Ten Tips for Making New Friends While Traveling Overland

Jun 1, 2013
Just because it’s the road less traveled doesn’t mean you’re the only one on it.

Traveling overland can be very rewarding, but it can also mean a lot of long, lonely miles far from home. This is true whether you’re solo or riding with a co-pilot or two. Inevitably, every traveler is going to want to make a few new friends along the road. Having friends not only feeds our soul as humans, but having folks with whom to share the experience – even if they’re only part of your journey for a day or two – simply makes the experience all the more enjoyable.

After all, happiness is only real with it’s shared. (I heard that somewhere.)

1. Forget your hangups.
The first rule is to let go of all the rules you’ve created for yourself. For example, I used to live by this one: to travel as many miles as possible on dirt roads. Sometimes I’d try to cross entire states without touching pavement. While this has its merits, what I came to realize is just how much of a place – and its people – I was missing by moving so slowly and avoiding its developed areas. When I gave up that rule, I began to experience places in their full spectrum, not simply for their backcountry traits alone.

2. Get out of your vehicle.
Try a city walking tour in Savannah, book a rafting trip in West Virginia, or drop in on some arbitrary local festival in middle America. When surrounding yourself with other people, it’s almost impossible not to strike up conversations at some point. You can discuss how interesting the sites are, and then segue into what other area activties they plan on taking in. From there, making conjoined travel plans is simple.

3. Take an interest in people.
The only one who cares so much about you and your travels is you. Trust me. Don’t just talk about yourself. Your life may be mega-exciting and your new friends are probably stoked to hear about it, but hold yourself back once in awhile. Ask the questions that let people know you care about their lives, too. (If you don’t have a copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, grab one and read it on the road.)

4. Stay at campgrounds
“No RV parks and no campgrounds. We’re backcountry campers or boondockers only!” I used to say this. I always thought these places would be boring and I’d be bothered by a bunch of confused old people. (No offense, y’all.) But what I found out was that there is a lot to learn from such a high density of folks who spend so many days on the road. And in fact, many RVers are young-ish and often as cool as people I’ve met in the backcountry.

5. Couchsurf
Use Couchsurfing to find hosts excited to open their homes to passing travelers, then simply ask if they’re cool if you pitch your tent instead of taking the spare bedroom. You’ll likely find they are. For hosts, couchsurfing is a way to broaden their horizons and meet people who share a love of traveling; for you, it’s a chance to meet a local who can show you around town and give a perspective you wouldn’t get on your traditional “tourist experience.” Don’t forget: cities are excellent overlanding destinations. (See #1 if necessary.)

6. Find/build an online community before you depart – and use it
Social media isn’t just for sharing funny pictures and telling the world how you’re feeling; it can also be used to meet other people when traveling. Use online forums like Expedition Portal or Virtual Touristto find like-minded travelers who may be in your area. Another method is to use Twitter or Facebook to grow a strong base of overlandering friends, then let them know your plans as your move. Even if nobody else will be in the area you’re traveling, they may have a friend or family member who will be.

7. Learn a new skill
A great trick is to try something that’s specific to a region. You could take a language class in San Miguel de Allende, learn how to pick a banjo in Kentucky, or master salmon smoking in Vancouver. Not only will you meet fellow travelers with these activities, you’ll also get a chance to hone a new skill you’ll carry with you for life.

8. Pickup a stranger
This doesn’t mean snag a hitchhiker at your next interstate on-ramp. Using online resources likeZimRide, Ridester, eRideShare, or ShareYourRide allow you to locate and screen potential riders prior to picking them up. This is generally a better option for regional sections of your journey that are long-distance and high speed, as usually your ridesharer will be a twenty-something interested in a quick and cheap lift to a specific place. That said, it will give you someone with whom to chat while offsetting your fuel costs for that leg of the trip.

9. Go with a group
Maybe one of the best ways to ensure you’ll have friends on the trip is to plan one with them. Register for an event like Cruise Moabor a Jeep Jamboree, or link up with some fellow travelers using Globetrooper. Group settings like this can take some of the thinking out of your travels, permitting you to simply enjoy being part of the pack while exploring new and beautiful areas. Further, because there is safety in numbers, it greatly enhances security against things like mechanical breakdowns and crime.

10. Volunteer
Volunteering is a worthwhile way to spend your time in any new place. Not only will you be helping a community in need, you’ll also be immersing yourself in a culture and getting to know locals and other volunteers. Check into organizations like WWOOF and the Muskoka Foundation to find out more about opportunities that might exist in the areas you’ll be passing through.

Read the original article here.
Do you make an effort to make new friends while out on the road? If so, how do you usually do it, and what tips can you provide fellow travelers?


New Member
May 28, 2013
Good thoughts.

Interestingly, most overland trips focus on route, the adventure and not many on people and cultures.

Let's hope we hear more 'I met this person' type stories.