matter which way to choose to travel, you will end up with a crazy number of new Facebook friends in a relatively short amount of time. People make friends in different ways and it takes some people a lot longer to bond with new buddies than others. All I’m saying as that, in my almost nine years of living, working and travelling overseas, all of my lasting friendships have come from encounters that went beyond spending a few days seeing some sights and hanging out in the bar together.

So if you’re heading off on a longer-term trip and making new, lasting friendships is a priority for you then I would recommend sticking around in a few places along the way or sticking with the same people for longer than a handful of days. Rent a place for awhile and get a job, volunteer, hang out in a cool hostel for a few weeks, work on a farm in exchange for accommodation, study a language, take up surfing, go on a road trip, whatever.

Don’t be so quick to speed through one place to get to the next. The places will always be there but the people in them won’t. If one of your main reasons for travelling is to meet people then take things slow and do things along the way. Give friendships a chance to develop into something more than a crazy weekend in some exotic place. When I think back on all of the friends I have from my travels, I’m glad I did

How about you… what have your experiences been? Have you managed to stay in touch with people you’ve met for brief stints on your travels? Do you have many lifelong friends from your travels? Any advice on building lasting friendships as you wander around the world?

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