Solo Travel Archives - Starr Tours & Charters
  • Call us, we’re here to help: 800-782-7703

Conversation Starters

One of the most enjoyable things about traveling is the wonderful people you meet. Whether it’s across a continent or at a new coffee shop down the street, chatting with new people can be very rewarding. Starting conversations is hard, and continuing them is even harder. But fear not, because having great conversations with strangers is easy, and they can lead to some great new friendships.

 

Here are five tips for having great conversations:

 

Timing Is Everything

When starting a conversation, take into account the setting. If the area is busy and loud, you might not be able to keep your full attention on your conversation partner. Choose a person who looks happy, and make sure they aren’t busy. A conversation with a new person could be a wonderful and fascinating experience, but if the other person is in the middle of something, they can’t give you their full attention. Conversation with a new person is a great way to spice up a boring wait or a long bus ride, but can be awkward and annoying if it happens in the middle of a guided tour. If the setting is good, then it’s time for the next step.

 

Lead With An Observation

When starting a dialogue with someone new, it can be tempting to open with an introduction. This is a simple way to start a conversation, but it leads to a screeching halt after both parties say their names. Avoid the awkwardness by starting with an observation instead. For example, point out the great shirt they’re wearing or make a joke about the warmer weather. This is a great way to engage people in conversations other than the typical introduction. An observation can lead into a deeper conversation, and gives your conversation partner a chance to add on. When you compliment their coat, they can tell you where they purchased it, and before you know it you’re both talking about your favorite store. Then you can move on to introductions when it feels more natural and you’ve built a rapport already.

 

The Magic of FORD

So, you’ve started chatting with someone, led with an observation, and now you’re stuck. You’ve talked about the weather, introduced yourself, and the conversation has stalled. Welcome to the magic of “FORD.” FORD is a handy acronym that’s a great way to remember some great conversation topics. It stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams. These are all great topics to converse about when talking to someone new. Their answers may open the door to other topics, allowing you to learn more about them. Until you know the person better, FORD is a great place to start, and an easy way to identify common ground when chatting with someone new. When the conversation hits a lull, ask a FORD question. The answer is a great way to steer the conversation to something more personal, thus giving you a stronger connection.

 

Fight Awkward Silences

Everything seems to be going great in your conversation, and then suddenly it happens: the dreaded awkward silence. It may have been something you said, or a joke that fell flat, or nothing at all, but now the silence is in the air, and the conversation is dying fast. When confronted with an awkward silence, don’t let it hang. Use this time to change the subject. Ask a follow up question to something that was discussed earlier, or use another observation. Awkward silence can be a great way to incorporate a new topic to a conversation. Chances are, your conversation partner will be relieved to end the silence, and happy to chat about anything else.

 

Get Deep

It’s great to hear about the surface details of a person’s life, but the most interesting conversations I’ve had are when the conversation moves on a deeper level. This is a hard thing to do when you’ve just met someone, but a simple tactic is to ask them a “why” question. If they say they are a retired teacher, ask them why they decided to go into teaching. Their answer will be much more telling and interesting then if you asked them what grade they taught. “Why” questions are a great way to glimpse a person’s psyche and really helps understand them on a deeper level, and opens the door for much more in-depth conversations than simply talking about the weather. “Why” are great follow-ups when learning about someone’s hobby, home or occupation.

 

So there you have it! These are five ways to have great conversations with strangers. Hopefully you’ll use some of these on your next bus trip and meet a new friend! Your next great conversation is just a person away. On your next Starr vacation, take advantage of the wealth of new people around you, and get to know them a little. Your new best friend might be on this very trip!

Be sure to check out our other blog post – 4 Tips for Making Friends While Traveling Solo!

 

What are your tips for carrying on a conversation?

I Want to Be Alone… Really!

I Want to Be Alone… Really!

Did you ever want to go to the beach and no one wants to go with you because they don’t like the sand?  Did you ever want to go a flower show and you can’t find a companion who loves the greenery as much as you?  Did you ever want to take a trip near or far, but no one has the time to partner up with you?  Or, how about visiting some historic sites and no one you know has any interest in the Civil War.  Well, now you don’t have to keep wishing and hoping for that someone to make all of these adventures happen for you!  Traveling solo on a Starr bus tour is the perfect answer for the traveler who is leery about traveling without a partner.

 

Travel websites suggest that the number one fear of traveling alone is feeling lonely.  Nothing could be further from the truth when traveling on a Starr bus tour.  As an experienced Tour Director, I have seen complete strangers board our tour bus in the morning, and by our lunch stop many acquaintances have been made.  Dinnertime brings on new-found friends, and truly by the end of a one-day or multiple-day tour, passengers are exchanging contact information.  Our Travel Advisers can attest to the fact that many of our solo travelers have buddied up with people they have met on previous tours and have been booking trips together for years!  This phenomena gave rise to the Starr Reunion Cruises and Starr Birthday/Anniversary-themed tours where many of our passengers reconnect with their Starr friends.

 

Some hesitant solo travelers may be concerned about safety.  Traveling in a group setting such as with our bus tours has a built-in safety feature all its own.  Starr provides a great balance of being with the group for attractions and some meals, and then having free time to decide whether to pair up with someone on the tour or to go off on your own.  It truly is the best of both worlds.  With today’s technology, everyone is in touch— or not— all day long and wherever the road leads.  A solo traveler on our Cross Country by bus trip, who was recently widowed, was encouraged by her daughter to take the 26-day journey by herself.  Her daughter was truly surprised that her mom almost never called during the four weeks away because she was having such a good time! We have another solo traveler who had so much fun on last year’s Cross Country trip, that she’s going again this year!

 

Susan Barkowski, a frequent solo Starr traveler, recently shared these highlights about traveling alone.  “During one Starr group meal, I sat next to a couple in their 90’s who told me that they still enjoy walking and jogging together and that they can’t wait until they get their new Christmas picture taken in their jogging gear.  At another group meal, a fellow solo traveler was telling our whole table about his job at the Philadelphia International Airport and all of the rock stars and Hollywood celebrities he has met over the years.  Each Starr trip has been more than just the places I have traveled.  It has been the people I have met on the Starr bus that has made me think about what is truly important in life.  It gives you the opportunity to meet people who you would never meet unless you traveled solo.”

 

The pluses of traveling “alone” with Starr simply outweigh sitting at home and wishing for a companion to go along.  You choose the kind of tour you want to go on.  You pick the time of year.  You never have to negotiate your free time—you can rest when you want, eat what you want, and book something special.  You are more open to your surroundings and the people you meet. Then, at the end of the day, you get to relax in the peace and quiet of your room with full control over the TV remote!

 

Rick Steves, world traveler, guidebook author and TV host, suggests that when struggling with the idea to travel alone remember, “Your trip is a gift from you to you!”  I hope you plan to treat yourself this travel season with a Starr bus tour with or without a partner!

 

Happy travels,
Christine Durling
Starr Tour Director