Soon into my Working Holiday in Australia, I was posting pictures of me smiling on beaches around Sydney with my new hostel pals. From the outside, all seemed well and good. However my first few days in Australia hadn’t exactly gone smoothly especially during the first 24 hours in events you can read about here.
After spending one night in probably the worst hostel ever after the one in that film ‘Hostel’ where everyone is killed, I moved to another hostel called Big (which was really rather lovely). Despite my new surroundings being far more comfortable I still spent the first couple of nights feeling lonely and wondering why I’d left my friends in London to move to the other side of the world.
I was pondering this while brushing my teeth in the shared bathroom one morning when a girl next to me started looking me up and down before opening with, ‘You’re from the UK aren’t you?’. ‘Eh.. Yes’, I responded. Was it really that obvious? ‘You can totally tell!’, she laughed, confirming that it really was that obvious.
That girl was Becky and she went on to explain that a group of them from the hostel would be going to Randwick races the next day and that I should meet them on the roof in the morning for pre-drinks at 11am. It was at that moment I knew I’d found my kind of people.
The next day I headed up the fire route with a bottle of Prossecco in hand (which on reflection was a bit much for a meet up on a hostel roof) to be introduced to several more backpackers who were also staying at Big. As easy as that I had found a crew to hang with and I went on to enjoy the next 8 weeks having fun in and around Sydney with them. If I was about five years younger I’d probably describe my newly found group as ‘squad goals’ and not even ironically either.
Since then I’ve had mixed experiences when it comes to making friends while travelling. New friendships can form instantly but it can at times be more challenging. I wanted to create a guide for those who find themselves in a similar situation and are in need of an A -Team stat. So here we go, 50 ways to make friends while travelleling…
1. Book into a hostel. Not only are they affordable, hostels truly are the best way to meet other people while you get acquainted to a new area. Sure you’ll be sharing with lots of people you don’t know, but soon they could become people you do know. Get amongst it!
2. Choose the right dorm room for you. Hostel rooms come in all sorts of weird and wonderful configurations. Would you rather there were four people to a room or ten? Some people might find a room with so many people intimidating while others may view it as more opportunities to socialise. Pick accordingly.
3. Think about the gender of your roommates. This one is for the ladies. Do you want a mixed gender room or would you prefer it were for females only? At Big I opted for a Female only room as I was long terming and needed to get ready for work. There was a quieter vibe in the room and it made it easy to get to know the other females properly. For short term stays I usually go for mixed. Although things can get slightly weird as I discovered in Byron Bay.
The beauty of hostels is that if you share with someone you don’t get on with, often they will be gone pretty soon anyway. Unless they are a long-termer… but I’ll get to that later.
4. Speak to your new roomies. There is not much point sharing a room with all these new potential hostel friends (Ooh Friends. Hostel Friends!) if you don’t make an effort to chat to some of them. As soon as that door opens and you spot another human all you need to do is say the word ‘hi’ followed by some questions such as ‘where are you from?’ and ‘when did the arrive?’.
Then simply ask what are they doing next. Coming to the bar with you? Great!
5. Do all of the activities. BBQs, Quizzes, Bingo, Beer Pong and Wine & Cheese Night are just some of the events I have attended over the last year at hostels I’ve been staying at. Having an activity to focus on is a wonderful ice breaker and often other participants will be new too. Below is photo from a Valentines Night event at YHA Central in Melbourne. We started off with speed dating which was planned by the hostel and then all ended up in a near by pub doing dance offs which was very much not. If my memory serves there was also a bit of snogging by the end of the night. Who doesn’t love a bit of snogging? While we are on the subject though, that word is so underused these days. We should try to bring it back.
6. Bust out the Tim Tam (Or equivalent popular snack for the country you are in). In other words, buy new friends with bribes. For those who don’t know what Tim Tams are – they are an Australian marvel. (For those of you who genuinely still don’t know – they are a chocolate biscuit. Like a really good chocolate biscuit). Opening up a pack and offering one to the person next to you in the hostel is a great way to get them talking and if they refuse it then maybe you don’t really want them as a friend anyway.
*Unless they have a genuine reason such as being vegan or on a health kick. **And in this case you could always invite them to check out a local vegan restaurant or come for a run instead!
P.S The eagle eyed among you may have noticed that there are Tim Tams in the above photograph. Well done. You win a prize. (Comment to collect).
7. Brush up your card game knowledge. Most hostels have a pack of cards in their lounge room and it’s a great way to get chatting to others and include them in a game. Not so great however if everyone sits around trying really hard to remember any card game other then Snap. Brush up on your skills and know your Rummy from your Bullshit. You could even invest in your own deck. Voila! Portable Friend maker!
