Meeting new people is easily one of best parts about travel, and the reason why so many backpackers embarking on solo travel choose to stay in hostels. Sure, you see awesome sights and enjoy different experiences from what we do back home. But the people you meet and the friends you make are more than just the icing on the cake – they will make the difference between a ripper trip and a dull time, no matter what the location.
Don’t wait for the awkward silence to get longer… it will only make it harder to break…
For some, this is easy. If you are one of the lucky ones who can saunter up to anyone with confidence, and casually start a conversation while making everyone around you feel at ease, you will probably not relate to this post. But for a lot of people trying solo travel for the first time this is easier said than done. Initiating conversation with a stranger is not always something that comes naturally and can make many of us quake in our boots – especially when hostels seem to be full of extroverts. The good news is it gets easier with practice: the longer you travel solo, the more that shaky feeling will become a distant memory.
In the meantime, here are some things to remember when turning roomies into besties:
Be the first person to say hello!
Never be afraid to jump right in there and say hi. This sounds simple, but it is easy to forget and is probably the most important thing to keep in mind when around new people. Just start by offering a hello and a smile… it’s the way most good adventures start!
2. Start with the obvious…
Start with something easy: where are you from/how long have you been here/where have you come from/what did you get up to today? It’s how ALL hostel conversations start. You will feel like a broken record after only a few days, but each answer is going to be (at least slightly) different and will lead onto other more interesting topics!
3. Don’t hesitate!
You’ve made eye contact and said hello when you first walked in and dumped your bags, or sat down on the nearby couch/table. Now is the critical moment! Don’t wait for the awkward silence to get longer and distance you. Trust me, it will only make it harder to break that barrier. Jump right in and introduce yourself. Now!
4. Avoid excuses.
‘They are on their phone/laptop, they don’t want to be interrupted’ ‘they are alone, they probably want time to them self’. Things like this play on our fear of rejection, but it doesn’t hurt to be friendly. In fact, more often than not they will stop what they are doing to have a chat. If not, you will get the vibe pretty quickly that now is not a good time. Don’t take it personally, as everyone needs the occasional time to themselves – (as a solo traveler knows well).
5. They are thinking the same thing as you!
Perhaps the most dangerous excuse is ‘if they wanted to talk, they would have spoken to me first’. Almost everybody is there to meet new people (if not, they wouldn’t be staying in a hostel) and it is just as likely that they are thinking the same thing, and are waiting for YOU to make the first move! As a solo traveler this gives you the change to be bold, courageous and break the ice!
6. Pop the question…
If you are getting along well to start with, simply ask if they would like to join you for dinner or a drink that night in the hostel bar. It will give you a chance to get to know them better, without the commitment of having to spend all day with someone that doesn’t end up being your idea of good company!
7. Get social!
Luckily, the Samesun hostels make it easy to socialize. Get out on their daily hostel activities to find plenty of other travellers eager to get to know you. As the saying goes, ‘Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet’. You won’t necessarily hit it off with everyone, but travelling has a way of bringing new friends together that can last a lifetime. Solo travel, more so than a group travel experience, will teach you how to make friends and hostels are the best place for it. And of course if you’re still nervous, there is always The Beaver if you need some liquid courage!