When I first went travelling solo, everyone said that it is so easy to make friends, and that I’ll make the best friends ever while travelling. And this is 100% true, everything happens for a reason, and the situations in which you meet people travelling are so precarious, I find those are the situations where you meet the people that will have a massive impact on your life.
Sometimes your encounters with people are so short, but they’ll always be intense, you might spend a week with someone, for them to become one of your best friends. When you think about it, it makes sense you’ll have an instant connection with those people you meet travelling; they are the same sort of person as you, who get the feeling that there is so much world out there to discover, and who are dead set that they’ll discover it.
I met some absolutely amazing people travelling, and most definitely left bits of my heart scattered across the globe with them, and my trip most definitely would not have been the same without them. Whether it is a great group on a tour, a great tour leader, or sometimes the girl at breakfast who you catch also stealing extra muffins for later.
So you can put your mind at ease when travelling solo, that you will make friends, and they’ll take your trip from great to unforgettable.
I’m pretty sure everyone knows how to make friends in general, but it is different when you’re not actually obliged to have contact with other people for an extended amount of time; and so without further ado, here are the best tips I have for making friends while abroad.
1) Don’t be scared
This might be easier said then done if you’re a little on the shy side, but really, if you’re the kind of person who psyched themselves into travelling alone, you’re probably not that shy. Don’t be worried about looking like an idiot if you just strike up a conversation with someone in the common room. It is a little scary, but realistically, even if you’re unlucky enough to be talking to a grumpy pants, they’ll probably be gone to their next destination in a couple of days, so who cares.
2) Do the hostel activities
If your hostel has an outing for a hike, or a trivia night or whatever, go to it. I went to a lot, and never saw anyone by themselves for very long. Everyone goes on those things to socialise, that is kind of the point of them. Plus, the tour guides have been told where to go by locals, so you usually see some pretty cool stuff.
3) Go to breakfast.
Apart from the fact that it is the most important meal of the day, I made a LOT of friends by just going to breakfast in the hostels. There is usually pretty limited seating, so you almost always have to join someone else’s table, but even if it’s not necessary, do it, sit down, chat to people, and next minute you’ve got a little crew joining you on your adventures. (Or, like Helen and I did in Vancouver, just pretend to be tour guides, then you’ll have an even bigger crew)
4) Respect different cultures
To some of you, this might seem like a pretty obvious one, and yet, I still heard a lot of people taking the mickey out of someones accent, or the way they spoke. Don’t be a dick, no-one likes a dick. You’ll meet a lot of people who do different things to you, who might be a stickler for religion, may speak little english, who might have a very different dress sense. You don’t have to convert your life to match theirs, but at least respect the difference.
5) Ask questions
You’re travelling to discover stuff aren’t you? Don’t go into a conversation thinking you know everything, you’ll learn so much more if you learn to listen to people, instead of sticking to a pre-conceived idea of how the world is. Plus, you might find out about some pretty amazing places that you didn’t even know you HAVE to visit.
6) Watch for stragglers
If there is someone at an activity or anything standing on their own, go and talk to them. Chances are they will be fully up for a conversation, and are just a little too shy to go up to people. Plus, if you are nice to people who need it most, the universe will give you some good karma, probably in that you’ve just met an awesome person.
7) Meet your roommates
If you are staying in a dorm room, it is a no-brainer way to make friends to be nice to the people in your dorm. I had some wicked roommates while I was travelling, and we went on many an adventure.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the ways to make friends abroad, but hopefully it will give anyone planning a solo trip a bit of peace of mind that it is easy to make friends, and you definitely will.
Remember too, that we’re lucky enough to be part of a world where it is super easy to stay in contact with people around the globe, grab peoples Facebooks, Skype, Email and whatever other methods of communicating online that you have and stay in touch with them! Because saying goodbye really sucks, but it is a lot easier when it is a “see you later” as opposed to a finite goodbye.
Enjoy these pictures too, of just some of the incredible people I met travelling, all of whom I shared adventures, the occasional drunken D&M, and many a laugh with.
There are so many more people who could have been up here! But a special mention to two of my two favourite backpackers in Australia, Martin, who we lost to Portsmouth before I returned, and Becca of Kent, who leaves today for her next adventure.