8. Play Pool. If a hostel has a pool table then ask around to find someone who wants to play you. Don’t worry if you’re a bit rubbish. In truth I totally am and rarely play in public and that has been to my detriment. So do as I say, not as I do.
The hostel ‘Wake Up!’ in Sydney holds regular Pool Competitions and gives a free drink to any Female who signs up. If that doesn’t motivate you then I don’t know what will.
9. Make friends in the bathroom. Do a ‘Becky’. Speak to the person next to you in the bathroom. Ask them where they got their makeup, how long they have been in the hostel or if they are from the UK because they are ridiculously wrapped up for just a bit of rain. However , do remember to respect people’s privacy and personal space. Ie: don’t wander into their area while they are half naked with a Tim Tam in your hand asking if they want it.
10. Remember everyone is in the same boat. A large portion of people in hostels are travelling solo and often will be open to making new friends. So if you do feel slightly worried about initiating conversation, remember there’s a chance that the person you are talking to also really wanted to chat but was feeling too shy. You could be helping someone else out.
11. Don’t be intimidated by Long Termers. Ah. Long termers. Those backpackers who have been staying at the same hostel for weeks or in some cases even months. They already have their group, monopolise the free food bin, have their own whatsapp group and seem so confident and lets face it, ever so teensy tiny bit smug. I have been on both sides so I know how much it sucks when arriving to a new place and feeling intimidated by an already established group. Just remember that they were all in your position once and probably will be again in the future. It’s easy for long termers to get comfortable and distance themselves from newbies, after all making new friendships every couple of days can get exhausting so don’t take it personally if they are aloof. Still make an effort to strike up a conversation and ask them how they got to know so many people at the hostel. You might get lucky and they could end up introducing you to all the others in their pack.
12. Use Facebook Messenger to your advantage. If you end up having a good conversation with someone and discuss that you would like to do similar things such as visit the botanical gardens or hit up a local bar, why not suggest that you add them on Facebook messenger. With people arriving in and out of different countries all the time they may not have a mobile number sorted yet and are even less likely to have credit. With messenger you only need wifi to send a quick message asking if they want to meet up.
You can now add people to messenger without adding them on Facebook too which stops you ending up with 2345 Facebook friends from hostel rooms around the world that you will probably never see again.
13. Don’t be a dick. A good rule for Hostels and for life. If you are rude, inconsiderate or downright mean then people are going to give you a wide berth. Try and think of others around you and you know, be nice to them.
14. Invite people along. If you are going somewhere then open the invite up to anyone and everyone. Once a guy in the hostel I was staying in found free tickets online to the filming of Family Feud in Melbourne and asked around to see if anyone else wanted to join him. I said yes and it was a cracking night out. I now always make an effort to invite others along with me to any activity I come across.
15. Don’t sit on your phone. Sitting glued to your phone gives the idea that you don’t want to be bothered. Put the phone away and sit with something else to occupy yourself such as a drink or by paying solitaire with that pack of cards you’ve now learned some games for. Keep your body language open and someone may just decide to join you.
16. Ask questions! Most backpackers will meet for the first time and will know where the other is from, how long they have been travelling, where they are headed next and the favourite places they have been before they even know each other’s name. You could have been chatting with someone quite happily for an hour before suddenly realising you have no idea what to call them. Asking questions is a great way to establish common ground and most humans love talking about themselves. So unleash your inner Alan Carr and get chatty, man. (Terrible pun).
17. Get to know the staff. If someone has chosen to work in a hostel there is a high chance that they like people so don’t ignore them as potential friends. Often the staff will be fellow travellers and if they are on reception will probably have a great working knowledge of the area which could come in really useful (see point 24).
18. Invite people to sit with you. Remember you’re not Regina George and screaming ‘you can’t sit with us!’ at others will probably not help your quest in finding new pals. If you see someone looking a little lost or if the area you are in is crowded, budge up, make room and ask them if they want to join you. This works a treat in hostels but also in bars, cafe and restaurants too.
19. Organise your own fun. Don’t rely on the place you are staying in to organise everything for you. Take the initiative and organise something fun to solidify your new blossoming friendships. We did just that when we decided to have a BBQ at Tamarama Beach in Sydney. (Although we did forget to bring plates, hence why we are eating meat out of cups in the below picture).
20. Be open minded. Don’t discount someone because they are not the type of person you would usually hang out with. Surely a large part of travelling is getting to meet people from different backgrounds and cultures. There’s not much point in trotting around the world if the only people you meet would be those you would meet if you had stayed at home!
