An Introvert’s Guide to Making Friends in a Hostel
After combing the internet for information about traveling solo over the last few years, I have noticed a common theme. Many solo travelers are introverts. They may not shout this information from every mountain top, but you pick up subtle mentions of their introverted tendencies in their writing. Sure, it makes sense on paper that people who like to be alone would travel by themselves, but dig a little deeper. Solo travelers have to put themselves out there. They have to reach out to strangers, approach people in bars and cafes, ask to join groups of travelers. Introverted people typically struggle with these interactions. So why then do so many introverts travel solo? I can’t speak for all of us, but my goal was to prove that I could. I used to be painfully shy. I couldn’t talk to strangers, and I have mentioned before that I couldn’t even call my dentist to make an appointment. I had slowly been breaking out of my shell over the past few years and I finally came to the conclusion that I needed to test my limits. I was going to travel solo for two weeks. Sure, that doesn’t sound like a daunting task to some people, but to me it meant that I was going to have to face my ultimate fears, rejection and being vulnerable in front of strangers.
Some people are afraid of heights, or spiders. I was afraid of the look on a strangers face when you ask a question so stupid that they don’t even know how to respond. You know the face, where someone scrunches up one side of their face, says”…uhhh I don’t know, sorry,” and walks away shaking their head. Ya…That’s the worst. I used to cringe just thinking about approaching a stranger in a coffee shop to ask for directions. I never went to summer camp or joined a sorority, how was I supposed to make friends in a hostel dorm room? I just wasn’t prepared for this. After I booked my flight, I laid awake at night for weeks thinking about the huge mistake I had just made. Sure, I liked being alone, but I was certain I was not going to speak to another person for two weeks. I just wouldn’t be able to approach a stranger and I knew no one in Europe at the time. At least I’d be able to finish all the books I had been meaning to read.
I arrived in Budapest and checked in to my first hostel. It was a very intimate space and I got a good vibe from the people managing the place. Right after I settled in, I sat down to have tea in the kitchen. A friendly looking blonde walked into the room, plopped down across from me at the table and extended her hand. “I’m Alice, what’s your name?”
Guys, I made a friend! I didn’t even have to do anything! My trip continued in a similar fashion and I was able to make friends nearly everywhere I went. After the first stop, I started to make up some rules for myself in regards to hostels so that I would give myself the best odds of meeting people easily. These are those rules.
An Introvert’s Guide to Making Friends in a Hostel
Stay at Hostels with Bars
When I was in Europe, I used Hostel World to book rooms. I would typically do this on the train between one location and another. If I had been traveling longer and slower, I would have waited until I arrived to book accommodation, but that’s another story. I like reading the reviews on the app to figure out what places are more social and have common spaces to sit in. The best hostels I stayed in all had bars. Let’s be honest, it is much easier to approach a stranger and ask them to go to dinner with you if you have had a couple of drinks. Plus, everyone else is hanging out at the hostel bar because they are trying to meet people as well. Generally speaking, I didn’t have to approach anyone when I sat at the bar alone. It was only a matter of time before some lovely gentleman would approach me and say something suave like “What is such a beauty doing sitting alone at the bar? Come with me to my mansion and we will drink wine by the sea.” Wouldn’t that be nice? But really, I generally only had to hang out at the bar for about an hour before someone would come and hang out with me. It was really that easy.
Sit in Common Spaces
Just to make sure you are paying attention. Sit in common spaces. If you don’t want to sit at the bar, choose the kitchen table or the lounge room. Most hostels have tons of space to just chill out and relax. Any of these spaces will offer you the opportunity to make friends pretty easily. Just don’t isolate yourself. I know it’s hard. If there are two hammocks that you want to sit in and one is near a group of people and one isn’t, choose the more social hammock. Then, once you have established your location, shout out something about your surroundings like “this hammock is pretty cool right… right?” *Dead silence*
Take the Free Walking Tour
Most of the hostels I have stayed at offer some sort of activity like a pub crawl or walking tour. This is an awesome way to make friends because you will be forced to spend the next hour or so with each other. The goal here is to stand anywhere except the very back of the group while making general statements about whatever you see. “That is a beautiful building! Look at that statue. Who do I call about buying this castle?” Eventually someone will think your general ramblings are humorous and will strike up a conversation. Hello new walking tour friend.
Seek Out Other Solo Travelers
I have found that it is way less intimidating to try to befriend other solo travelers than people in groups. People in groups are generally jerks. They have enough friends and they don’t need the strange girl from the hammock tagging along on their booze cruise. They came on this trip to spend time with their friends from home, not take care of the drunk American girl. However, solo travelers are typically more open and would love for you to tag along on their adventures. How do you identify a solo traveler? Well if you are out and about, just look for anyone with a selfie stick. Just kidding, everyone has one…right? If you are in the hostel, the solos will be sitting alone at the bar hopefully, unless they didn’t read this post… The best way to approach other solos is to sit plop down next to them at the bar. (Have you noticed all my rules revolve around where you are located?) Once you have assumed the position, just introduce yourself. No opening line needed, just extend your hand. I mean it worked for Alice, as she got stuck with me for a few days, so it will probably work for you.
Now you know the rules I set for myself when I was traveling solo. These helped me meet some amazing people who I am still in contact with today. Because I was overcame my fear of rejection, and minimized the risk, I was able to open myself up to an experience that I never believed was possible. You can do it too, I believe in you.
Do you have any other tips on how to make friends while traveling solo? I would love to hear them! If you enjoyed this, as always, Pin away.