14 Frugal Ways to Meet and Stay in Touch With People Around the World

by Nora Dunn on 25 April 2014 (0 comments)

Sponsored by Skype — Use Skype Credit to call mobiles and landlines home and abroad at low rates.

Want to broaden your horizons? Learn new languages? Understand other cultures? Whether at home or abroad, you can develop relationships with people in other countries in a variety of ways that don't involve spending big bucks.

I've been traveling full-time since 2007, and I have a wonderful collection of international friends I've met using many of the techniques in this article (and who I continue to keep in touch with). Here are 14 suggestions to increase your international circle of friends.

At Home

You don't need to leave home to make friends from around the world. You can reach out over the Internet, invite someone from afar into your home, or become an expert on your neighborhood and become a tour guide.

1. Exchange Language

Meet people in other countries by doing a language exchange! Language exchanges help you find people online who want to practice their English – and help you learn a language they know well in return. There are several sites that can help you link up – try MyLanguageExchange.com or ConversationExchange.com, or do search for a “language exchange” to find other options.

2. Look for Location-Independent Work

A location independent career allows you to work with clients and/or employers around the world. There are lots of other great benefits to location-independent work too – you can work anywhere you want (from at home in your pajamas to on the road while traveling), and location-independent jobs often also have flexible schedules. For ideas on location-independent jobs, check out this piece on   Location Independent Career Basics.

3. Host a Traveler

Use one of these hospitality exchange sites to find travelers visiting your town. You can offer to just give travelers a free place to stay, or you can hang out with them and play tour guide too. No matter what you do, this is a great way to meet new people – and possibly line up a free place for yourself to stay when you travel.

4. Rent Out a Room

If you have a spare room, you can rent it out to international travelers and score some extra cash. Airbnb is one of the best tools for this – you can rent out everything from an entire house to a couch to sleep on. (See also: Got Space? Make Money and Meet Travelers With Short-Term Rentals)

5. Find — or Be — a Mentor

Sites like HERmail.net allow women around the world to make friends and answer each other’s questions. Whether you want to know things like what the food is like in Lima, Peru, where to get a good haircut in Berlin, Germany, or you just want to meet people in a country you'd like travel to one day, this is a great resource.

6. Become a Tour Guide

You can earn some extra cash and help travelers to your home town get off the beaten path by constructing custom travel itineraries or leading tours. When it comes to what tours you could lead, think about what's unique about your hometown, or what things you're especially familiar with. Could you do a walking tour of historic buildings, a pizza-eating tour, or a tour of awesome bookstores? Not only is this a great way to meet people, but it's a way to make friends with people who have similar interests. (See also: Make Money in Your Hometown: Become a Tour Guide)

7. Make Your Hobby International

Whether you collect stamps or coins, enjoy skiing, want a pen pal, practice reiki, or more, there's an online forum to introduce you to others around the world who share the same interests – for example, check out these forums for rock climbing and chess.

Abroad

If you’d rather meet your new friends wherever it is they call home, take your show on the road. It doesn’t have to be expensive – in fact, you may even earn some money while you’re making all those international friends.

8. Do a Home Exchange

A home exchange allows you to enjoy the comforts of (somebody else's) home while on vacation and rest assured that your own home is being cared for while you're away. Maybe the people you exchange with will even introduce you to some local friends to hang out with – and you can do the same for them! (For resources, see: Home Exchanges: Free Accommodations With Perks)

9. House-Sit

House-sitting allows you to get to know a local and stay in their home while they're away. Since house-sitting allows you to stay in an international location cheaply for a longer period, it also makes it easier for you to get to know the country slowly, meet more local people, and build more friendships.. (Increase your odds: 10 Tips for Landing the Perfect House-Sitting Gig)

10. Volunteer Abroad

There are a variety of ways to volunteer abroad, from WWOOFing (that’s World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and other work-trade gigs to formal volunteer jobs that pay a stipend in addition to your expenses. Here's a nice cross-section: Volunteer to Travel: 11 Opportunities for Free or Very Cheap Travel.

11. Attend International Events

International events like the Olympics or World Cup are great for sports fans, and they're an opportunity to meet people from around the world in one place. Consider attending conferences or events around your personal interests, whether you're into sports, comic books, film, food, or something else entirely. I've met people abroad with organizations like Rotary, Toastmasters, and even skydiving and travel blogging conferences.

12. Go Local

Get off the beaten path when you travel and meet locals who can provide an authentic cultural exchange. Use Yelp or other review sites when you visit somewhere new to find restaurants, bars, and shops that locals love – and skip the establishments that mainly cater to tourists. You'll get great food (probably for less than you'd pay at a tourist trap) and be more likely to meet locals. (See also: Live Like a Local: How to Tap Into the Local Scene While Traveling)

13. Teach English

Lots of long-term travelers support their travels — and make plenty of local friends — by teaching English abroad. Plus, in teaching English, you'll most likely have an opportunity to learn the language of the country you're teaching in, and your students and coworkers can both tell you about fun and inexpensive things to do in the city.

14. Work on Boats

You can make money while you travel by working on boats. Gigs vary from informal deck hands on sailboats to working on mega-yachts to doing just about anything on cruise ships. You'll work and live with people from everywhere, and each port of call is a chance to make new local friends. (Check out: How to Get Free Accommodations and Paid Jobs on Boats)

Staying in Touch

Now that you have all these international friends, you need to stay in touch with them! Tools like Facebook and instant messaging are okay for superfluous chats, but they're no substitute for the real deal; sometimes a proper conversation is in order. And in some cases it's downright necessary; when applying for a gig abroad (or becoming acquainted with a potential host/traveler or tour customer), it's better to have a real-time conversation.

From the comfort of your computer, cell phone, or tablet – while at home or abroad – Skype offers an excellent way to stay in touch. I've been using Skype Credit since I started traveling, using it to call landlines and cell phones at excellent rates (no futzing around with long distance phone cards), send text messages, and even access Wi-Fi hotspot at reasonable rates when there aren't any free hotspots available. It's cheap and easy to use, and I can even forward calls to a local phone number when I'm not online, so my international friends can call me at no extra expense to them.

How do you reach out to people in other countries?

Sponsored by Skype — Use Skype Credit to call mobiles and landlines home and abroad at low rates.

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