My First Experience Meeting Friends Traveling (Prepare to be Inspired)

My first experience meeting friends traveling - F*ckity bye - funny travel blog

I had a picturesque vision in my head before setting off on my first trip abroad.

A vision of every shopkeeper asking me with interest about where I was from, every hotel clerk striking up a friendly conversation, every fellow adventurer buying me a round of drinks as we belly laughed together reminiscing on the day’s conquests.

I can hear that belly laughter now... SHH, listen.


I know... kind of "Lifetime Original Movie-esque"  expectations. But I thought meeting friends traveling would come easy to me. In reality, that wasn’t the case.

When I first started traveling, I generally stayed in private rooms so that meant no meeting people via bunking in a hostel setting. I also don’t enjoy organized tours so that put a damper on friend-finding.

Consequently, early in my travel career, making friends traveling meant needing to randomly bump into people in person and striking up potentially awkward and unwanted conversation.

Here is my experience doing exactly that.

Our Story Begins in Nha Trang, Vietnam

Evening rolling in dark Nha Trang Vietnam over the ocean cable tram | | photo by Ryan Somohano

Evening had started to push in on the Vietnamese beach town of Nha Trang as my travel partner and I sat at our usual spot in a restaurant with a SUPER creative name you’d only see traveling through Asia. I believe it was something like “Good Cheap Food and Beer Here” (an establishment with a title that's only second to the, “We Don’t Check ID Here" bar in Bangkok).

So, we’re sitting at G.C.F.A.B.H. enjoying a $2.00 shockingly big chicken sandwich and a $0.30 beer (no that wasn't a typo) and amidst my obnoxious chewing, I hear the fluent sounds of the language I know and love, English.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not some nationalist who travels around the world and is annoyed when he doesn’t hear a language he can understand.

Quite the opposite actually!

I revel in being immersed in a place that’s completely different from what I know (pretty much the point of traveling). What a lot of people who haven’t traveled for long stretches don’t understand though is that homesickness is real and on this particularly beautiful evening in Vietnam - the weather warm, the chicken crispy, the beer costing as much as a stick of gum – I was feeling it...


A longing for something familiar... And at that moment I had found it two tables down from me in the form of my native language.

I turned my head and saw two girls, both with accents, one of which I pegged for British the other something I wasn't familiar with. Immediately I wanted to pull up a chair and chat with them.

Imagine the audacity though! A random dude pulling up a chair on two ladies trying to enjoy their dinner.

How creepy!

This wasn't some rundown bar for god-sake and these women were entitled to enjoy their dinner without being harassed!

I guess it would have helped that my travel partner was female. That sort of absorbs some of the perceived sleaziness of me waltzing over.

But my mind couldn’t get past the idea that I would be imposing on a couple of people that probably wanted nothing to do with me.

Still though, I wanted to soooo badddddd.

The truth was that my partner and I were having trouble finding quality interactions with people during our trip through Asia so far. We had only dealt with locals in the context of business transactions (hotel clerks, transportation operators, restaurant owners, etc.) and a lot of those interactions had been negative (we were ripped off a few times and otherwise made to feel solely like a commodity).

I’m a practical guy and I get that people are trying to make a living. So, in retrospect, I understand the way we were treated on a few occasions. At the time though it hurt, led to me being guarded, and made me feel very alone in an unfamiliar place.

Back to The Chicken Restaurant...

There I was glancing over every few seconds at the two travelers, doing my best to discreetly listen, hoping they’d say something where I could jump in and be like, “HAMBURGERS! I know ALL about hamburgers, let me just pull up a chair here...”

Unfortunately, burgers never became a topic of conversation and before that perfect moment came where I could burst into these people’s lives, they got up and left mine.

Just like that, my first opportunity to meet friends traveling abroad was lost.

I criticized myself over loud bites of my meal for not being the kind of person who could just walk up to someone and say, “Hello! I’m Ryan and this is my partner. We’re traveling from America and it’s been a little lonely, can we join you?”

Having thought about it that evening and afterward, I think the fear of approaching those travelers stemmed from how I would feel if someone randomly approached me.

If a stranger came up to me for the sole purpose of forging a friendship, my gut reaction would be to think of a way to escape that situation.

