One of the best things about travelling is meeting new people and making new friends. Sharing experiences can lead to bonds that last for a day, a night, a week, or a lifetime! If you are up for a party and happy to go out drinking then you will likely have no trouble at all making friends, but if you are at all shy, it can be a daunting prospect – so we’ve put together this quick guide to show you how easy it can be.
There are many different types of hostel, some of which are out-and-out party places which have their own bars and/or organise pub crawls, while some will be geared towards more mature travellers or even families. Websites such as hostelworld.com and hostelbookers.com are great for doing some research to find one which will suit you. Hostels are super-social places, and with a little confidence it is almost impossible not to make friends when staying in them, especially if you are sharing a dorm. But even if you opt for a private room you can still find potential friends in the common areas such as the kitchen, TV room, or smoking area.
The best advice for starting a conversation, that’s even easy for the shy ones among us, is just to ask questions. The same questions get asked endlessly in hostels the world over – where are you from, how long have you been travelling, where have you been, where are you going… As standard as the questions are, they do a great job of breaking the ice. If you have anything in common you’re likely to find out quickly, and even if you don’t you’ll find plenty more to ask questions about as they talk about themselves. If conversation doesn’t flow, chalk it up to bad chemistry, bid them a good trip and move along.
When you’re asking questions, you’ll notice that you find it much easier to keep things flowing when the other person gives more than one word answers. So remember this when you are on the receiving end, and even give a longer answer than is strictly necessary to answer their questions. You don’t have to reveal anything about yourself you don’t want to but you’re both searching for a common thread to share and if you are genuine and authentic you just might find something pretty special.
Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet
This might be overly optimistic as you can’t get on with EVERYONE, but it’s good to bear in mind that they all have the potential to become your next best friend. Forget what you think you know about different types of people and be open to connecting with everyone whether old or young, male or female, and from anywhere in the world.
Suggest a friendly game
Playing a game instantly gives a group a shared goal and something to talk about. Carrying a deck or cards can spark connection in a quiet common room, or when waiting for a bus or train. One game that seems to do a particularly good job of bringing travellers from all countries together is Sh**head. Different countries have different rules so it is always fun making up new combinations to play together, but simpler games can even be played when the language barrier is great (Both Snap and War translate pretty easily!).
Take a class or group tour
Look online or ask around for recommendations of good tours or classes in the area, as this not only allows you to meet like-minded people, it forces you all to spend a few hours or more together, and gives you plenty to talk about. If by the end of that time you feel you want to exchange numbers or email addresses – great! If not, hopefully it was a fun and informative day, and you learned something
If hostels just aren’t your thing, and you’re better at making friends one-on-one, look into alternatives such as Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is an online community in which people advertise their couches or spare rooms to travellers for free, and they will often also offer to show you around the local area, whether you want to see the sights, find good food or experience the night life. They may even have hobbies they are happy to share with you. Look around the website to find someone you have stuff in common with, check their reviews and testimonials, and drop them a line.
There are many ways to volunteer, whether you want to teach English, work on a farm, or help with community projects. As well as locals you will meet other travellers which are more like-minded, and get to not only experience a place but contribute to it too. You may even learn new skills! Websites such as HelpX are a fantastic resource for volunteer opportunities.