A conversation with an amazing stranger might be one of your travel dreams, but how do you get started? Just walk up to someone and shout HEY YOU LOOK COOL LET’S BE FRIENDS”…?
Well… I mean, you can, and if someone actually responds to that then they’re likely to be the kind of person you want to be friends with. As well as being the kind of person who will probably invite you to go jetskiiing at some point. But what about those deep, meaningful friendships we dream of starting when we set off on our journeys?
We here at Brave Women Travel are all about friendship. Our women’s travel groups are specially designed to help you find people to connect with. But whether you’re on one of our tours or traveling alone, you can have amazing conversations with anyone. Here are some conversation starters to get you, er, started.
“Where are you from?”
This is a classic, particularly if you are among fellow travelers. The trick here is that this can sometimes devolve into small talk, which is the opposite of what we want. You only have a few hours/days/weeks with these people! Let’s get to the good stuff! Use this to move into asking something you have always wanted to know about their home town or country. If you are among locals, they can tell you about the town where they live, and maybe what it was like growing up in the country you are in.
“How long have you been here?”
If someone has just arrived, you can offer to show them around. If they have been here for weeks or months, or are living in the country permanently, they can show you around, and you can have a conversation about their experiences. Win-win. Even if you don’t want to actually get or give a tour, you can ask plenty of questions about what’s good to see and do.
“How long have you been traveling?”
This can be another case of giving and getting advice based on each person’s experience. But often when asking this question, I have discovered some people who have been traveling for weeks or months in many different countries. They can tell you about each country and their impression of it, maybe giving you some ideas for your next trip.
“Can you tell me how to travel alone, as a woman?”
This is, obviously, something that is best asked of women who are traveling alone – and you can get some real, on the ground advice from these conversations. Ladies love to help other ladies, whether it’s lending lipstick or teaching them ways of staying safe. You can also have an amazing conversation on global attitudes toward women, as many travelers have enough experience to really get deep on the subject.
“What’s something you’ve learned since you started traveling?”
The answer to this could be something as simple as “how to say hello in _____ language” or “how not to panic when I lose my train ticket.” It could also be something amazing and profound about the person’s inner self. You never know what you’re going to get, and any of the responses could lead to a great conversation.
“What’s something you miss from home?”
You might not want to think about this if you’re just starting your trip, but for long travels it can be nice to think back on your home life. Part of the reason for travel, after all, might be to gain perspective on your every day troubles and appreciate what you have. This can also be a great conversation to learn about the other person’s home life and culture. (Asking this question once led me to celebrating a German-style Easter in Chiang Mai, Thailand.)
“What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten while traveling?”
This is a fun one, and will usually lead to some lengthy anecdote about Why They Ate The Weird Thing.
“What was the best night of your life?”
This is a fabulous conversation to have. You can learn about what people value – you might have to press them a little for details, of course. It might be “the night my child was born”, for example, which seems like an obvious response, until you ask them to describe the elation and joy of the experience. If you do want a more eclectic conversation, try “weirdest” instead of “best”.
“What was the worst night of your life?”
Also very telling, although you might want to wait until you have established some trust with the person first. Maybe mention that you’re not asking about *those* sorts of encounters.
“What part of this trip are you going to remember the most clearly?”
You could pick two sides to this, good and bad, to get a nice balanced conversation about the place you are visiting. For example, you might remember the amazing way the sun hits the sea in the early morning, but also the crowded and confusing railway stations. Who knows.
These conversations are not just fun, they’re important too. Making real, deep connections means that you will have people to call if anything goes wrong, and friends you can come to for advice. These friendships don’t have to last forever (although they can – more on that another time.) As women traveling alone, or in groups, we have to watch out for one another.
Remember: gutsy women travel alone. But courageous women are willing to make friends and ask for help when they need it.