I’d feel caught off guard, defensive… I don’t know. It’s a horrible reaction to have and I don't like myself for it.  I just get nervous around new people so even though I love making friends, my reflex is to turn people away for fear of having to deal with an awkward situation.

Anyway, my travel partner and I finished our meals - friendless - went back to our damp room and I let my depression smother me into a regret-filled slumber.

The End.


Just kidding! Also, we didn't have a damp room. It was awesome, only $12.00 a night, and was a 5-minute walk away from this:

Beach picture in Nha Trang, Vietnam with the amusment park Vinpearl in the background | | photo by Ryan Somohano

The Next Evening...

My travel partner and I found ourselves craving G.C.F.A.B.H. again (because when aren't rational people craving "Good Cheap Food and Beer"?).

We headed on over to the restaurant and sat in our usual spot. A few minutes into my trying to come up with creative ways to shove my head-sized chicken sandwich into my mouth, I hear the same sounds that piqued my interest the night before, except this time louder.

I look over and sitting a few tables down from us are the same travelers from last night, now surrounded by more fellow adventurers, drinking, chatting and belly laughing!!!!!!!

A pit formed in my stomach. I had spent all last night kicking myself for not having the courage to make friends traveling and here in front of me was a second chance.

This time I couldn’t mess it up or I’d hate myself forever.

I scraped together my courage, opened my mouth and... took another bite of my ginormous sandwich.

I was still too afraid...

I remember feeling something inside of my stomach (my sole spec of courage probably) punching around, desperately trying to get out. I was shifting around in my seat uncomfortably, hands shaking as I tried to distract myself with half-hearted sips of my beer.

Did I have it in me to talk to these people? Was I going to do something crazy despite the chance I might look like an idiot? Was I going to leave this restaurant despising myself for being spineless?

While being hammered by those thoughts, I went to take another sip of my beer and paused... I noticed that on my beer bottle's label was an animal and it was staring right at me.

That animal was a f*cking tiger.

Bee spirit animal tiget, Vietnam - F*ckity bye - funny travel blog

The irony. An animal associated with bravery printed on the beverage of a person having a crisis of cowardice.

There we were though.

Me. The tiger. Staring.

Suddenly,  I knew I wasn't leaving this place without meeting those people.

What Happened Next Was a Blur

I’m not sure if I said something in a tiger-induced Fugue state. I’m not sure if one of the travelers at the other table noticed my intense staring at my beer bottle and struck up a conversation. To this day I honestly don’t remember what led to what happened.

All I know is that suddenly me and one of the two girls at the next table were talking from our mutual zones.

What were we talking about? I don't know. 

But by-god we were talking and after a moment of yapping back and forth from she said, “Why are we shouting across the restaurant? Come sit with us.”

*Cue the Angel Choir*

The words I had imagined hearing for the last 24-hours were suddenly rendered in sparkling 24-karat reality.

My partner and I sat with the group and we chatted for the next hour or so.

I learned they had just finished a stint teaching abroad in Vietnam and were now having fun traveling through South East Asia before heading back home. Some of them were from Canada, some were from New Zealand and others were from England. I had an incredible time learning about their experiences, their worldviews, and loved the eagerness they showed to learn more about me.

That evening turned out to be the making friends traveling, high-fiving, "Hallmark-esque" night I had imagined years before I ever committing to seeing the world.

At that moment every cent I poured into this voyage to Asia was worth it.

Discreet photo of new found friends in Nha Trang, Vietnam | | photo by Ryan Somohano
A discreet (creepy) under-the-table photo I snapped to commemorate my making friends traveling success! (Thank god the flash didn't go off.)

My Making Friends Traveling Epilogue

I met up with some of the people in that group in different countries throughout the rest of my trip and still keep in touch with some of them to this day. 

Making friends traveling got a little easier afterward but that first experience still sticks with me. I’m so grateful for the second chance I got to meet lifelong friends. I also think back on that evening often to remind myself to not let opportunities to meet new people pass me by.

I hope this story inspires you to do the same!

Did my story make you want to follow through on your dreams of traversing the globe and living the adventure-filled life you've always imagined? Did it make you want to meet incredible new friends and potential soul-mates abroad? If so, I can help you do exactly that.

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