It can be daunting taking that first step into the big wide world with nothing but a backpack (and maybe your favourite teddy). Being told from a young age “Don’t talk to strangers” makes it hard to introduce yourself. But you don’t want to spend your trip lonely, not talking to anyone (except your teddy). We’re a social species and so need companionship. Don’t worry though, everyone is in the same boat! Most backpackers are a friendly bunch! It just takes one small step to make friends.
To be honest, I’ve never travelled alone, I’ve always had the other half as a travel buddy. But I’ve made friends with lots of solo travels, we don’t just keep to ourselves. I’ve made some friends for life travelling, meeting new people is a huge part of backpacking.
Here are a few ideas of how and where to meet people:
Make Friends In Your Hostel
Your hostel is a hub of solo travellers, all looking for some company! There are loads of ways to make friends here! I would advise you to have a deck of cards handy, everyone loves card games! Why not try:
- Strike up a conversation with someone in your dorm, don’t just sit there in silence!
- Help someone out in the kitchen, have you finished with a pan and see someone maybe wanting it? Or moan about how slow the water takes to boil!
- Take a deck of cards down to the social areas, either play solitaire or ask if anyone wants to/knows a good card game, it’s worth a try!
- Go on events run by the hostel!
Head To The Bar
Whether you go out on a pub crawl arranged by your hostel or head out on your own, pubs and bars are a great place to make friends. Grab a drink and ask if someone minds if you sit with them, what’s the worst that could happen? They may say no, that’s the worst. At bars you could meet another backpacker or a local, so you can get all sorts of conversations! Up in Durness, Scotland we got chatting to the locals and ended up with a new plan of where we were heading because of what they recommended, some great stories and staying out much later than intended!
Go On Trips And Excursions
Get out of the hostel, been thrown on a bus with other travels and you will have to talk! Most trips and excursions start with an icebreaker to get everyone relaxed and chatting. Hop-on and Hop-off buses are good too, such as Stray, as you can then plan your travels with someone else is you make a close relationship! I’m still in touch with people from various tours! Tours don’t always have a huge price tag either – plenty of cities have free walking tours, like Sandeman’s. Not only do these free walking tours give you the opportunity to make friends, they give you a great introduction to the city and help you ‘find your feet’.
Work, Volunteer Or WWOOF
What a great way to have common ground with someone – work (or volunteer, or WWOOF) with them! Once you get your place you’ll be with at least one other person. And you can have a good moan about what it is you’re doing (come on, we all like to moan). We even managed to get a bed for a few days when we worked in Melbourne with a work colleague!
Use Your Contacts
Don’t be afraid of imposing on someone! You’re travelling, on a budget, any help should be appreciated. Do you have a long lost relative somewhere? Why not let them know you’re heading their way? The worst that’ll happen is you’ll get told no! When we were in New Zealand, my Uncle had randomly started talking to someone over whilst playing a game on Facebook, he mentioned that I was over there with my other half. Next second she was contacting me and she was the next stop on our plan. We got free food and bed for a week!
Making friends when backpacking is much easier than you think, everyone wants to do it! Just be confident and don’t be afraid to talk to strangers! The most important thing to remember is SMILE. Friendly people make friends (but don’t stand their scarily smiling at nothing, you can take that too far…)