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You can learn so much from them. The energy and vibe, I guess, outweigh the unfriendliness. Do not venture out past Brooklyn if you dare. Trust me. My next trip will be a major road trip spanning at least 12 different states. When you bring a lot of people together with this mindset, well, you get a lot of fast friendships. It makes me wish life could always be that way. It makes me love travel even more for it. I think I get hit on way more when I travel!

Great Article Matt. Funny, I definitely would approach someone wearing the classic Vietnam shirt too. I totally agree, though it also depends on where you are in the US. Excellent post Matt! I find going to the right social situations not bars, but dance lessons, chess clubs that kind of thing makes people a lot more open since they know they share something interesting with you. I think that one of the contributing factors to the difference in the ease of social integration you have found between travellers and people back home is the fact that, when travelling, nearly every interaction is a short-term thing.

When you are travelling, people feel comfortable striking up a conversation because, beyond that moment, there is no commitment or expectation for anything at all. When you are back home, surrounded by static people, because they tend to see the same people time and time again, there are alot of assumed expectations which can arise from a friendly conversation. The want to avoid these socially awkward situations is closely linked to the feelings of connective overload which I believe alot of people are suffering from. Whereas, BFB Before Facebook , you would have a small circle of close friends, a wider circle of friends and an even wider circle of acquaintances, people are now dealing with around people socially on a regular basis.

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This tends to make people feel overwhelmed and, ironically, isolated in that they either experience a social open-house or nothing at all. Adding yet another person to the legions of people who they would rather try and avoid further social contact with is something they would prefer not to have happen. Interesting post, Matt.


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I think there is a certain amount of truth to the fact that travelers are inevitably more social and outgoing than non-travelers. I Midwesterner through and through and I recently spent 8 months living in DC. We somehow manage to strike up a conversation and talked for hours about travelling — she was in the middle of her backpacking trip around the world. Great post! For example people meeting me in a square in Argentina and asking me for to their house for tea, just to chat, nothing else.

On another occasion a lady gave me the keys to her house to stay in while she went away for a few days…and in a bar in Bolivia a group of students invited me to play a dice game and drinking game with them. The answer is, up to now, no but I am very much hoping that when I go home I will change my ways and be more open to these sort of experiences which make travel the great experience it is!

I love this Matt!!!! From living in Broome Western Australia to Toronto Canada, softly humming to myself in the streets and nodding simple greetings to people at the bus stop is apparently comparable to those in the looney bin. Straight jacket anyone?

Thank goodness my flights are booked, bags are packed and all I have to do is say my goodbyes over many glasses of wine thankyouverymuch! After only knowing them for 4 days we all travelled together for a week longer, and still keep in close contact with them. It is far easier to talk to random people in foreign countries because you either straight up have something unique about you be it your country of origin or where you are travelling to or from.

This creates an instant bond and endless topics of discussion. I found on a trip to NY a few weeks ago even staying away from tourist spots it is easy to strike up a conversation with anyone at anytime. Your right thought, back at home here in Australia people are guarded and question you as to why you would talk to them. So maybe you need to get back into the backpacker bars in NY and stay clear of the meat packing district.

You will be OK. In fact, I am the only one to have a whole website about it at HappierAbroad. This is a taboo subject as the Travel Channel has taught us to say that people are friendly everywhere, even at home. Our society is very cliquish and paranoid. But you know what, after my trip to Sulawesi where I made some new friends and met so many new people I could easily talk to, I missed that friendly feeling here, so I smile and nod more to people I meet on the street.

Surprisingly, a lot of them smile and nod back. Life is so much nicer if everyone is friendly. I always meet people when I attend religious services abroad. In Paris, go to the Jim Haynes dinner every Sunday www. You meet them in hostels, on buses, on tours, etc. You find each other. In some ways, it is like you are drawn to each other. I just stumbled upon this site for the first time and I must agree with you Matt. I traveled quite a bit over the years and always loved the friendships I struck up and how easy they seemed to come. The interesting part returning home is always the puzzlement I get when recounting my trip to friends, explaining how I met someone at X who was also enroute to Y so we ended up traveling together for a few weeks.

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How could that happen? Did I know them before? We seem to be of the opinion that someone will only reach out when they want something from you. Matt, Have already commented on your top article but after a few weeks in Colombia I had some more thoughts.

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At base a lot of people myself included in the past have a tendency to think that if someone helps you or gives you something they will certainly want something in return. However, during my travels I have turned this totally on its head. Am currently travelling alone through Colombia and the people here are incredible. They actually WANT to help others. They want that I go back to my country with a good impression of their beautiful country. And what is more.. This can be anything from advice on how to get to a site, to sharing local food with me in buses, to giving me a lift when the bus is cancelled, to inviting me to their houses just to chat…I actually was so impressed by the difference in attitude in the buses etc that I wrote an article about this comparing it to what would happen in Scotland if you spoke to people in the buses!!!!

It is certainly something I will take back to Scotland with me and at the very least if I learn this through my travel it will be a good travel! Thanks for your thought provoking article Matt. For me, one of the best places to meet people is at religious services. I am always made to feel welcome and I meet locals instead of tourists. But still, it became addictive the ease to strike up conversations and meet new people.

Conversely, 7 weeks is far too long to stay in the States, Matt.

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Im from Perth, West Australia. And before I set out on my solo adventure, I spent a month in hostels in Melbourne, just to see if I could cope on my own, meeting people. So, I was in this hostel bar, and I walked up and started talking to a girl. How right she was.

Now that is one of the reasons Perth is my favorite place in Australia. The level of friendliness is second to none. Wow, so phenomenal to read this. This is interesting culture! I love talking to strangers, striking up a conversation, sharing my stories and listening to theirs as well.

Even I love having deep conversation to strangers because I know that anyone life experiences could be a lesson for anyone. I will go for my first solo one-month this May.


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  • How do I deal with such cultures and make friends with them? In my previous trip, I met an American and he was friendly. So, I barely notice about such cultures. Hey everyone! Due to the age of this post and the difficulty in moderating lots of posts spam, comments here have been turned off. I post frequently and reply to threads on the boards! See ya there! There is always someone around.

    You are never truly alone.


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    • I decided to strike up a conversation. Nice shirt. You backpacked Southeast Asia, right? I just came back. I was there for nearly a year. We swapped emails and phone numbers, not having any clue that our wedding in Hawaii would be less than three years later. Travelers are waiting to meet you in every new place you go — and I have made some of the best friendships and contacts overseas while traveling after striking up conversations with random strangers!

      The great thing about traveling is that everyone generally travels with an open mind, and are there to meet new people and experience new things. Who are the coolest people you have ever met while traveling? I too love meeting people on the road and I have met some pretty amazing ones although none famous yet. I thought so too! Michael Franti! I saw him in concert recently and he is so fucking cool! Actually, my most recent blog entry is about when I saw him in concert. I also met Ani DiFranco randomly in Tokyo once and that encounter was… weird.

      For a lack of a better word. Would love to meet Michael Franti! Heading over to your blog to find that post! In this big wide world it makes you realize everyone famous are just people too! Fun stuff. I sat next to Chrissy Hynde at a restaurant. My friend was in awe but I was just chatting with her like she was my bestie. Very cool! Your email address will not be published. Notify me of follow-up comments by email.

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