6 Proven Tips Guaranteed to Start a Conversation on your travels Be it on a plane, train, bus, or beach #5 is our favorite
Seriously you are traveling alone on a 14-hour flight or even a 38 hr flight to Down under or something and you are sat in the middle seat between 2 total strangers. How do you start a conversation when travelling with the person next to you? Without coming across as a boring old fart or a nosy Julie? Nor do you want to spend 14 hours in an uncomfortable silence.
This is a question that arose on a chat and which somehow came up at a party. So we decided to play devil’s advocate and throw it out here too.
We are looking to hear some awesome suggestions in the comments below on:
“How to start a conversation with strangers when travelling or at an event”
So here is our view on strike up a chat on a flight, beach, etc. when travelling with the person next to you:
Remember that not everyone you meet is a homicidal maniac looking to obliterate the human race or cleanse the system of bison hunters! Assuming you are, 🙂 So…
Whether you are travelling for work, pleasure, leisure, traveling solo etc. It’s possible to end up sitting with people you never met before esp. with the Airlines looking to make an extra buck by placing people on different seats even when they made a single booking.
If it’s a road trip on a bus or train, you definitely could find yourself sat with a stranger even if travelling with family or friends. Everything depends on first come first serve.
Subconsciously or consciously we have to consider:
- the best time to start a conversation. Should it be shortly after taking your seat, after take-off, during meals, when you need to visit the loo, or just stretch on the bus/flight/train?
- Is it a short journey or a long journey, and in that case, must you even start a conversation?
- Whether the other person wants to talk – Body language is a major signal here.
The thing is if you are travelling for business esp. to an event, it is a good idea to practice talking to strangers before you even get to the event. I recommend and feel you might benefit from effective networking at an event.
Here is the deal. If it’s on a flight, most people these days are stressed out with the queues at check in and airport security checks. If they rushed to the boarding gate they simply want to catch their breath…
Others are terrified of flying and want to play macho…Lots going on.
So it’s essential to get off on the right foot to; check the body language of the other passenger… You will learn and notice a lot. 80% of human communication is non-verbal. So be on the lookout for your cue to either keep schtum and mind your business or start that conversation.
Have they kept their shades on, look away every time you try to smile or look at them. Keep their eyes focused on some distant place… Look blank when you smile, Grump when you ask to get past them to your seat…All possible signs of;
“I think you are Osama’s sister and don’t wish to talk syndrome.” I made that up 🙂
Always remember the best part of starting a conversation on a flight or road-trip is to LISTEN to the response and pick up on whether to continue to let them be. I believe that we all meet for a reason and who knows where a conversation could lead. Or that you may uplift someone just by being friendly, communicative and listening to them.
We are all a little more suspicious and less sociable due to scare mongering by the media and real acts of terror. Yet, most humans are open, social people who don’t mind a friendly face and conversation. Who knows, your smile may uplift someone o your next trip.
I share 6 Effective ways I have been able to Start a Conversation with Strangers on our travels.
Below are some tips and conversation starters in any situation esp. when traveling on a long flight, train, bus ride, on a beach or wherever you are if not wit family or friends.
1. The Offer…I always have a packet of dried fruit and I bring an extra bottle of water. If it’s a flight I buy some in duty free after check in. Always ensure bottle, packet is sealed and of course check the sell by date! I then offer the person next to me. Here is how:
“Hey I am Julie, would you like some… (water, fruit etc.?)”
This works great on a bus or train ride. Not so much on a flight as meals are served in short order of take off, but it does break the ice!
On a flight from Budapest, Paul and I struck up a conversation with a man who was heading to LA for a shooting competition. It turned out he was a shooting expert. He told us all kinds of funny stories and the people he had met on various competitions…It made the short flight back to UK really interesting.
2. Or the Destination Question. Here is how I do it:
“Hey I am Julie; I am heading to (insert destination) for (trip aim) …How about you? Would you like some… (water, fruit etc.?)”
