Anyone travelling alone for the first time might consider spending time with strangers to be a pretty daunting thought. In actual fact, making friends abroad is often a lot easier than you think. Toby Gunston of Travel Buddies shares some simple tips for getting to know fellow travellers.
Should I go by myself?
Most people who travel with a loved one (or a friend of the opposite sex) will tell you they find it hard to make friends, as people don't always like to approach couples - assuming that they want to be left to their time together. Sure, introducing yourself while they're having a candlelit dinner for two might not be the best time, but generally even couples like to meet new people. However, someone travelling alone looks much more approachable - they're by themselves and regardless of how happy you are in your own company, who doesn't enjoy making friends? Having travelled both with a girlfriend and alone, I would have to say that I met far more people and had just as much fun travelling alone. Though you may begin your travels alone, you soon build up a great circle of friends.
Accommodation is a big factor in meeting new people. To some, travelling is solely about adventure, although others prefer to come back to a five-star hotel at the end of the day and enjoy some luxury.
While there's nothing wrong with the latter, you'll likely find it more difficult to make any friends.Think about it this way, do you really need to spend £125 a night on a hotel room? Will you really make use of the gym, conference rooms and everything else you pay for? A dorm room in a backpackers will cost you less than a tenth of that price and you'll be sharing with fellow like-minded travellers.
I really wasn't sure what I'd make of my first dorm experience while travelling, but I walked straight in, said "hey everyone" and that was it. People ask where you're from, where you're going, and after the first night the idea of not being in a dorm became the scary thought. You can also request certain types of dorms: single sex, mixed or a range of different room sizes allowing more or fewer occupants. Generally the rooms get cheaper as the number of beds in the room increases and you'll meet more people, but it becomes a less intimate experience, and with more people coming and going, you might find it harder to use the room for its primary purpose: sleeping. I often found the best rooms were the 4 to 6 bed, mixed dorms - a good variety of people, but not too busy to get some sleep.
Tours and Transport
Going on organised group tours and using coach-travel packages are just as important as your accommodation preferences when it comes to meeting new people. Take a group of adventurous people, confine them to a small space, and take them on the journey of a lifetime - it's a recipe for success. The long journeys make it easy to spark up conversations and seeing something magical on a great adventure gives everyone something to talk about.
Fellow travellers will often make that extra effort to ensure that those alone are included in whatever is going on. As a general observation, people who travel for pleasure are often sociable and friendly. But don't wait for people to make the first move, get involved with whatever is going on. Sitting on the side-lines while everyone else is having fun might draw some sympathy, but you run the risk of looking like a bore. Never be afraid to jump right into anything, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain - what's the worst that can happen?
Keeping in touch
"Are you on Facebook?" "Of course!" "Sorry, silly question, who isn't?!"
That was one of the conversations I overheard in an internet café in Queenstown, New Zealand, and it's perfectly true. Most people who you meet will be on Facebook. There was a time when to keep in touch you had to get the person's email address. These days you just need to remember someone's name and add them as a friend on Facebook.
When I last went on a big round-the-world adventure, I had a great night out with a ton of random people I'd only just met, but then forgot to exchange details with. When I logged onto Facebook the next day, I had a new friend request and within minutes I was browsing through some messy photos of the night before and catching up with all the brilliant people I had met.
Chances are you'll meet the same travellers again and again throughout your trip, other times you might miss them by a day or two. Keep in touch with the people you meet and in no time you'll have a great network of friends. Sure you might not always be going to the same places, but you'll often find people will change their plans to stick with the friends they make, rather than sticking to their schedule. Who knows, you might even find yourself somewhere more exciting than the place you had planned for.
You can also get a head start on making friends by checking out www.travel-buddies.com to see who is or will be travelling in the same area as you.more blog posts