You may be surprised if you haven’t been away before, but this is the easiest thing to when you’re travelling! Easier than packing you backpacking, hopping on that plane and definitely wayyyyy easier than saying goodbye to your family (accept your weird uncle Harry, that’s the easiest thing in the world), before running away with the fairies. So many people can really nervous about it, but if you were the one in school who was dubbed a ‘different’ you probably will be the most popular one in in the dorm - you’re different and will have the best stories in the room.
To put it simply, if you’re willing to sleep in a hostel to travel, you and every other person in that dorm room have a common interest. Now I’m not saying hostels aren’t nice, I’ve stayed in some pretty cracking places all over the world but you still have to be willing to give up some of your personal boundaries to do it. So when you first arrive and there are a few people hanging around the dorm just ask them any of the following:
Where have you been?
What brought you here?
Where are you from?
How long have you been away?
What’s the best thing about the last place you’ve been?
I almost guarantee that you won’t get to the end of the list because you will literally segway into talking about how you’ve also been to XX and loved it, and did they also try eating that curry because man was it spicy. Then it’ll turn into 'oh my goodness', they’re catching the same bus as you to the next place (and since there’s only one bus a week out of this place it’s not really a surprise, but you’ll act like it is), so how about grabbing a pint in 5 minutes and so on. Before you know it, you’ll both be connected on facebook making this friendship ‘official’. If all else fails and none of those questions get you anywhere, if they’re British just comment on the weather and you’ll be friends for life.
For the more nervous traveller, joining a tour group of is the best way to meet your new best friend or travel buddy. Please don’t think of it as a school trip, where you are herded like cattle from A to B follow someone holding up an umbrella speaking into a megaphone. If you like this style of tour I’m sure you can find one, but if not there are so many companies that will cater for everyone. From small trips for 12 all the way to hop on / hop off bus tours where there is a constant stream of new people, you can have the flexibility and laid back style you require. There are loads of options for you, get in touch if you want some ideas for a destination you want to head to - I’ve done a fair number of independent and tour run travel so can easily help you out!
Look for Another Backpack
Even if you’re not in a hostel full of other travellers, you can still keep an eye out for the obvious signs of a new friend by looking out for another backpack. The clue is in the name ‘travelling’, you’re going to be moving about quite a lot so it’s nice to have a friendly face during those 15 hour bus/train/ferry journeys. If nothing else, it’s a great way to keep safe as a solo traveller on the move as making a friend means you have another pair of eyes to look after all your stuff. I find most of the time one of the two of you (or ten by the end of the journey) don’t have accommodation booked and so can head towards a hostel together at the other end!
If someone else looks lonely and a little homesick, just ask them if they want to grab a drink of an explore. If you’re travelling alone, it’s the best feeling when you get invited out to check out the local sites or bars! If they don’t want to come, if your dorm or common area has other people around I find that they’ll usually chime in suggesting they come alone instead. This is great if you’re easier at talking about what’s around you as they’ll be so many distractions you can just discuss the destination you’re currently in. Unless the other person has also just arrived, they will have met some other people who want to come along too - you’ll have your own ‘gang’ in no time.
Just as much as discussing a common interest can bond people, I almost feel like a common disinterest can bond you just as much! From jumping onto the top bunk with a complete stranger to get away from the snake that suddenly wriggled out from under your bed to sharing each other's pain when two other bunk mates decide to get a little too friendly in an ‘unsubtle’ manner at 3am, you can bond fast over the less enjoyable events of the day. The list of things that can go wrong while travelling is endless, so the list of things you can talk about together is also endless - enjoy!
The number one MUST do to make friends though? Just give them a smile - backpackers and travellers are the most open minded and friendly people in the world. You’ll hear the saying, the ‘travelling community’ all the time and that’s because it really is one. We’re all in it together, even you and I, so crack a grin, open your mouth and make a new best friend.