Vacations: That’s What (Making) Friends Are For

“Travel experiences create opportunities that force you to interact with — and cooperate with — strangers. In day-to-day life, we don’t have so many of those moments,” said Jiyin Cao, a Stony Brook University College of Business professor who studies how multicultural experiences influence psychology. “Multicultural experiences provide those experiences; after experiencing them, we tend to become more trusting.”

Like Ms. Pierson, Kelly O’Connor made friends on a group trip. On a Gate 1 Travel tour of Croatia in May 2017, she and her two travel companions “immediately hit it off” with three Ohio sisters. They stayed in touch after leaving the Dalmatian Coast. Two years later, five members of the sextet embarked on another Gate 1 trip to Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia.

With some people, it’s very superficial. But after sitting next to someone and talking about your kids, your job, being a widow — you know, real stuff — you get to be friends. It was much more than, ‘Oh, yeah, how many times do you go on tours?’” said Ms. O’Connor, a “71 years young” retired special-education teacher who lives in Lewes, Del.

“Whatever kind of travel you’re doing, whether it’s a relaxing, restorative trip or an adventure, having shared, meaningful experiences fast-tracks that sense of closeness, making it much easier to see someone as a friend early on,” said Miriam Kirmayer, a Montreal-based clinical psychologist and friendship expert.

In 2017, Arielle Aquino, of New York City, chatted with a stranger in the lobby of her Los Angeles hotel and ended up eating dinner with him. That evening, Ms. Aquino’s new acquaintance invited her to a New Year’s retreat at Habitas Tulum, a wellness-focused hotel in Mexico.

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