Meeting people from all over the world is one of the most rewarding parts of traveling, but it’s something that a lot of couple travelers miss out on. Most people seem to have no problem approaching solo travelers or even groups of friends, but often hesitate when it comes to couples — maybe worrying about becoming a third wheel or interrupting the couple’s private time together. Whatever the reason, the result is that it’s easy for couple travelers to become an isolated unit. Here are a few tips for preventing the couple bubble when you’re traveling with your SO.
Stay in Social Places
Staying in hostels is pretty much the top piece of advice for solo travelers interested in meeting people on the road, but it’s equally good advice for couples. Sometimes my husband and I stay in dorms and other times we opt for a private room, but in either case, we always take advantage of the opportunity to meet other travelers in the common areas and join in hostel social events.
Lately AirBnB has been replacing hostels as our go-to type of accommodation, so we typically choose private or shared rooms rather than renting an entire home/apartment. This gives us the opportunity to interact with the hosts, as well as other guests if the home has more than one room. When the dynamic is right, we’re able to form a little family with our hosts and the other guests for a few days, sharing stories and cooking meals together, and it can be a really wonderful experience.
Couchsurfing is another awesome option. Of course, it doesn’t really work for couples if the host has a literal couch (although if there are couples out there that can make that work, I’d love to know!), but tons of hosts have sofa beds or standard beds. The added perk is that there are regular Couchsurfing meet-ups in tons of cities around the world, which can be great opportunities to socialize with local hosts as well as other travelers. Even if you’re not Couchsurfing in a certain city, you can still attend an event there if you’re part of the network.
Other couples will occasionally strike up a conversation with us, but for the most part, we’re usually the ones to initiate conversations with other people. As I mentioned above, people often seem to assume that couples aren’t interested in socializing with others, which means you have to make the first move.
It’s not always easy. I know how nerve-racking it can be to simply say “hi” to a random stranger. I wish I could say I’m fearless about introducing myself to people whether I’m alone or with my husband, but frankly, I find it easier to be outgoing when we’re together. If the person doesn’t respond well or doesn’t seem interested in chatting, being able to simply go back to talking to one another kind of takes the edge off the rejection!
When it comes to connecting with locals, learning a few words of the local language is always helpful. I’m the first to admit that speaking a language you hardly know can be intimidating, but that’s exactly what makes it a perfect ice-breaker. Stumbling over words definitely makes you come across as more approachable, and the fact that you’re trying to have a conversation despite your less than stellar language skills demonstrates how eager you are to socialize.
Get Involved in Group Activities
Group activities are a fantastic way to mix-up the routine of doing everything as a pair. Tons of cities around the world offer free walking tours. I love them because in addition to socializing with other people on the walk, the tours usually provide a nice overview of the city and a sense of the areas we might want to explore in depth later.
If you’re visiting a place for a bit longer, language classes are one of my favorite options. Not only do you meet people in class, but learning the local language increases the number of people you’ll be able to communicate with in the future. If you don’t want to sign up for a formal class, you can usually find free language exchanges through hostels, Facebook groups, or Meetup.
Group activities that involve learning a new skill are always a safe bet. There’s something about a shared learning experience that naturally brings people together. Depending on the destination, you can take lessons cooking, diving, surfing, flower arranging — you get the idea.
Make the Effort
It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but whenever my husband and I find that we’re not meeting people on the road, it’s because we’re just not trying to. It’s so much safer and easier to lazily retreat into the couple bubble instead of putting ourselves out there. Ultimately, the key to meeting people while traveling as couple is continuing to push outside your comfort zones. Keep reminding yourselves that it’s worth the effort, because travel takes on so many incredible new dimensions when it’s shared with new friends.