Making Friends When Travelling or Backpacking

Travelling alone? Worried you won’t meet anybody to travel with? Here we look at some tips to start making friends when travelling and what to expect.

Setting off on any lengthy backpacking trip can be a daunting experience for most people, but so many travellers do it every day it has become to be a relatively normal occurance.

Setting Off Alone

I set off on my first backpacking trip 2 years ago. None of my friends were interested in coming with me so I decided to just go for it on my own. My first destination was Melbourne, Australia and I arrived after a long flight to the hostel late at night. Naively, in my head, was the thought that I would burst open the door to my dorm room to be greeted by several warm and welcoming room-mates who were intelligent,talkative, friendly and any girls present would be very pleasing to the eye.

What actually happened is that I arrived at the hostel late at around 7pm and there was nobody present in my 10 bed dorm room although there were obviously 9 other beds filled. Tired and jet lagged I fell asleep around 8pm. Awaking after a solid 12 hours sleep I found that yet again I was alone. It turned out that I was co-habiting with a bunch of people who all worked during the day and they had all left before I had woken up – Typical!

For the next week I moved rooms in the hostel, chatted with various strangers, got drunk with some Irish lads, went on day tours and wandered round the city. But something was missing. I’m not the most talkative guy on the planet but my attempts to get to know people had fallen flat, striking up conversations over dinner tables, bar drinks and meeting people on day tours was only achieving interaction for short periods of time. It was harder than I thought. It’s so alien to people at the start of their backpacking adventure to buy a drink in a bar and have nobody to talk to. It feels odd. Usually your mate will have arrived by now. You wonder what to do with yourself once you have the drink in your hand and that everyone is looking at you thinking your a loner! (Which is not the case and you know it) After spending years with your friends back at home you suddenly have nobody who knows more about you than your name and you feel a million miles from home. Some people will have met people straight away and never looked back. It didn’t happen for me like that but things were about to change…………….

The First Breakthrough

After several short term friendships with people I didn’t really like that much anyway I was beginning to feel a little down about this friends thing. Nobody seemed to be going my way or into the same interests as me. However I soon realised that it would be impossible to make any friends without interacting with people. I had to keep trying and knew eventually I would meet people.

I had travelled up through Sydney and reached Byron Bay where I met a guy who was also travelling up the East Coast and we got on really well. He was far more confident than me and he had no problem in talking to new people. That was where I began to learn the secret which I will share with you. Soon I was making friends right, left and center and things became a lot more enjoyable. We met a couple of Canadian guys and travelled with them too. 4 of us together up the Australian Coast having the time of our lives, great friendship for life, great memories and great times.

I ended up going to New Zealand next and had to start from scratch with making friends but now I knew how to do it, it was easy. I finished my trip on the East coast of America and travelled for 4 weeks completely alone. I felt I needed some time with my own company, without friends and other people. A complete reversal of when I started my trip in Melbourne 6 months earlier.

What’s The Secret?

Some people have it naturally, others may not, but one thing is for sure, you CAN learn it and it will change your life. Forever.

Imagine you are at home, sitting with your friends in the pub, laughing with each other about jokes nobody outside of your group will understand, based on memories and past experiences you had with those friends. Now, you get up out of your seat, wander across the room, alone, and ask some complete strangers whether you are able to sit with them. What reaction do you think you will get from the strangers? Tell you to get lost? Think your weird? Probably.

When your backpacking the same rules don’t apply. Sure, not everyone will be welcoming with open arms when you ask if you may join them for dinner, some people want to be left alone, but I guarantee you that 99% of people will say “sure, no problem”. With backpacking it is important to remember that everyone is like you, infact most people are travelling alone aswell. Going out for dinner one night with 7 strangers and never seeing them again is part of the fun and it’s what happens. People are aware of it and it’s kind of the norm.

There will be people you meet who become your friends for a week, friends for a month and friends for life. It’s all about YOUR attitude and knocking down those social barriers you are used to. It works both ways, invite people out for dinner with you, or to go on a day trip, or cook at the hostel together. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no? Get yourself into a mentality. Strike up conversations with people in the hostel kitchen, your dorm room, the people behind you on the bus, ask where their from, where they’re going etc. You will soon find yourself meeting people. Nobody thinks your wierd for asking.

Useful Tips To Make Friends Whilst Backpacking

2. Go on day trips, tours and activities and be friendly to the people on your trip.
3. Smile at others and seem approachable.
4. Join a backpacker bus tour
5. Cook in the hostel kitchen, a great place to meet people.
6. If you do meet others try not to stay in an enclosed group and continue to interact with others.
7. If you are struggling to meet people just do the simple things and start again, change rooms, change hostels, book that day trip, move onto the next city etc. Make it happen for yourself.
8. Keep in touch with people if you have a similar destination plan and catch up with them if your in the same area.
9. Avoid party hostels with bars, it may seem a good idea but meeting drunk people with loud music is not so good for creating friendships.
10. Smaller hostels tend to be more intimate and there’s more chance of finding friends in these than in the big hostels.

2 thoughts on “Making Friends When Travelling or Backpacking

  1. Katy

    Great article and tips! I also found that staying in the smaller hostels helped me meet people. You find most people will stay and drink in the hostel and make their own entertainment and it is a lot more welcoming than the bigger hostel chains.

  2. Michelle

    Great article! My first hostel experience was in Sydney, and there was no one in my room the first night! Haha, luckily making friends while backpacking isn’t too hard!

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