We are a generation of travelers. This is a fact that I came to realize these last couple of years. Young people now, more than ever, are born with an inherent need to escape, to discover, to see, to feel and learn. We want to move and go everywhere, passing from place to place in a manic frenzy to get as many experiences as possible in the limited time that we have. We have a pretty clear image of what traveling is. We even know how to do it meaningfully but it almost always includes moving: a plane, a train, a bus, a boat or all of the above.
Yet, recently I discovered a different way of traveling and through it I’ve managed to visit six continents without ever leaving my own. As you might have already guessed I refer to international friendships. I think the most beautiful way of traveling is through people, through the magic of friendship, of connecting with a person who lives in the other side of the world. In the last two years, just because I’ve met countless pf inspiring people who share their experiences, routine and culture with me I feel like I have visited places that I’ve never set my foot on (ex. Ecuador, Peru, Russia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, the Canary Islands and the list goes on).
Here are some of the best ways to meet people you can “travel” through.
Meetup – Whether you are abroad or in your hometown you can use Meetup to find groups of travelers and join them in activities that interest you. Film-festivals, cooking vegan food, art-gallery crawls and (my personal favorite) language-exchange are just some of the examples of what you can find on the app.
Couchsurfing- Even if you don’t feel comfortable yet hosting people (or sleeping on someone’s couch in a foreign country), you can use Couchsurfing to meet-up with travelers or locals, hang out in the best places in town or become someone’s personal guide for the day. Group events and parties are also an option on the app and usually are a very good opportunity to socialize and have fun especially when you’re abroad. Hosting is the next level and I strongly advise you to try it out. It’s a very fulfilling experience that truly gives you the feeling that you’ve gained not only a new friend, but also knowledge of another culture- all from the comfort of your own house.
Erasmus+ Projects: Youth Exchanges, Training Courses, Study Visits etc are what I consider to be travel-inception multiple travels within one. This because while you physically visit one country, where the activity takes place, you will leave the project feeling like you’ve seen small parts of all the other countries represented there. You will taste their food, hear stories, dance their traditional dances and hear their language. After leaving you will be seeing them in your social media from posts of your newly found friends. And who knows? You might actually get to physically travel to these places at some point and when you do it will feel somewhat familiar.
And last but not least when you are abroad: be that person. You know the one I’m talking about: the person that talks to the people sitting beside them on the plane, who opens the conversation in the hostel, who asks for directions and tips from the passersby, who talks with people in museums, in the restaurant, on the beach. It might seem horrifying at first but I swear it works and you’ll end up checking off all of the countries in your bucket list.
Written by Ifigeneia Kamarotou