You have finally braved booking your first solo trip, you made it to the flight on time, found a taxi to take you to your hostel and claimed a bunk in 10 bed mixed dorm. What now?
Well lets face it, one of the benefits of travelling solo is that you get to do whatever you want. No one to demand that you spend the day by the side of the pool when you are longing to go hiking, or want to eat in McDonalds because it is a place they recognise when you want to tuck into the best local street food. Perfect. The truth is of course, that it is always great to share life’s experiences and it is easy to feel lonely and isolated when you have been out exploring by yourself all day. So, how do you go about making friends on holiday?
In my experience, most people who choose to stay in a hostel are willing to have a chat and be friendly, but sometime you have to make the first move. Maximise your chances of making friends by following the advice below;
Stay in a dorm room
I understand that some people are particular about cleanliness or personal space, however travelling can be one of the most lonely experiences if you are by yourself. Even the most confident of travellers will get homesick, miss their friends, and get withdrawals from cuddling Rufus the pet dog they grew up with. One of the best reasons about staying in a dorm room is that usually at least one other person in there has felt the same way at some point in their travels (well maybe not about Rufus). Sometimes that bit of comfort from a stranger when you are having a down day is all you need to perk you back up,and you won’t get that in a private room so easily.
Sign up for social events or arrange to go on trips with people in your hostel
Hostels pop up wherever there are large cities or famous tourist attractions, and often look to increase their revenue by organising local tours as well as offering a bed for the night. These trips are a great opportunity to meet new people, so why not hook up with others at your hostel to go together. This approach usually saves costs as you can book as a group, but if you really get on it means that you can continue to explore the local area with your new friend even after the tour has ended. The same applies when you are heading on a night out. No one wants to go out in a strange city all alone, so get together, share the cost of a cab and party with your new friends.
Hang out in the common areas instead of hiding away on your bed messaging people on your phone
People cannot interact with you if you do not open yourself up to the possibility. Closing off your body language like this will make people think that you are either disinterested in socialising, or would rather spend time in the company of those you have left at home. Of course it is important to keep in touch with family and friends, but just going to sit in a common area such as a roof terrace or sofa area shows that you are willing to be a part of the hostel community. Even if you are too shy to make the first move and say hello to someone, there is usually someone who will make the effort with you.
If you are travelling with friends, be open to new people joining your group
The hardest situation is to break into an already close knit group of friends, so be aware of those around you and make sure that you aren’t always the loudest people in the room showing off all the amazing travel stories from far flung places you have travelled together. A close friend of mine ended up meeting her partner whilst on a big group trip, so you never know who you are going to meet.
Do not be a show off
Yes, we get it. You have travelled to 48 countries in the last 9 months and believe that you fundamentally understand each and every culture, have seen every UNESCO world heritage sight and have skydived 12 times. Well maybe not quite, but you aren’t going to make us think you are a great traveller, or make us jealous, we are just going think you are an idiot! Have some humility when talking about your previous travels, as those who are new to travelling may feel like you are too experienced to want to hear their stories or opinions. Part of travelling is opening up your mind to different cultures and people, and that includes fellow explorers.
I cannot iterate how important this is. By staying at a hostel you have chosen to share many things already; a roof over your head, a bathroom and cooking facilities, so why not take it a little further and offer up a little more to the hostel community. Offer to cook for someone who doesn’t have the best culinary skills, share a bottle of wine, or just spend some time playing a board game. Getting to know your fellow hostel companions better not only results in a more comfortable stay, but they may become life long friends.