What to expect from using online networking platforms

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Unlike the general prejudice, online networking platforms are great to connect with people only if you meet them in real-life as well. By utilising them appropriately, they can enrich but not substitute personal conversations. Here are some real stories about what can happen, when you start using the internet just to meet people.

CouchSurfing connects travellers with locals on many possible levels – from quick coffees to living with them.

The CouchSurfing community in Minsk is very active. What convinced me about this, was a local language event attended by a number of young open minded people eager to practice English. They were mostly discussing actual political topics and showed surprising awareness and great interest when it came to foreign affairs. I got to learn a lot about their daily lives and political impacts on society. Their major concern turned out to be the weak Belarusian currency and Visa issues. Besides that, I spent a couple of more days with two lovely girls that studied international relations. We passed this time having fun, tasting local food together or going to the see a magnificent ballet performance Cipollino

My hosting family from Braçov was of my kind - seasoned travellers on bikes across the whole Europe. We had a wonderful homemade local plate and exchanged a few tips and tricks about the usage of mobile services while travelling. They provided me with many insights into Romanian culture and advised me on the best roads to take and sights to visit. Thanks to different online networking platforms, we are still in touch today.

Using Couchsurfing in the Namibian capital Windhoek resulted in a wild Afro-European soirée. I sent roughly five requests asking for a guide to show me around the city. The quickest reaction I received from a very helpful mother around my age. She picked me up by car at my backpackers place. We had a very pleasant and optimistic chat about how good life in Namibia is. Later, she and her friend took me to the local version of Oktoberfest. With beer and mix of German, English and Afrikaans schlagers it was simply quintessential. The predominance of Caucasian participants was striking, while my friends were African. 

MeetUp helped me on three continents to meet professionals

In Stockholm, I spontaneously went to an open-air cinema with a group of guys. Meeting them was eye-opening as they had had to go through hard times to be able to immigrate into Sweden. We ended up hanging out together for the whole afternoon and evening. It was fun, but you cannot imagine how hard it was to find them amongst hundreds of people sitting on the ground in front of the screen! You can see the pics in this article:”5th Element”

The amount of happenings and events in San Francisco is overwhelming. It makes it almost impossible to pick the only right option among all the amazing MeetUps available every day. I did my best, choosing few and it paid off – I went to so many outstanding events thanks to it! The one person, who stood out amongst all, was a certain French guy. We actually had met multiple times before we become real friends and started to do more things together. I committed two postcards to some of those activities – the night visit of the California Academy of Sciences and Google San Francisco. We were both enthusiastic cyclists enjoying biking up and down together all over this cheerful city. I will always remember our super long chat at the corner of a spooky dark street before the last farewells that night, while observing the habits of homeless people. 

Using MeetUp in Nairobi was very exciting and helpful to meet likeminded people. My colleagues and I ended up attending an event about technology in education. One of them even had a successful spontaneous presentation. We met lots of professionals from the field and it was enlightening and educational. Moreover, I got to discuss a catchy idea of creating inexpensive websites for startups. This conversation partner was a dedicated person and after a few days we met again and started to actually collaborate on some projects. I would never have met him, if I did not use an online networking platform.

Airbnb has the nice personal touch of visiting friends

I was staying with a nice German lady in Stockholm. She was a living example of a young soul. The genuinely nice way she treated her guests reminded me of my own mother. She herself also appreciated a good company once in a while as her daughters and husband were staying abroad at that time. She let me use her public transport card, which came in handy. In return, I helped her sort out issues with her wireless internet. I fondly recall the picturesque green garden, where I would write my blog surrounded by cheeky chickens.

The stay in Tirana was a teaser. I lived there with a girl of my age and her grandfather. We would share meals and have long talks about life in Albania and all over the world. Then, I finally could use my French from school again. One morning, I had an academic discussion about the theory of relativity with the old man, a physicist graduate. French used to be, and in some parts of the world still is, what English is now – lingua franca.

Airbnb host showing me around in Sarajevo
Airbnb host showing me around in Sarajevo

Two retired nomads and adventurers hosted me in Lakeside near Cape Town. They have already travelled the whole world together and until nowadays, still enjoying meeting people and learning new things. Many years ago, they drove down from England to Cape Town in a camper - it is no coincidence – she is British and he Zimbabwean. With all the shared food and coffees and helping them with their smartphones, it felt like holiday at grandma’s. Only the stories had a bit more stamina…

Tinder hides some remarkable people behind pretty faces

I was lucky to meet such a great person while passing through Zagreb towards Maribor. I joined this lovely girl from Belgrade and her business partner for a dinner. We eventually spent the rest of the evening together munching on local specialities. It was very pleasant and we are still in touch regularly updating each other about our journeys.

The girl I acquainted in Nairobi was like a miracle. I was dealing with some issues connected to the car purchase and she really helped me to sort them out. I guess she gained her legal expertise while working for the department of roads. (What a coincidence, right?) She willingly walked the extra mile and even made several phone calls for me. She as well accompanied me to the required offices and authorities. All that and still could maintain a fun conversation. What an empowering lady!

I met a whole group of fellow travellers in Cape Town, but it all started with the one girl. She managed to get from Nairobi to Cape Town just by public transportation. She told me a lot about her life of a South Korean child adopted to the US. We exchanged bazillions of experiences, worldviews and all sorts of stories. We finished the day at the dawn with a bunch of her friends.

Now it is your turn to start using online networking platforms and make a positive impact on others or create a lasting memory.

Adrian Sameli founder and editor of aSabbatical.com
Travel mindfully to meet local people around the world and embrace new cultures. Get inspired and inspire others!

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