21. Use apps. Backpackr, Outbound, Trippr, Wandermates and Grindr all having something in common. They are apps designed to meet new people in your area or an area you will soon be headed to. A word of warning though – only four of the five are for making new travel mates. I’ll let you figure out which is which.
22. Go with the flow. Be prepared to change your plans and adapt as you go. You may find an awesome group of people who invite you on a trip to explore a lesser known spot out of town when you had already planned in your head to do the cities must dos that weekend. Why not change your plan and go with them off the beaten track instead – there will always be time for solo exploring but opportunities to share experiences with others could be few and far between!
23. Cook! Offer to cook a meal for your new hostel aquaintances or those you have met on your travels. Not many people will turn down a home cooked meal and it’s a great way to give a little back, while socialising over some yummy food. You never know, they might offer to return the favour. Hey presto – friendship made! And a friendship formed over food is always the greatest type of friendship in my book.
24. Join a day tour group. A one day trip gives you the perfect opportunity to see the sights and get to know everyone on your tour bus at the same time. There are plenty to choose from and your new friend on reception may even be able to point you in the right direction.
25. Take on a new hobby. If you are going to be in a certain area for a while why not look into taking up a hobby. In Sydney I started Improv at LMA Masters Academy. It was so much fun and the majority of the group were Australian so it was a great way to meet locals too. So whether you would prefer joining a photography group, signing up to mixed netball, taking part in amateur dramatics or participating in a book club, a new hobby is a great way to meet others and you can learn something new while doing it.
26. Say yes! I’m not just saying this because I was taught it in Improv lessons. Get into the habit of saying yes to offers even if it doesn’t immediately strike you as something you want to do. A week into my time at Big I was asked if I wanted to join some others for a night out in Scubar, a backpackers bar in Sydney. I was still tired from JetLag and didn’t exactly fancy spending time in a hot sweaty club. However I said yes anyway and it turned out to be a very funny night indeed.
Remember that you’ll never look back on your time travelling and recall all those times you stayed in!
27. Hang out in Hostel Bars. I remember booking into the hostel ‘Bunk’ in Brisbane for the night and on finding that the wifi was of excellent quality (heads up – a rarity for hostels across Australia/New Zealand) proceeded to cosy up in my bunk to stream episodes of Made In Chelsea (judge me all you want). After an episode or two I realised it was silly to waste a night in Brisbane so decided to head down to the hostel bar to see what was happening. After ordering a a Gin and Tonic I went to find a seat but it was so crowded I had to ask a group of lads if it was okay to join their table. Before long we were chatting and they asked if I wanted to come with them to another bar.
What was meant to be a low key stop over in Brisbane soon turned into a wild 12 hour adventure with new found friends in various clubs in Fortitude Valley followed by watching the sunrise behind Story Bridge as we contemplated life.
So in short, hostel bars are good.
28. Couchsurf. Hostels are not the only accommodation solution where you will meet new people. How about trying couchsurfing? Couchsurfing Hosts open their homes and share their lives allowing you to stay with them for free. A great way to meet locals and potentially make friends for life in the process.
29. Make friends while on the move. I spent a lot of my time in Australia on the Greyhound Bus because Australia is really big and very spread out. What better way to pass some of the 17 hour bus journey than by speaking to others also in transit. Often you will bump into the same people time and time again while travelling in the same country so introduce yourself and get talking.
30. Use Social Media. In Wanaka, New Zealand I ended up chatting to a Kiwi over Instagram and before long we decided we should meet up for a walk up a hill followed by a few beers. He is now my closest friend in New Zealand. When I arrived to Queenstown I was contacted by another Kiwi who asked if I wanted to meet up. I met her in a local bar and she introduced me to her friends group. So as long as you are safe, meeting people IRL from instagram or twitter could be the way to go. Especially, it seems, if you are in New Zealand.
31. Get a social job. If you are on a working holiday visa the type of job you take on could massively influence your social life. Working in a bar or tourist attraction could be a great way to make friends with likeminded colleagues. However if you take on a job as a truck driver or a grave digger, it’s probably not going to be the best social move.
32. Try online dating. Or Tinder. Not just a hook up app – I’ve also become friends with some tinder dates in the past too. You can always put on your profile that you’re looking to make friends. Hey and if the friendship blossoms into something more romantic, is that really such a bad thing?
33. Go on a pub crawl. Starts singing: Shots shots shots shots shots shots. Shots shots shots shots shots. Shots shots shots shots shots. Everryyyyyybody!
