While traveling by car across America is a time-honored tradition for the young & old alike, learning how to meet people on a road trip can be difficult if you don't know where to look. Follow the simple tips outlined below and you'll be on your way to sharing your exciting cross-country experiences with a whole new group of friends.
- Read the guidebooks. Even though you may know America like the back of your hand, most people don't, especially those coming from outside the United States. Getting to know the cities, parks, and entertainment venues listed in the travel guides, and planning your journey accordingly, is a great first step to meeting people on a road trip.
- Pack a tent. The most well-established social meeting grounds around the world are hostels, but outside of the largest cities in the U.S. you'll have a hard time finding any, and the private rooms of hotels are a poor substitute. What you can find in abundance though are national parks, and they can be a wonderfully laid-back environment in which to make new friends. Avoid the motels, remember the marshmallows, and spend some time in the great outdoors.
- Bring a companion. Having a friend along for the ride can be an invaluable asset, not only for sharing the cost of gas or driving time. Groups composed of both men and women are the most effective way of putting people at ease before you even meet them. Men traveling alone or in numbers can be intimidating, especially to female travelers, and groups made up of both genders demonstrate that you're "safe" and able to comfortably engage with the opposite sex, which really helps when you're trying to meet people on the road.
- Check out ride shares. Since hitch-hiking is illegal in most parts of the U.S., a lot of people turn to social networking websites and ride share listings to get to their next destination without spending a fortune. Checking in both before and during your trip and offering up space in your car can be a really good way to meet exciting people out on the open road, while simultaneously reducing the costs of travel.
- Don't neglect the rest stops. The numerous rest areas along U.S. highways are good for more than just stretching your legs, they also provide an informal meeting ground in which to make new friends on a road trip. Since many rest areas offer up some spectacular views of the surrounding environment, a lot of people make long stops for a picnic, a game of frisbee, or just relaxing outside their car for awhile. This can be an excellent opportunity for striking up a conversation, and a lot of times you can learn about destinations off the beaten path from people who've just been there.
- Listen for foreign languages. International travelers are usually the most eager to make new acquaintances because they're in an unfamiliar environment. They're also more accustomed to being randomly approached by strangers. These two characteristics make them prime candidates for on-the-spot socializing and becoming potential road trip buddies. Keep an ear out for people speaking unfamiliar languages or looking confusedly at maps, and try to offer some help or inquire about where they've come from. Usually they'll be thankful for the interruption, and will have an array of questions about where they should go and when.
- Break the ice. Whether on a road trip, backpacking around the world, or just hanging out at your local bar, the easiest and fastest way to meet new people is simply to introduce yourself. No matter how closely you follow the tips listed above, by far the most important thing is a willingness to be the first one to say "hello". So lose your inhibitions and just throw yourself out there; most of the time you'll be pleasantly surprised by people's reactions and eagerness to make new friends themselves.