A step-by-step guide on how to make some wonderful new friends whilst travelling the world and enjoying yourself.
It’s a scary thing; to pack up your life in a suitcase for a couple of weeks or months and fly across the world where you know no one, just because. I remember being in a hostel in Mexico in 2015, unable to sleep one night out of pure fear that I was to spend the next three months there. The thoughts that crept in where “will I meet anyone?”, “am I going to have any fun?” and “will I be alone and not talk to anyone at all?”
Silly questions as the next day I was surrounded by new friends. My dread came from a place of anxiety and fear of the unknown. But that’s also why we travel, right? To launch ourselves into the unknown in hopes that we will find our feet and learn how to stand up straight and proud.
Places to meet fellow travellers
The easiest place to find other like-minding travellers is where you choose to sleep. If you’re travelling alone, it’s always best to stay at a hostel. And the best place to find where to book a hostel, is on Hostelworld. They usually have common areas like a lounge or a bar to sit at. These days, most people in these areas will be on their phones or laptops. My recommendation, take a book or a pen and paper. This leaves you more open to starting a conversation rather than having your head buried in a screen, usually just scrolling Instagram which you could be doing at home.
And if there’s a bar, it means that you can get yourself a local beer and park yourself next to somebody and I assure you, it won’t take long to start chatting. Also, if you don’t feel comfortable sharing a dormitory, most hostels will offer cheap private rooms.
Going on a tour is a great way to meet other travellers too. When everyone is excited to be seeing something new, they share an experience together and you can then relate to each other that way. Snorkelling, diving, hiking or walking tours are offered in almost every corner of the earth. I’ve made friends walking up a volcano to see the sunrise in Indonesia, going on a free wine tour through Myanmar and running around on a pub crawl in Cambodia. Friends are everywhere, you just haven’t met them yet.
Speaking of, pub crawls in popular tourist towns are, by far, the easiest way to make friends. With a little social lubricant, everyone turns into a social butterfly. Even if you don’t drink, or don’t like to drink that much, ask the people organising the pub crawl if you can pay less and just enjoy everyone’s good vibes that way instead.
I have found in my travels that the same questions are asked every time I met someone new. The first question is always the same…
Where are you from?
Yes, this is a great first contact. Because maybe you’ve been there, maybe they have been to where you’re from, maybe you have a friend that lives there or someone else you met along the way. It is a solid first contact to be able to relate to them and have some common ground
How long have you been travelling?
This question comes with a little bit loaded. There are undercurrents of sizing-each-other-up sometimes as to how long they’ve been on the road. It’s an ego thing that the longer you travel, the better you are. This is not true. If you’re fresh off the plane, it means that this person that has already been on the road for a week, a month or even a year is going to have all the answers’ to your questions. They’ve already been ripped off by the dodgy tour ticket office, so they can warn you about it!
And if you’re the one that has been away for a little while longer, it allows you the space to be able to share your recommendations and advice on places you’ve already been. Maybe even put them in contact with your friend that lives in a small town that your new friend plans on travelling to. Sharing stories and experiences allows us to develop friendships and connections.
Oh, do you know….?
Sometimes, if someone knows a friend from a small town or place you live in or have been to, they might ask if you know this person. Chances are, well, there are no chances. But, I have been witness to this line of questions before and turns out that a guy knew this girls cousin proving that the world isn’t that small after all. So why not give it a try? It’s either going to be a no or a great story.
How old are you?
I’m saying this for all of us that are over about 25, stop asking this question, please! It’s not important. I have friends that are 18 years old, and also friends that are 50. Age is literally just a number. Sometimes it’s good to know someone’s age for context, but it’s usually a question that will arise at a later time, whilst they’re knee deep in a story about a lover they had in the Amazon. Enjoy the story, not the number of circles they’ve taken around the sun.
Travelling allows us to meet people from all over the world with all different points of view and experiences. We’d be silly to throw any of that away with a certain prejudice we have against a country. When I first started travelling, I met a few people from the United States that I could not stand. They were arrogant and annoying. I decided that if I learnt that someone was from the states that I would find someone else to talk to. Since then, I have become more open and some of my best friends, that I’ve met travelling, are from North America.
I like to say “d**kheads are universal.” It doesn’t matter where you come from, what colour your skin is, male, female, young, old or alien, if you’re not a nice person, you’re not a nice person; it comes down to that. But it also goes the other way. Let yourself be open to meeting people from everywhere and from all different backgrounds because they all have stories to share and lessons to learn. Once we start travelling we become part of the global community that sees no borders.
It’s ok to be alone
One of the most freeing feelings in the world is being in a completely new place and having no idea where you’re going, but going anyway. The real beauty of travelling alone is that you can be alone whenever you want. Have you met a group of people that you don’t really get along with? Fine, take yourself out for the day on your own journey. Don’t feel like going to that town next? Great, stay where you are or chose a different direction. I love being alone whilst travelling as it gives me a chance to read, write and explore the way I want to.
Being comfortable in your own company is an important lesson to learn and travelling alone is the “shock therapy” way to do it. Remember, you don’t have to do anything. Just because you enjoy someone’s company, this doesn’t mean that you have to change all of your plans to make sure you stay together. But also allow yourself the flexibility that if it feels good to go with someone somewhere, explore that opportunity.
Being alone will also force you to meet people. I have found that travellers that go in groups or couples from back home always tend to meet fewer people as they have each other to depend on. I think everyone, at least once in their life, should go travelling solo. To challenge themselves with the culture shock and to learn how we react to situations.
Remember, smiles are infectious, happiness and knowledge are the only things that get bigger when they’re shared, and friends are just strangers before “hello”.
To see more about the beautiful friends I’ve made, take a look at my post about having an orphan Christmas in Pai, Thailand here.