How to Meet Locals When Traveling

don't talk to strangers  This is part of a series on “Traveling in Europe: 10 Travel Lessons.” To read main article, click here.

Try to establish in advance at least one contact in each place you’ll be staying – someone who will meet with you – even for just a cup of coffee or glass of wine – if not host you for a night or more.

Insider information will save you time, money, and likely introduce you to places, events and people you’d not know otherwise. Best of all – especially if you’re traveling alone – you won’t feel so alone. IMG_1668

Here are some ideas and resources for finding and cultivating these friendly local connections:

Family, friends – ask if they know anyone in the places you’ll be visiting. You might be amazed – you may even have distant relations you hadn’t known of before.

Work-and-service-related people – co-workers, vendors, clients, customers; your hair dresser, auto mechanic – anyone you come across in the course of your work and life with whom you have a pleasant “relationship.” People like to be helpful to people they like.

Social Media – ask your online friends and fans for help.

Your hobbies and interests – It doesn’t matter if it’s classic cars, bakelite, tapestry, photography, gardening… whatever, there are groups/clubs and individuals who share your interests. You may find them via an online search for bloggers, authors, experts, forums, websites – people love to hear from those interested in their work – or you may find then at a specialty shop, an event, exhibit, lecture or movie on the subject, Also check out MeetUp, with group meetings all around the world for specialized interests. Join the group or forum or blog, make yourself known, and then attend a local meetup.

Professional Associations – if you’re a member of any group with international affiliation in the country you’re visiting, you have kin. – is a growing online group for professionals of all kinds with meetings and events in cities worldwide. It offers free membership and is a good place to start meeting local residents, although many are expats from all over the world. The groups tagline is “Nobody stands alone.”

Same is true of the following:

Religious/Spiritual Affiliations – church, temple, meditation center

Civic Clubs – Kiwanis, Rotary, 4H, community meeting halls

Volunteer & Cause-Based Organizations

Sports Fan Clubs

Sport Itself

12 Step Programs

While these are some ideas, I love if you’d share what you know. And, of course, just being friendly – a smile, a helpful gesture, a question – can result in good times – and even lifelong friendships – with local people and fellow travelers.

If you have more ideas and experiences, please leave your comments at the blog post!