On my travels in Bali I have had the good fortune to meet some really incredible people from around the world.
There is a level openness that I have experienced with people while traveling that doesn’t always occur as quickly when people are in there natural habitats.
For instance the chance that you would even be out to lunch or dinner by yourself at home is probably pretty rare. And the chance that you would see someone who seems interesting and ask to join them at their table or vice verse is even more rare. However, when you are traveling alone and surrounded by other people traveling alone there is a strong desire to connect.
I have had long conversations with strangers, even spending the entire day with them, exploring and talking. There are a few things I have noticed that have made these experiences so enjoyable, fulfilling and easy.
1. Being open to conversing with strangers.
For myself and the people I have met, this is the first characteristic that has allowed for connection. You need to be able to let down your guard. If you are sitting around looking and acting closed off, you are going to be left alone. If you sit around looking like you are enjoying yourself and have open body language (i.e.: you are not burying your nose in a book, or otherwise trying to look “busy”) than there is a greater chance that someone will start talking to you. You also have to realize that people who are sitting around doing the same thing are probably hoping for conversation as well. Notice what they are eating or doing and make a nice comment or ask a question. It doesn’t take much to start a whole conversation.
2. Smile and Make Eye Contact
Pretty obvious! This alone is often enough to open up a conversation with someone as well as keep people feeling comfortable and engaged during conversation.
3. Ask a lot of questions.
A great way to keep a conversation going and to make the person feel like you are interested in what they have to say (who doesn’t want that?) is to ask a lot of questions. I will often ask several questions while people share their stories, listen intently and then share a related story of my own. The person you are talking with will often start to follow suit and the next thing you know, 3 hours have gone by!
4. Be open and even a little vulnerable.
I am not saying you should share all your dirty laundry, but after you start to get to know someone the sooner you can share something of yourself that runs a little deeper and shows some real humanity, the quicker you will put the person you are speaking with at ease. Then you can really begin to get to know someone besides the usual ‘Where are you from. What do you do for a living. What are you doing in Bali?” sort of conversation. One of the first people I met in Bali was a master at this. We had talked casually over the course of a day , and then he started sharing about the death of his brother while on a trip to Barcelona. This floored me and opened up days worth of conversation about life, death, relationships and more. By the time we went our seperate ways I felt like I had made a true friend.
5. Have self-confidence.
You are interesting and others who are traveling are interested in you simply because you are different, live in a different locale and have different experiences. So enjoy sharing who you are, what you do and where you come from, as well as experiencing the pleasure of listening and learning from someone else.