I always offer something. It’s about them right! Most people love positive attention. Make sure you have a sincere smile with your offer! 🙂
3. Flattery/Compliment….How about you show some appreciation of something they have. Their shirt, scarf, jewellery, dress, whatever. There’s always something. People love flattery…So here is how to start a conversation with a compliment, without coming across all stalker- weird. A lady’s scarf example that I actually have used:
“Hey I am Julie I like your scarf, such vivid colours, where did you get it if you don’t mind me asking?”
Be genuine in your compliment it does come across. If they seem uninterested, give a short response or ignore you, Let them be. If they are responsive, its an invitation to follow through on the conversation.
4. How to start a conversation – Ask a Question. For me, it’s so cool talking to different kinds of people. Sometimes I could talk for England to be honest.
I like to make others feel comfortable. So, if they are reading a magazine I ask them about it. Books, games, whatever! I show interest in what they are reading/doing. Depending on if I have read the magazine/book before, or not. I ask whether they recommend it as a good read…This makes them the expert and is very flattering to most people.
Ask some further questions if their response is positive. This could lead to me asking them what they do?
Do they like their job? How long have they done it…! Of course I don’t mind to share what I do in the process. In all this, watch their body language.
If they look grumpy, fold their arms across their chest, or simply give short abrupt answers…I let them be. Of course the idea is to break the ice, not keep them from reading their book/magazine throughout the flight!
Don’t bother them if they look tired either, or immersed in what they are doing. Just use common sense. If it’s a long ride, then better start that chat early. People are usually tired and less likely to speak after many hours on a flight, or sat on a bus long journey!
5. Offer to Help… This is a great ice breaker. If you notice that the other person is struggling with a piece of luggage and you can help put it away in an overhead bin or luggage stand. Do it. Esp. if they loo frail too.
And then of course introduce yourself immediately after you sit down. You could ask if they live in your departure city or destination. And if the latter, do they recommend any attractions, nice places to eat or even stay if you haven’t booked your accommodation! We found the most fun Eatery in Florence by chatting with the man we sat with on the flight…We ended up going there twice. We would never have found or even known it was a restaurant otherwise.
On the other hand if you are well versed with the destination and they aren’t, how about you suggest some jaunts they should check out? Great for building rapport and getting the convo going.
6. Let them be…This is worst case scenario. You could read a book or learn what you can do on a long haul flight! The other person may be incurably shy, going through some things, or they may simply be anti-social lol!
Others would rather be super doped on anti-histamines than speak to a stranger…Blame it on their momma’s effective training on “Stranger Danger.” But if you are gonna sit next to each other for the next 3+ hours, you may not be so strange by the time you arrive at your destination. If you each open up and start a simple natural conversation.
I consider this person “My Neighbour” for the moment and this takes away any feeling of discomfort talking to a total stranger…
If you can get someone to talk, you may help relieve some stress, fear of flying, heights whatever, and make their and your trip pleasurable. Isn’t that worth the effort? 🙂
Travel has allowed us to meet some of the most fascinating people with some amazing stories to share. We only got to know about them because we started a conversation, or responded to one on a trip…
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How to Start a Conversation – It’s a Wrap!
Caution: Be mindful of personal space, theirs and yours. I know it can be q squeeze esp. on a flight. But avoid touching, moving too close, staring too hard at the dude next to you even if they are a doppelganger for Denzel Washington! 🙂
Your conversation can be as random as your shoe laces…Yes I have had such a conversation! 🙂 It did make the 8-hour flight to Nairobi go faster…Of course we talked about other stuff.
Starting a conversation whether in transit, flight, road trip etc. it is all about communication and being willing to Share and Listen too. We all can learn a lot, find solutions for life’s little challenges and grow so much when we are willing to open up and talk.
So now you know our tips, why would you want to talk to anyone on a trip? And how do you start a conversation on a plane or long trip, share your Insights below!
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