Everybody says its awesome to travel solo, and that is actually. But what most people don’t tell you is that it sometimes gets pretty lonely and you feel like you’re being left out. Let me tell you something, the feelings are mutual! We’re in this together, buddy. As soon as I try approaching new people, my social anxiety just kicks in… hard! Anyways, things have gotten better for me in recent years. Here are some things I learnt along the way, that I’m sharing as a “how to make friends at hostels” guide in here. These tips have helped me a lot, would hopefully help you too. Here you go–
1. Hostel Staff
In case you’ve searched for backpacker hostels online, you must have come across reviews about how good the staff was or how well they treat their guests. Hostel staff is one of the most crucial yet underrated part of staying in a hostel, especially if you’re a solo traveler.
As a person looking for meeting new people on your journey and making some new friends at hostels along the way, choose a hostel with such good reviews. It’s much easier to become friends with the hostel staff if they are welcoming. Just be polite to them, talk to them nicely and ask if they’d like to hang out with you in their free time or to show you around the place. However, it’s unlikely that they would agree readily because of their tight schedules (especially in-season), so don’t push too much.
Keep in mind that people always notice how you talk to others or how you treat others. If you treat the hostel staff nicely, it’s likely that somebody else would notice and try talking to you. I mean you’re not the only one there looking for companions, right.
2. Group Events
As you might already know, backpacker hostels organize social events or outings for their guests, either on their own or in partnership with local communities. These events often include bonfires, night outs, city tours, yoga/cooking sessions, dinners, etc.
Such events are fun, but you might feel left out when you’re there all alone and would see others hanging out with their partners or friends or whatever. But guess what, these social events and outings are organized so that travelers come together, get to know each other, socialize, have fun, and maybe get a little bit drunk along the way 😉 So, don’t worry about things and just enjoy your sweet time there.
3. Online Communities
This one’s a bit different and often overlooked. When it comes to the list of online communities, there is no end. As someone looking to meet new people offline, it’s just as important to look for them online. You never know who you might meet in an online cookie-baking community or cycling community. Stay active on apps and portals like Facebook group, Strava (for bikers), Tinder, etc.
Don’t forget to connect to people on your hostel’s social media. Ask the staff for their social handles, if you don’t know them already. Post pictures, use hashtags and also mention the location. It would make it easier for others to find you online.
4. Kitchen & Food
I can not stress enough on the importance of this point. Food & Art are two sure shot ways of bringing the masses together. Food brings together people with different backgrounds whose interests might even be miles apart. Some hostels offer open kitchens for the guests to use. Use that, buddy!
Offer help if someone is already cooking there or cook yourself and invite other to share the food with you. It is quite simple — cook with others, eat with others or at least share food with others. While you are at it, share your stories as well. It is a simple, effective and delicious way of making new friends at hostels.
5. Common Rooms & Music
As you might already know, almost all the hostels have common areas for their guests to chill and relax and spend some quality time together. I suggest you spend significant amount of your time in hostel chilling in the common area only. Don’t hide away in your bunk bed.
In case you’d listen to music in there, don’t use headphones or things like that. They make you somewhat “disconnected” from the world and make it difficult for others to come and talk to you. You can always listen to music without them; just remember to keep the volume down enough that you don’t disturb other guests. And if you’re listening to regional music or something like that, people might even come and talk to you out of curiosity.
6. Take initiative to make friends at hostels
This is an important one. Even if you followed the above mentioned steps by word, chances are that people might not approach you. People who travel in group often don’t look for others to talk to. So change the game here a bit, and take the initiative yourself.
Don’t just expect people to magically appear in front of you and become your companion. Approach people on your own, talk to them, offer help, compliment them or at least ask them questions that could spark a decent conversation, like– what camera gear are you using? or what’s that music you’re listening to? etc. (don’t sound creepy though).
Approaching bigger groups of people is often intimidating, especially if you’re an introvert like me. I suggest you look for small groups or individuals as they’re often welcoming and easier to get along. It is one of the easiest way to make new friends at hostels.
Chances are you’d meet a few of travel bloggers in your journey, especially in hostels. So, if you become friends with them, don’t forget to ask for their social handles, website and everything. People love when someone asks for these things, unless they act creepy.
7. Be welcoming to others
As a champion in social anxiety and introvert behavior, I know exactly how it feels not being able to talk to new people as easily as those weird extroverts make it seem like. There! I said it! Extroverts are really weird kind of creatures from the perspective of an introvert. And not just any introvert, but the alpha male of the kingdom right here. God! I’m hopeless…
Anyways, some obvious things to make people like you: Don’t judge people based on their looks, clothes or just anything for that matter! Maintain good personal hygiene. Give everyone a chance. Be flexible with your travel plans. Don’t push others, be polite and just be yourself. Remember that hostels are meant to bring people like you together and for you to make new friends at hostels.
Final word of advice– get the hints! When you’d try meeting new people, look for obvious gestures that hint whether they’re actually comfortable talking to you or they just consider you someone creeping into their comfort zone. That’s the last thing you’d want.
also read: Finding Cheap Accommodation: House Sitting