April 19, 2024

How to make friends while travelling as a Deaf solo traveller

Travelling as a Deaf solo adventurer has been a journey filled with unique encounters and meaningful connections. Through my travels, I’ve experienced the joy of meeting new friends from diverse backgrounds and cultures across the globe. While the added challenge of communication can be daunting, I’ve learnt simple, yet effective ways to bridge the gap and create lasting friendships. Here, I’ll share how I make friends as a Deaf solo traveller, give tips to help other Deaf explorers and share how hearing people can help us out.? 

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Sign language is your secret weapon

how to make friends as a deaf solo traveller

@melisaozerska

Sign language is a visual language that transcends spoken word and is great for making new friends. When I meet people in hostels or on the road, I immediately tell them that I’m Deaf and I communicate using sign language. This encourages people to find alternative means of communication. I’ve been surprised by how many travellers already know some sign language or express a genuine interest in learning the basics. Sign language has been a powerful tool for me to break down barriers and create connections with people from all over the world.? 

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Technology is your best friend

@melisaozerska

Technology has become a vital companion of any backpacker – but it is especially helpful to me as a Deaf solo traveller looking to make friends with new people from diverse nationalities and cultures. My phone has become my trusted ally for improving communication and creating more meaningful interactions. 

When I meet someone who’s unfamiliar with sign language, I can quickly write down messages in my notes app and instantly bridge the communication gap. This has proven particularly valuable in situations where the spoken language is limited, enabling me to express myself, share experiences, and connect on a more profound level. 

Having said that, don’t underestimate the power of simply writing things down on paper. Keeping a notepad and pen handy in my backpack helps me interact with travellers or locals without relying on my phone’s battery! 

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Starting conversations and joining in activities?

How to make friends while travelling as a deaf solo traveller

@melisaozerska

More often than not, I initiate conversations in hostels because I’m eager to learn about other people, where they’re from or where they’re heading to. This goes like any typical travel icebreaker, asking their names, where they’ve travelled, etc.? 

When I’m dining alone, I often spot others in the same situation and invite them to join me, saying, “Hey, I’m eating alone. Do you wanna eat together? No worries if not.” This simple invitation has led to some incredible conversations and friendships. Likewise, at the hostel, I ask about people’s plans for the day, suggesting activities we could do together. Being Deaf hasn’t stopped me from starting new conversations and sharing experiences with others, and I’ve a lot of new travel friends simply by approaching them first.? 

When joining guided tours or group activities, I always inform the guide of my Deafness, which allows them to relay that information to other participants. This way, other travellers can take turns typing messages on their phones to ensure I’m included in the conversation or to translate to me what the guide is saying. 

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Bridging language barriers

how to make friends while travelling as a deaf solo traveller

@melisaozerska

Travelling to non-English speaking places, like my 3-month trip to South-East Asia, presented added communication challenges. However, I quickly discovered that body language can overcome language barriers. Using gestures and hand signs, I was able to convey simple phrases like “Where is this place?” and “Thank you.” This not only made me more approachable but helped me have more authentic interactions, unencumbered by language barriers. 

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Sharing experiences and activities

How to make friends while travelling as a deaf solo traveller

@melisaozerska

Shared experiences are powerful catalysts for friendship. Even though Deaf travellers may not fully hear the sound of music, dancing is a universal language that anyone can appreciate. I find that joining in and dancing with others creates a sense of camaraderie and joy. 

?I believe that travel is not only about exploring new places but also about exchanging knowledge and breaking down barriers between different cultures. That’s why whenever I meet new people, I share insights about Deaf culture, sign language, and the challenges the Deaf community may face in various societies. Through open conversations and educational exchanges, I hope to create a space for genuine curiosity and to inspire other travellers to be more inclusive and compassionate in their interactions with Deaf people and other diverse communities. 

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?Navigating misunderstandings

@melisaozerska

While most encounters I have are positive, I’ve experienced moments when some people were less open to communicating with a Deaf traveller. In such instances, I remain patient and understanding, recognising that misunderstandings can happen. Rather than dwelling on these isolated incidents, I focus on connecting with all the great people who genuinely appreciate our shared experiences and are eager to build meaningful friendships.

As a Deaf solo traveller, making friends in hostels around the world has been an enlightening and fulfilling journey. Embracing sign language, body language, and a proactive approach to initiating conversations have all played a crucial role in helping me connect with others. From exploring foreign lands to dancing with newfound friends, my travels have been enriched by the connections I’ve made along the way.? 

?To my fellow Deaf travellers, remember that the world is full of friendly faces and exciting encounters just waiting to happen. To all the hearing ones, be patient and don’t be shy in using body language to communicate, a smile can travel for miles! Embrace alternative ways of communication, be open, and let the magic of connection guide you through your adventures.? 

 

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