I’ve done my fair share of traveling and made some of my best friends in the most foreign of situations. But if you’re about to start traveling, either alone, or not, how do you know you’re going to meet fun people along the way to share your journey with? If you’re reading this and you’ve traveled before, then you know, like me, that it’s really pretty easy. But a recent trip to Ireland that I took with a’ non-traveler’ friend made me realise that for the uninitiated, it can seem like quite the challenge to meet and befriend total strangers.
So thinking back at my past experiences, and my recent Irish adventure (blog to come), here are a few things to help you realise that making friends while traveling is actually probably easier than making friends anywhere else.
1. You already have something in common: The second you walk into a hostel (assuming you are in fact staying in a hostel – something you really should do if the social aspect is important to you) you have something in common with every single guest there. You’re traveling, so are they. They’re not from the town you’re staying in, and neither are you. In theory, there is nothing wrong with simply approaching anyone in the lounge or common area of your hostel and diving right in with ‘Hi, so where are you from?’ I say in theory because, just like everywhere else in life, there’s a way to do things and there’s a way not to. You don’t want to unnerve your potential new best friends now do you…
2. Allow drink to lead the way: Okay, I’m not suggesting a regular schedule of blind drunkenness here (but it happens…). But a bottle of wine or beer in your hand always aids conversation. By around 7 in the evening, there’s a good bet that somewhere in your hostel, someone is enjoying a beverage. If that previous line ‘Hi, so where are you from?’ is preceded by ‘May I join you?’ with a gesture towards the bottle in your hands and in theirs, then you’re in. These will be friends for the rest of your time, because, well everyone gets along when there’s a drink involved.
3. Share what local knowledge you do have: If this is your second or third day in town, and you’re at reception waiting to order another pizza, keep your ears open as the new arrivals check in. This Easter weekend in Ireland, a lot of the town was closed, but on Easter Sunday (my third day in town) I knew there was a great beer festival happening. I knew it was great because I’d attended the day before and fully intended to revisit it. When two arrivals asked reception what was happening in town, they failed to mention this wonderful festival, so I piped up and informed the them. Guess who came and found me at said festival a few hours later with beers in hand.
4. Don’t be afraid to invite yourself in: Another great thing about hostels is that they usually have some kind of movie room, TV room, or other area where inviting yourself to a seat is easy. In Ireland, our hostel had a cinema room, and when three people (who turned out to be a sketch comedy group from Dublin) where watching V for Vendetta, my friend and I walked in, asked to join, as easy as that. We got to meet new friends, make plans to see their comedy act (which didn’t work out, but that’s another story), and watch a new film. Even if your hostel has a communal kitchen and you see a group eating together – make your plate of food and ask to join. They’re almost certainly not going to turn you away.
5. Eavesdrop: This is usually a little rude but for some reason I’ve always found that over-hearing something and adding your two cents in a hostel is always welcome and seems to immediately invite you into the whole conversation. I don’t know why, and I don’t know if this is a unique experience to me. And I don’t know if it has more to do with how many cans of beer have already been consumed (refer to number 1) but it just works. As long as you’re saying something that makes sense of course…
So there’s 5 tips of many more I have. They probably make sense to most of you, but if you’re new to traveling and worried that you’ll be the one person who doesn’t make friends while you’re away. I hope you believe me – it really is this easy.