Monday, July 10, 2017

Friends in All Parts of the World

I think that one of the BEST parts about studying abroad and traveling in general is the relationships you make along the way. I know that a lot of people prefer solo traveling or are more introverted but in my personal opinion, the best thing you can do for yourself is force yourself out of your comfort zone and encourage yourself to start random conversations, ask strangers for advice, socialize in bars, and just build relationships in general.

During my entire study abroad/traveling experience I chose to use couch surfing.com when it came to accommodation. This is a website that involves searching for people who live in the local area and applying to stay with them in their home for a certain amount of days. The hosts have reviews on their profile from other people who have stayed with them so that you can read them and see what other peoples experiences were like with them. Disclaimer: the accommodation is never anything fancy. Sometimes it's a bed, but most of the time it's a couch, cot, or blow up mattress on the floor. But honestly, what do you expect, its free! The greatest part about this website is that the people you stay with are all locals and know the area WELL. In almost all situations, the hosts are extremely social and are just looking for friends to hangout with, share travel stories with, and show around their hometown. It was through this website that I met some of the coolest people ever, and built some friendships that will last me a lifetime. I feel like I have second homes scattered across the world and I've learned so many life lessons from the people who have hosted me. Of course, staying with a stranger can see uncomfortable or awkward but my advice to you is to just try it! These people have hosted tons of travelers and there is a reason they open their homes up for free: after all they're not running free hotels for the sake of it, they want to share experiences with people and get something out of it as well!

If couch surfing.com doesn't sound like your forte, then another cool option is staying in hostels! Hostels are such social environments and are the perfect opportunity to meet other people and maybe explore another place with others who have the same intentions. I guarantee you that almost anyone staying in a hostel would be more than willing to partake in a conversation with you or hangout so again with the advice: don't just stay in your room and communicate with no one! You never know the kind of relationships you can make and it's honestly one of the most fun parts about traveling!

Basically, I'm writing this article to voice to others that if I had not forced myself out of my comfort zone when it came to socializing with others, my travel experiences would have been completely different. I still talk to some of the people that I have met on a daily basis and I'm currently planning on visiting some of them in different countries in the near future. The amount of crazy stories I have and the amount of opportunities that were opened up to me by being friendly were insane. Heck, I was lucky enough to ship champagne on a million dollar yacht parked in the most beautiful cove in all of Mallorca just because I opened up conversation with someone on a beach.

I hear about people traveling alone all the time and when I ask them "Did you meet friends along the way?" I commonly hear the response "No, I just stayed by myself." No matter how shy you are, experiences are always better when shared with others and meeting friends from all over the world is probably the coolest thing ever. Looking back now, I am more than grateful for abandoning my shame and forcing myself to throw myself out there to create relationships. So, once again, with advice straight from experience, I encourage you to get out there, open conversations, interact with strangers (keeping stranger danger in mind of course), be friendly, and create relationships all over the world!

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