I’ve had a love affair with traveling for as long as I can remember. It hit a fever pitch in college, when I spent 5 months studying and traveling in South America.
It was the trip of a lifetime. There was, however, one recurring issue I ran into. Making friends in new places was often difficult, especially if I only stayed for a short amount of time.
Now, over 6 years later, I use two apps to avoid this problem:
- HelloTalk: This brilliant app connects you with native speakers of a language you’d like to learn, who also want to learn your native language. It’s like a chat app, but with built-in translation features. I’ll explain how I use it to find friends before I travel to a new country.
- PostalPix: Yes, our own app! I use it to mail prints of my iPhone and Instagram pics to my new friends after I leave their city. It’s a great way to stay in touch. Receiving real photo prints in the mail is a lot more meaningful than sending them by text, email, WhatsApp, etc.
Finding Friends Before You Visit
Wouldn’t it be great to have friends waiting for you in a city or country before you visit? Of course it would! There’s no better way to experience a new culture than with a local.
A month or so before visiting a city, start using HelloTalk to find friends there by using the custom search feature. After creating a free account, you can find the custom search area by tapping the looking glass icon in the upper right corner of the Search tab:
Enter your destination in the “search by city” field and select a language you’d like to learn in the “native” field. I like to leave “nationality” blank because you’ll miss out on people who immigrated there and still speak the local language. This is especially true in Latin America, where the local language is almost always Spanish.
After searching, you’ll see a list of local users that meet your criteria. Simply find language partners that look interesting and start conversions with them. A basic greeting in their language is all you need to get things started (i.e. “Hi, how are you?”).
Remember that the primary goal of HelloTalk is language learning, so no need to write something charming or witty. Be courteous to your partners and help them with their language learning to whatever degree they’d like.
After getting to know your language learning partners through messaging and/or calling (HelloTalk has free voice calls), you’ll get a feel for who would make sense to meet with in person.
Always be cautious and use common sense when meeting up with people offline! It’s a good idea to meet for the first time in a public area with plenty of people around. If you’re weary of meeting with someone solo, you can also organize a group gathering with a few of your language partners. HelloTalk makes this easy with their group chat feature, which you can access at the top right corner of the main conversations screen.
Keeping In Touch After Departing
Unfortunately, the time will come when you have to leave your new friends and return home. Aside from continuing to communicate though HelloTalk, I like to use an unconventional method to stay in touch: Sending photo prints in the mail with PostalPix!
Chances are you snapped a lot of photos with your phone when you were visiting, hopefully some of which included your new friends. Rather than texting or emailing the photos, you can use PostalPix to send real prints to your friends in the mail. We can print and ship any photo from your iPhone, Android, or Instagram account.
All you have to do is download PostalPix, select the photos you’d like to send, and enter the address of your friend. You can even duplicate your order and send it to multiple recipients at the same time.
Address formats can vary in certain countries, so make sure you confirm how to write it in a way the local post office will understand.*
You’ll be amazed at how excited your friends are when they receive prints in the mail. Think about it. How often do you open your mailbox and find something meaningful, like personal photographs? Probably not often, which is why it’s sure to make someone else’s day.
Hopefully this guide makes it easier to meet people when traveling and stay in touch with them afterwards. Now you have no excuse not to scratch that travel itch, especially for a quick solo trip.
*As of now, PostalPix only mails to US addresses. International mailing is in closed beta and should be available publicly soon. If you’d like to be notified when it releases, be sure to fill out this sign up form.