For many of us, our most cherished moments in life are not tied to individual places, events, or activities, but instead, are about people—those we have built into our lives already and others who are brought our way by chance and fortuitous encounters. Similarly, when it comes to moving about the planet, so often it’s the memories of those we meet on these journeys that linger with us most over time and distance.
Global adventure leader Exodus Travels believes this is one of the many true gifts of travel: the opportunity for genuine human connection. And based on their recent survey of 2,000 Americans who have traveled abroad, it appears the data proves their point—international vacations can play a significant role in launching and building relationships of all kinds (in fact, one in five respondents has been married because of a trip!).
The Data Speaks for Itself: Travel = Connectivity
According to the survey (commissioned through OnePoll), a full 77% of Americans questioned have made lifelong friendships when traveling, while 23% met their spouse on a trip, one third (33%) reported a “vacation romance,” and a quarter (25%) currently claims a best friend encountered on the road. Some didn’t even need to make it to their destination to find romance—three in 10 have dated someone they met on a plane.
While the vast majority of respondents believe travel can strengthen existing bonds (71%), and that the right travel companion can make or break a trip (69%)—perhaps encouraging them to opt for travel with friends and family—49% also report having taken a “life-changing” solo trip in the past (with 20% noting they find it easier to meet people when they’re traveling solo and 71% sharing that they’ve met someone on a trip who gave them a new perspective or has since changed their lives).
“What makes a trip unforgettable?” asks Robin Brooks, Marketing Director at Exodus Travels. “The unexpected appreciation from locals when you traveled so far because you want to know them and their culture. And the tales of family, history, and dreams unearthed by strangers-turned-newfound-friends over a shared meal—so often, it’s these moments that conjure lasting memories, whether we are building a ‘just for now’ or new forever-relationship or sowing the seeds of cross-cultural understanding that will impact our personal worldview for years to come.”
What Works Best?
Survey results make it clear there’s no “right” way to travel. But it is also evident travel can be a great way to expand one’s social circles. So, what is the best approach for those ready to socialize?
Several suggestions appear at the top of the survey list: participation in a variety of activities (31% argue this strategy works); followed by participation in group tours or hotel events (tied at 28%); engagement in sports, active hobbies, and other physical activities (27%); or even just time at a bar or restaurant (26% say this has led to new friendships).
“In our experience,” Brooks continues, “it’s the intimate moments when our shared humanity is distilled down into an exchange of simple smiles, laughter, and casual conversation (with or without creative hand gestures or Google Translate!) that provide true depth, color, and perspective to all we see and experience while on the road. So, it’s important to participate in activities that allow one to meet new people while traveling."
Notably, respondents acknowledge a subset of all-new travel relationships may eventually evolve into “social media friendships” or “vacation-only friendships” after a trip has ended. However, the vast majority do not see this “fizzling down” as a negative. Rather, a whopping 79% believe new travel friends make their experiences better (even if they lose touch afterward) and recount gaining on average four new friendships and 12 new social media followers on past trips. Plus, there’s the very real possibility a lifelong relationship will have been captured in that mix, with 77% reporting friendships continuing well after their return home.
What’s Different When We Travel
If establishing new friendships or a romance is high on one’s to-do list, the evidence shows it may be time to start trip planning. But why?
Brooks notes, “small group travel offers us a chance to bring a refreshed version of ourselves to the ‘vacation table,’ leaving our day-to-day worries behind while reconnecting and reinvigorating parts of ourselves that may have been waning in the shadows of our everyday responsibilities at home—all whether or not we already have pre-established travel partners in our back pockets.”
To this end, Exodus’s carefully curated collection of adventure vacations will maximize anyone’s social bill. But their special style of travel provides far more than just a platform for meeting new friends. They understand it is the unscripted encounters within host communities that so often distinguish the experience of “traveler” from that of “tourist;” and that space and time for connectivity must be prioritized within the design of any itinerary, regardless of destination, as it is these moments that can so profoundly capture one’s mind’s eye, offering a deeper perspective into local culture, life experience, and alternate worldviews.
This insightful assessment of traveler priorities was confirmed by 69% of survey respondents who said traveling has made them kinder and more interesting people, with two thirds (66%) sharing that the new people they meet on trips lead to a much better travel experience overall, and 77% noting their journeys are far more rewarding and immersive when they have the chance to connect with local people.
According to the team at Exodus Travel, this is exactly why small group adventure travel can be such a wonderful launchpad for new friendships of all types. By choosing to relinquish the burden of pre-trip planning to a team of adventure experts, travelers are instead opting to focus on and free themselves, opening their minds and bodies to new experiences, and inviting fresh knowledge, conversations, relationships, and ways of thinking about the world into this unlocked space.
Sample of Survey Results:
What Relationships do Respondents Report from their Travels?
- Made a “vacation best friend” (someone they hung out with while traveling but didn’t stay in touch with) — 36%
- Had a “vacation romance” (a romance that only lasted during the vacation) — 33%
- Planned a future trip with someone they met while traveling — 31%
- Dated someone they met while traveling (not on the plane) — 30%
- Dated someone they met on a plane while traveling — 30%
- Lived with someone they met while traveling — 28%
- Have a best friend they met while traveling — 27%
- Had a best friend they met while traveling — 25%
- Had a one-night stand while traveling — 25%
- Married someone they met while traveling — 23%
Best Ways to Meet New People and Build Connections while Traveling?
- Participating in lots of different activities while traveling — 31%
- Taking group tours while traveling — 28% (tied)
- Participate in hotel events (afternoon teas, cocktails, performances) — 28% (tied)
- Being active (gym, hikes, tennis, cycling, kayaking, golf, etc.) — 27%
- At the bar or restaurant — 26%
- Use social media — 25% (tied)
- Stayed at a hotel — 25% (tied)
- On the beach — 25%
- Visiting museums or historic sites — 25%
- Went on a group tour — 24% (tied)
- Went on a cruise — 24% (tied)
- Live music — 24%
- Cooking classes or wine tastings — 24%
- Learn the local lingo — 23%
- Use an app to meet other travelers — 21%