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What I Learned in Cuba and the Dominican Republic via Fathom...Part 4: Don't Bring Home Trinkets

A few years ago I read an article that talked about the difficulty of meeting new friends in your thirties. They say the best time to make new friends is between the ages of 18-26. During those years you are in college and then the next five years are built on living with roommates, happy hours, a few job transitions, etc. Once you hit your thirties, life can become routine especially if you are married and have kids.

In my 36 years of life and travel, I’ve never met so many wonderful new people as I did on my cruise to Cuba and the DR. I think about them, have stayed in touch, and will travel with some of them again next year. While most of our communication now is through social media, I enjoy seeing their updates, families, and pictures. The jokes have endured for a month and a half!

I tried to step back and think why was this trip different? Why did I walk away with so much more than pictures and souvenirs? Here is a list of ways you can bring home friends on your next trip:

Travel Alone

I think everyone should take one personal adventure a year. Even if its just a weekend, it will allow you to think, explore, and get out of your comfort zone. It will be awkward at first, but there will be so many opportunities to talk to different people and maybe just add another friend to your life.

Look for the Right Forms of Travel

Whether it's a small group tour, cruise, or themed travel experience (i.e. yoga, impact travel, singles, music), those will provide you with the best opportunities to meet others. If you are an introvert, this is the best way to put yourself in the right environment to meet others.

Don’t Look for Friends, Look for Conversation

One of my favorite conversations I had was with a woman in her 50’s on an hour bus ride to one of our impact activities. She had lived all over the world…Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and was funny, down to earth and shared some interesting stories. If I was looking for friends, I may have been looking for people more like me. I’m glad I chose the empty seat next to her and started a conversation.

Be Observant

There are many ways to connect with people, but it helps to know what to look for. The cool thing about a cruise is that when you are at sea, everybody is on the ship doing all types of things. Check what activities are going on for the day and go to the ones that interest you where you may find people with the same interests. When people wear shirts promoting their college, hometown, or favorite sport team, that’s an entry point to start a conversation. If you see other people by themselves (that seem normal), just start with “Where are you from?”

Don't Forget about the Contact Information

We usually aren't in the mode to get people's contact information when we are traveling. We live in that moment of being away and try not to think about returning to normalcy until the trip is over. If you meet someone that you'd want to stay in touch with, don't be afraid to ask if they are on Facebook, for their email address, etc. They may say no and that's ok, but it will always be a no if you never ask.

Most of my trinkets and souvenirs from past trips are sitting in boxes somewhere. I'd rather add the element of friendship and connection to my travels and have something of higher value to bring back. Friendships do not need to be declared to customs.


While I did receive a travel agent discount to familiarize myself with Fathom and their cruise to Cuba, I was never asked or received compensation to write about my experience. The decision was mine to share. Fathom offered all Cuba cruise passengers the opportunity to stay on board for the cruise to the Dominican Republic at a discounted rate and chose to do so to experience both products.

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