I’m a pretty friendly, open person and I don’t usually have issues approaching people… it is actually my job as a promo gal. At least that is what people think and I’m told when I tell them, that making friends while travelling is easy. They tell me they themselves are too shy or are introverts.
Rewind sixteen years ago when I moved to Australia from Russia and I couldn’t speak English. I was isolated and bullied in my first years in primary school. That trauma has followed me throughout life. I hate new places and meeting new people. Every time I arrive to a new place I get a little anxious and apprehensive about approaching people and saying hey. I am scared that I will be rejected and ignored like when I was 8 year of age. Silly right? But I really can’t help it. I guess that this is everyone’s one big fear, REJECTION. People think that they will be rejected when they try and approach someone. To tell you the truth that was my fear until this one time in Mexico…
I remember I was in a hostel in Oaxaca and one of the Aussie guys I met downstairs told me that there was a group of them on the rooftop having drinks and that I should join. I was super excited, yay fellow Aussies I thought to myself, I know they will be fun.
I grabbed my beer and headed upstairs. When I got to the top I said, “Hey” but was greeted by judging stares. They looked me up and down, especially the girls sitting around the table. No one invited me to join them or to sit down. Thoughts of panic came over me. I felt awkward and uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to do. Do I stay, or do I retreat back like a kicked dog with a tail between my legs? I felt like that bullied little 8 year old, frozen in amazement that this was actually happening. I decided that it’d be too weird if I ran away downstairs, so my eyes raced to find the guy who actually invited me up. He acknowledged my presence and I came over. A few other boys introduced themselves to me and we started chatting. Later the girls came over and introduced themselves too. They liked me so much that they invited me to come out with them. I politely declined as I had had enough excitement for one night 😉
It was such an amazing experience because after that I wasn’t afraid of approaching anyone anymore. It was such a horrible experience and I survived, I won them over in the end. After that I couldn’t imagine anything worst than that happening and in two years of me traveling I have never ever come across anything like that. Staya Mate.
I really hope this story didn’t scare you off. I just wanted to share with you that even theconfident people are scared, the key is not to let that fear stop you. I could try count how many incredible people I have met but I think it would be in thousands maybe millions. Most conversations and first encounters were super organic and beautiful.
Below are some of my hot tips on where to meet champs and how to break the ice.
The famous and annoying (after 12 months) questions to break the ice.
“Where are you from?”
“Where have you been?”
“Where are you going next?”.
Something more original...
“Wow, love those shoes, where did you get those?”, “Any delicious and cheap food places around here?”, “Have you done your washing here yet?”
“Are you going out tonight?”
A way to get people to go with you somewhere…
“Have you had dinner yet?”
“Have you been to <insert epic sightseeing spot> yet?”
“What is everyone doing today?”…”Sounds awesome, do you mind if I join you guys?”
TIP** Keep the convo lighthearted, don’t get too heavy too soon. (Writing this tip reminded me of the lady from Alabama I met in Miami ***crying laughing face)
Best place to meet people…
- DORM ROOM!! Best place ever. So, so, so easy because they come to you. All you have to do is smile and say, “Hey, where are you from? Where are you going? Where have you been?”
- Common chill/wifi areas. Again super easy because people are already there. TIP*** Easiest way to break the ice – as you’re walking into a room full of people say “hello” loud enough for people to hear and acknowledge you. After that, someone will look up and you’ll be able to strike up a convo (refer to above convo tips).
- Kitchen. Here you will not only make friends, and play drinking games and cook, but you will also save money!! WIN, WIN. Firstly, you are saving money by A. cooking, B. drinking from the bottle shop and C. making friends to cook with, thus spending less money on ingredients.
- Asking for directions on a hike or a not so busy place can score you a buddy. This actually happened to me when I was trying to find the hike to get behind the Hollywood sign. I asked for directions from these two amazing ladies and ended up doing the whole hike with them. I actually wrote this post from up there and those girls took that epic panorama.
- Taking a photo or asking someone to take a photo for you. This is a really easy way to break the ice, if you hear an accent you can ask them, “where there are from?” etc etc.
- Train rides – usually you are in a cabin with a few people. On my way from Budapest to Brasov I met a lovely girl from Bucharest that I’m still great friends with. When I had my bed bug crisis she let me use her washing machine and her mum ironed all my clothes. She even offered me a place to stay and fed me lots of local dishes. Don’t be afraid to start up a convo with a random, you never know where it will take you.
- Bus rides – you are always sitting with someone. Sometimes you feel like chatting, other times not. On my way to Turkey from Bulgaria I got really lucky and met a Turkish dude while I was waiting for our bus, that was running late. (Actually it was super lucky that it was running late because otherwise I would have missed it). When we arrived in Istanbul he helped me figure out the metro system, took me to a local cafe for breakfast and the next day gave me a super, mega tour of his city. We ate trickster ice cream, and feasted at the best Kebab shop in town.
- Ice cream shops – this is a totally random one. I added it in just to show that you never know where you might make a friend for life. I actually wrote a whole post about my friend I met in a Mexican ice cream shop.
- Yoga Classes – Lot of hostels offer free yoga classes and its an easy way to start up a convo. You can ask them about their yoga or just about the class or if they want to grab a smoothie with you after class.
- Hostel group activities – a lot of solo travellers love to participate in these. It is a great way to get to know your fellow backpackers.
- Free walking tours – again lots of people in the same boat, looking to explore a city and meet new people. They sometimes also offer pub crawl tours after the free walking tour. On a walking tour in Poland I met a Portuguese friend who hosted me in Lisbon.
- Asking someone to keep an eye on your stuff while you swim at the beach – this is a great ice breaker into more conversation.
Hopefully this post helps you make lots of new friends on your next adventure. If you want to know more leave me a comment and I will get back to you.
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