Often people’s biggest fears about travelling solo revolve around meeting people and making friends. Especially if you’re not a natural extrovert or one of those seasoned travellers who’s been there and done it all before. Even if you are more extroverted, it can be really tough just approaching strangers and striking up a conversation when you’re thousands of miles away from home. So I’m writing this post to give a few tips that can make meeting new people in hostels a bit easier. For seasoned travellers who are happy just strolling up to every Tom Dick and Harry, this post probably isn’t as relevant for you. But if you’re looking for a bit of advice on less scary ways to meet people when you’re travelling, hopefully this will help!
Go to hostel excursions/events
This is a great one, and probably my favourite. So what do I mean by hostel excursions and events? Well, depending on where you’re staying and the hostel you’re staying in, there will likely either be group activities and/or events put on by the hostel (see the example picture below from the hostel I was in for a week in Vancouver). They might host quizzes or beer pong competitions if they have their own bar for example, or have an intro information session for the area you’re staying in. They might also have a member of staff that runs day trips, or walking tours that hostel people can go on, which are usually tailored for people on a budget (as the majority of hostel dwellers are). So when you’re researching which hostels to stay in it’s worth considering things like the ‘atmosphere’ score on hostelworld, and to look at their details and website to see if they offer trips etc. I’ve put the example of the activity programme put on by the SameSun hostel I stayed in when in Vancouver below.
When I was staying in Sydney, my hostel had an intro talk for new people, which was essentially a chance for activity companies etc to pitch their services as well as letting us know what there was to do etc. But the main benefit of this (other than the free drink), was that everyone there was obviously relatively new so in the same boat. None of us knew each other and it was a great chance to speak to people. There was already a natural icebreaker topic in talking about the trips we’d been told about and how we were thinking of spending our time in Sydney. I ended up meeting a few people in this meeting that were the friends I hung out with during that leg of my trip.
In Vancouver and also Sydney, the hostels I stayed in offered day trips. These were both hikes or walking tour type activities where you got to see some of what the local area had to offer. By doing these it puts you with other people, a lot of whom are also solo travellers, and it gives you a chance to chat while walking or exploring with your hostel guide. It might sound a bit creepy, but if you’re nervous about striking up a conversation yourself, often you’ll overhear others talking about things that you’ll find immediate common ground with. For example a travel destination, a hobby or something you’d planned on doing in the area. I know you don’t go abroad to meet people from your own country, but hearing a familiar accent is always great common ground to strike up a conversation about home
Talk to your room mates
This is something that will feel a lot less intimidating than approaching someone out of the blue. As if you’re sharing a room with someone, you’re often in pretty close quarters. It’s always natural to say hi, introduce yourself and have a chat. In a way sometimes it’s weird if you don’t. Do note though some people just aren’t that talkative, so don’t take it to heart. You’ll always find the classic person in a hostel that seems to be a complete mystery and enigma, only appearing at weird times, never muttering more than a couple of sentences, or laughing at some strange material on their laptop. But you’ll also meet really friendly people you can have a chat to and explore with. In Christchurch my room-mates were a few Irish guys who having never met them before, we starting talking and then were in the pub having a few drinks soon after.
Be bold, talk to someone new in a communal area
Now firstly, in my quest to always be honest and up front, not everyone will be friendly. I’m not trying to put you off talking to new people, and this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make the effort to put yourself out there. It just means some people you meet, you just won’t have much in common with. Or they’re having a bad day, or they are shy and it comes across as standoffish, or they’re just a bit miserable and don’t want company. That’s fine! I had a bit of a negative experience on this front that turned into one of the most memorable experiences of my trip.
Turning up in a hostel in Kyoto, after dumping my bag I went to the kitchen which seemed like the only communal area I might stand a chance of meeting anyone. Not knowing anyone yet or what I would be doing, I said hi to a guy across the table. He grunted then ignored me. I even text my girlfriend being like ‘so this doesn’t bode well’… Luckily though, I didn’t let that stop me. Shortly after, a girl walked in and I decided to try again to strike up a conversation. This time though, she was super friendly and we got on great. We ended up renting bikes (the best way to see Kyoto by a mile!) and exploring some of the sites for the rest of the day. Later on in the evening she introduced me to some other travellers she’d met in the hostel and we all ended up going out and karaoke-ing until the early hours. This is a great example of how you shouldn’t let meeting one bad person put you off, don’t take it to heart, move on and forget about it and you’ll be all the better for it.
When you travel, you immediately have something in common with the people around you in hostels, and that’s that you’re all travelling! Don’t be put off by the odd person who isn’t very friendly. Because for every non friendly person, there’s an awesome person around the corner. You’re all in the same boat, in a new place trying to meet new people and experience new things. So hopefully this post will have given a bit of advice on meeting people in hostels, and shown that the best experiences can be ones with people you only just met.