One of the challenges of a nomad is to constantly make an effort to build a social circle while traveling and changing locations to avoid loneliness and be happier.
Before we move on to the actual ways of meeting people while traveling, a wise thing to do would be to first understand, who is it that you want to befriend. Just like anything else in life, if you don’t know what is your best strategy, achieving your goal is becoming much harder to prone to luck. In this case of building a social life, you may spend a lot of time trying to befriend the wrong profile of people that will not really make you happy or can not give you the social life you are looking for.
Generally, there are two major groups of people you can meet while traveling: Tourists, and Locals. There are also some other unique groups, such as expats (a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of their citizenship- Wikipedia), that are basically a mix of those two groups all together. Before you move on to our two articles about We how to meet tourists while traveling, and how to meet locals while traveling, we recommend trying to figure out who is your idea candidate for future friends and relationships by answering the following questions.
- How long do you plan to stay in the current location? If you stay a few months, befriending tourists will be exhaustive as they will keep on disappearing on you. Having local friends in this case will be a stable and rewarding experience, and you will be the one quitting on them at the end!
- Are you into fun and exploration or you are interested in assimilating in a place? A nomad is usually someone that aims to fit in the place they are at, and disconnect from the tourist mentality. Therefore, investing time in building a social life that focuses on locals will make you fit right in, while having a tourist circle of friends will probably not speed your assimilation.
- Are you working, or do have a lot of free time? Nomads usually work to sustain themselves, therefore, the need their social cycle to have the same availability hours as they do. Needless to say, tourists are focused on 24 hours exploration and fun, so keeping up at their pace for a working nomad is almost impossible. On the other hand, if you have the entire day while free to explore and have fun then befriending tourists makes sense, as locals will only be available after work.
- Are you on a tight budget? If so, befriend locals or backpackers, and avoid expats or regular tourists. In many cases, regular tourists pay a premium on local prices since they are into exploring and fun and have limited time to do so, which makes their experience more intense but also more costly. Tourists also have an information gap that results in paying an additional premium in comparison to locals who already know the best value spots around town and all the tricks and shortcuts to enjoy it on a local budget. Locals can pass to you valuable information to save money in various aspects of life including accommodation and transportation so that’s one more reason to invest in getting local friends. You should also be aware that if your spending budget is high, locals (and also backpackers) might not be able to keep with you, so in that case hanging out with regular tourists and expats will be best.
- Are you genuinely interested in the culture and mindset of a country or just want to hang out with fun people? Both options are great, however, if you are into culture, history, politics, than there is no question about the advantages of spending time with locals. In your conversations with them, they will share a wealth of information you will not be getting from tourists.
- Do you know the local language, or wish to learn it? If so, it goes without saying that spending time with locals will allow you get speed to your goal. However, if you have no interest to learn the local language, and the local population level of English is low, then you are left with no real choice other than hanging out with tourists.
So, which one is better, locals or tourists? As you have seen by this analysis, this basically depends on who you are. I would sum it up by saying that if you are a traveler, focus on meeting fellow tourists, and if you are a nomad that actually stays in a place and works for a while, focus on meeting locals.