My shuttle driver, Tony, insisted we stop to get coffee and donuts before he dropped me anywhere.
I had just landed in Denver and had already been awake for way too many hours, so I was on board. He purchased not one, but two Boston creme donuts and scarfed them down seconds after asking me, "So, what's your deal?"
Hopped up on sugar and caffeine, Tony spent the next two hours telling me about how he ended up driving a shuttle van in Colorado. He didn't hesitate to give me unsolicited, but helpful life advice.
Tony is just one of the many characters I've met while traveling alone. I'm not about "making friends" while on the road, but the people I've met while abroad add significant flavor to the entire experience. Between taking a solo road trip out west and city hopping in Italy, I've pretty much seen it all.
Meeting people is just as important as seeing sights. By chatting up locals or listening to seasoned trekkers talk about their travels, you learn more about where you're going. But, no matter where you go, there are certain types of people you'll continually run into.
1. The smokin' hot man with an accent.
The smokin' hot guy from the UK is the most beautiful person you've ever seen, yet entirely approachable and friendly. He probably plays rugby or football, but not the American kind.
Yeah, you could hook up with him, but just talking is fine because listening to him is like music. When he leaves town, you resist the urge to stuff yourself into his suitcase. Instead you'll keep it cool and stalk him on Instagram.
2. The spunky native girl who shows you around.
She's a godsend when you're in a new place for the first time, taking you to the best local spots. She's genuinely excited to show off her home city.
Despite the fact that she speaks solid English, she's embarrassed by her lack of skill and begs you to correct her. If there's only one person on this list you'd befriend on Facebook, it's her.
3. The clinger who never leaves your side.
This person is a special breed who must be around people at all times, or runs the risk of imploding. You say you're grabbing dinner and her immediate response is, “Oh, I'll join you then.”
Just stating where you're going is an invite to the clinger. Before you know it, you've traveled to five countries with her in tow.
4. The hippie dude who's never had an actual job.
You'll smell him before you see him, because hippie stench is hard to miss. Making small talk with with this guy is a challenge because you can't relate to residing in a hut living off palm trees for four years.
He has dreads, but not on purpose. He's been across the globe and back, but is pretty chill about it. You can't help but wonder if he's figured out how to make money grow on trees.
5. The guy with the weird drugs you've never seen before.
He's fun to be around, but you don't want to partake in doing any drugs named after Disney characters.
He's not going to peer pressure you to try drugs in his stash, but he'll find a way to bring his most recent acid trip into any conversation. If you're looking for weed, he's probably your go-to.
6. The man in your hostel who's probably on the run.
Something about this man looks like he belongs on a wanted poster. It might be the neck tattoo.
7. The plane buddy who could be your new BFF.
You're stuck sitting next to this person for hours at a time. Unless she completely shuts you out with earbuds and a sleeping mask immediately, it's worth finding out her deal.
She might have a cool job or just be an obnoxious over-sharer who intends to walk off the plane wasted. Whatever happens, when you land you're allowed be complete strangers again.
8. The middle-aged woman who shares her life story.
This middle-aged traveler is probably from your native country. You'll meet her standing in a line or using public transportation.
She'll ask you where you're from and then dump her life story on you without skimping on details about her tumultuous divorce.
9. The girl who tries to one-up all your travel experiences.
We all know her. No matter how far you've been, she's been farther. She can talk your ear off about visiting Florence and teaching English to kids in China. She's probably younger than you, too.
When you ask her how she was able to visit every island in Southeast Asia before her junior year of college, she'll try to cover up the fact that her parents paid. Traveling earns you bragging rights, but this girl takes it too far.
10. The vagabond couple who have made traveling their job.
Talk about relationship goals. This jealousy-inspiring couple goes everywhere together and probably met on the road.
These two normally keep to themselves, but hopefully you're not sharing a wall with them in a hotel. Otherwise, your ears are in for an audio adventure.
11. The woman who is "Eat, Pray, Love"-ing.
She quit her job and caught the next plane out of the country, not caring where she ended up. She'll tell you how she woke up one morning and decided to stop living like a zombie.
Then, she'll passionately try to convince everyone to do the same. What's next for her? No one knows, but it probably involves a lot of indulging in bread.
12. The foreign frat bro who can drink you under the table.
This man can drink. He's perfect to go out with for one night -- that's all you'll need to be hungover for days.
His dedication to the art of being f*cked up is awe-inspiring.
13. The digital nomad who travels for a living.
You'll find the digital nomad sitting by a window in a local coffee shop with wifi, working furiously while enjoying the view. You're almost jealous of this woman, because she can work from anywhere. Then, you remember that she's on the clock while on vacation.
On your next trip, I dare you to try to meet all of these people. Each adds value (and memories) to your travels. Find one of these special individuals and you'll come home with new knowledge, a party trick or a good story.