Van Life: How to Meet People While Traveling

How to Meet People While Traveling

One of our favorite things about traveling is meeting new people. Encounters with strangers (who have sometimes become friends) helps us discover a place through a local’s eyes. We love it when someone who lives in the city or town we’re visiting shares their favorite bar or restaurant with us. Those are often the best tips and the things we remember long after we’ve left a place. Sound good but not sure how to do it? In this post we discuss how to meet people while traveling.

Tinder or Bumble

If you’re looking for romance or maybe just some company or okay something ellllllse then apps like Tinder and Bumble should do the trick. They’re free, tons of people are on them and they’re location specific. After all it worked for us haha.

Put your phone away

If you’ve taken public transportation lately you may have noticed that almost everyone has their face buried in their phone. It’s pretty hard to catch someone’s eye that way. We wrote a whole post about how to unplug and make the most of your adventure. If you really want to meet people while you’re traveling, keep your eyes open and out of your device! Better yet, instead of asking your phone for directions, ask a stranger!

How to Meet People While Traveling
Definitely not meeting anyone like this.


A quick search of Meetups in the Asheville area alone shows that there’s almost 500 different groups, or meetups, for you to join and well, meet people. And this isn’t unique to Asheville. These kinds of gatherings are happening all over the country and they’re often super-specific so you’re bound to find a group of people to fit in with.

Coffee Shops

Is this one too obvious to mention? Maybe. But it’s still one of the easiest way to connect with someone. If your barista is too busy to have a lengthy conversation while they’re working, chances are there’s someone else in the cafe who is open to chatting. Be sure to keep your face out of your device and if you see someone that looks friendly enough, go for it! Read more about some of our favorite coffee shops here.

How to Meet People While Traveling
Never underestimate the power of a pourover coffee.


The best bartenders can not only make a great cocktail but they also know how to keep the company of others. They’re just as quick to chat with their regulars as they are tourists. Some of our best local information has come from bartenders who are willing to share their favorite spots with us. Sometimes it’s come from the person sitting on the barstool next to us who’s willing to open up. Sounds a bit old school but the bar is still a great place to meet people, especially when you’re traveling.

How to Meet People While Traveling
If the cocktails are excellent, chances are the conversation will be too.

Social Media

We’re on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and so are tons of others. A lot of time when we’re traveling to a new place we’ll put it out there on social media and ask for recommendations of some of the best things to see, do and eat. We also try to see if anyone wants to meet up. Our friends have always been willing to share what they know and we’re so thankful for it! In addition, through social media we’ve also been able to connect with people we go way back with as well as meet up with new ones. On a recent trip to Washington, DC we met up with four people we’d connected with on Instagram. We spent an afternoon together walking around DC shooting photographs and even shared a beer and a meal with them. It was awesome actually meeting someone that before was just a tiny profile picture on an app. We hope it happens again soon.

How to Meet People While Traveling
New real-life Instagram friends @jokersandthieves and @awalkinthewild in DC!

REI Classes and Events

REI is more than a place you can buy awesome gear. It’s also an awesome place for meeting people. They’re in most major cities and they regularly offer classes and workshops that you can attend. Many of the events are free and those that cost money are often offered to REI members at a discount. We taught a photography class at the REI in February and had a blast. Even though it was in our own town we made some great connections. If you missed out on the class, no worries, we hope to teach another one soon. We’ve also written about of our photography gear choices and how to take better adventure photos.

Local Running Clubs

One of our favorite ways to explore a new place is by getting some miles in on our feet. It’s even better when it’s in the company of others. You can find out information about group runs by either visiting the local running shop. A lot of times the shop itself will host a run. If not they’re almost certain to be able to point you in the right direction. Most of the time these runs are free, you just have to find out when and where to meet. Bonus: If you happen to stay at a Westin, check to see if they have they offer a running group that you can join. We explored Boston with their running concierge and it was awesome! Running with a guide helped us learn a little more about the city, meet new people and not worry about getting lost.

Stay Somewhere Other Than Your Van!

Every now and then we need to regroup and spend the night in something other than our Wayfarer van. Nowadays there’s several options: AirBnB, Hipcamp and Couchsurfing to name a few. We’ve had great experiences with both AirBnB and Hipcamp and though we haven’t tried Couchsurfing, we’ve heard good things about it. We’ve also had good experiences in hostels. Meeting people often happens by default with these kinds of experiences. If you’re lucky, you and your host will hit it off and if you’re even luckier, there might even be other guests at the place you’re staying.

How to Meet People While Traveling
At the Shanti Community/Hipcamp site in Madrid, New Mexico

Take a Tour!

Tours are still relatively new to us. But within the past year or so we’ve gone on a carriage ride, a few boat tours and even a Segway tour through the desert. All of them have been in the company of others and it’s been a fun way to get to know and meet other people. One of things that seems to make striking up a conversation a little easier is that you already know that if you’re on the same tour you at least have that in common.

How to Meet People While Traveling
A Segway Tour in Phoenix, Arizona!

Van Life: How to Meet People While Traveling Recap

It’s easy to start to feel isolated after doing a lot of travel alone or with your significant other. Though we’re constantly searching for ways to get alone time on the road, we do love meeting new people! We’ve realized that though we’re in a committed relationship, we love getting out and finding new humans while traveling because it reinvigorates our own bond. It allows us to have new things to talk about and also allows for a new shared experience. Plus, who doesn’t like making new friends?! Do you have any tips or ideas for us related to how to meet people while traveling? If so we’d love to hear them!


Published by Erin McGrady

Erin McGrady is a filmmaker, photographer, and writer exploring Asheville and beyond. My work focuses on sharing about LGBTQ safe spaces, camper van life, and the outdoors.

8 thoughts on “Van Life: How to Meet People While Traveling

  1. Wow! Great stuff, thanks Erin! I’m always trying to find new ways to meet people while i’m traveling, i’ll definitely give these a try. I’ve used tinder and bumble in the past, and I agree that usually does the trick! Though sometimes i’ve run into issues where I don’t stay in cities long enough to match, talk and then go on a date with people. I’m curious as to your thoughts on travel dating apps like Fairytrail or Tourbar?

    1. Hi Amber, thansk so much for writing in! Glad that you found our post to be helpful. We actually haven’t used Fairytrail or Tourbar but would love to hear your thoughts if you do. It’s cool that technology is able to connect people … I feel fortunate to live in an age where that is possible! Keep us posted on our experiences with either app and in the meantime, safe and happy travels to ya!

      1. Hey! Thanks for reading my comment and getting back to me 😊

        I’m trying out both right now, safety is clearly a huge priority. Just a couple of hours ago matched with a cute guy on Fairytrail. We both picked Bali as our dream destination!!! Instant connection as we’re both into travel. Will keep you update if we go!

      2. You’re welcome. Safety is definitely a huge priority for us as well. Fingers crossed that you are able to feel safe and have fun with your new app adventures!

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