34. Volunteer. Giving your time to volunteer can not only be very rewarding but it can be a great way to meet others too.
35. Take or Teach Language Classes. Cómo hacer grandes amigos!
36. Go on a multi day tour. Sometimes organising your own solo travelling schedule day in and day out can tiring and lonely. So why not shell out a few extra bucks and go on a planned tour with an operating company. Not only does it take out the stress of planning but you will be grouped with other travellers for that time, often sharing accommodation too so it’s a perfect way to make new buddies.
37. Get to know the locals. When I arrived to Sydney one of the first things I did was head to the bank to set up my account. The Aussie bank worker I met with was so funny and friendly that we ended up deciding we should meet up for elevenses in his lunch break. Another time I was sitting in Darling Harbour when I struck up a conversation with an older local about the native birds. (I have the best conversations). Don’t restrict yourself to just making friends with fellow backpackers or you could hugely miss out!
38. Become an Au Pair or Woofer. I’ve worked as an Au Pair in Australia and New Zealand now and both times I’ve been given the opportunity by my host family to get to know other Au Pairs in the area. Similar to Au Pairing, Woofers normally work on a farm in exchange for food and accommodation. Not only does this give you a chance to get to know the family you are staying with, but often you can get to know the other workers in the area too. Personally I’ve found living with a family one of the best ways to fully immerse myself in the country and get to know true locals as well as fellow backpackers.
39. Introduce yourself to everyone you meet. Get into the habit of this and you can’t go wrong. It will become second nature. ‘Hi I’m Sam, How are you doing? What was your name?’ And repeat. Unless you’re name is not Sam and in that case insert yours as appropriate.
40. Check out Meetup. Meetup is an online social networking platform that facilitates offline group meetings around the world. Use it to find meet ups in your new area that you want to attend. Or if it doesn’t exist yet, create your own.
41. Meet up with friends of friends. When I said I was moving to Australia, an abundance of people would tell me that I simply must catch up with their second cousin, old table tennis partner or childhood penpal. So why not give it a go? You have one thing in common already – you’re both friends with the same person. When I arrived to Queenstown my best friend put me in touch with her old housemate who lived there. We met up and got on like a house on fire and promptly took a selfie to send to our mutual friend.
42. Reconnect with old acquaintances. Remember that girl from uni that you spoke to a couple of times during freshers week who now lives in the country you’re visiting? Contact her! The rules go out the window when you are this far from home and often your old acquaintance will feel the same.
43. Use Facebook Groups. Chileans en Sydney, Australia Backpackers and Lift and Travel Mates Australia are just some of the groups you could join to make friends in your new area. (Although you may not want to join the first one if you’re not from Chile. Or if you’re not in Sydney for that matter). Find the appropriate group for your community and post away!
44. Hitch a Ride. Use Facebook Groups such as the aforementioned Lift and Travel Mates Australia group to find others planning a roadtrip to an area you want to visit. Offer to pitch in with fuel money, your driving skills (as long as you have a valid license) and of course let them know you will participate in the all important roadtrip ‘bants’. Or you could hitchhike. Just be safe out there and don’t leave yourself to risk.
45. Go on a hike. Hikes are some of the best ways to meet others (provided it’s populated and not one of those where you don’t see another soul for miles). As you walk up you can gain buddies to walk with and as you start to struggle those on the way down will soothe you by letting you know it’s not far to go. (Yeah right easy for them to say!) Then at the climatic point you can admire the views with those around you.
46. Ask for advice. Know any good cocktail bars? Where is the local supermarket? Do you know the best time to do laundry here? Asking others for advice opens a dialogue and breaks the ice. Perhaps they also need a Bloody Mary/Food Shop/Laundry sesh. Maybe you could do it together?
47. Fake it ’til you make it. If you’re feeling low on confidence, exude the idea of confidence and it will come. Stand up tall, enter a room with purpose and make eye contact and smile at others. Just ensure you don’t do it in a creepy way and you’re golden.
You might feel like shit, but from the outside you will look like THE shit. And you will attract people to you like flies around, well, shit.
48. Have fun. If you’re having fun then others will want to join you. Unless you’re having TOO much fun and they can’t handle it. Which in that case ‘they aren’t ready for this jelly’ and that’s fine. Bye Felicia!
49 Be yourself. It’s not a lot of fun trying to pretend you’re someone you’re not in order to make friends. Ultimately ‘your vibe attracts your tribe’ as I read once on a particularly glittery Pinterest board. So don’t worry if you don’t gel with everyone you meet. The Moonlight has many nights! Which is a fancier way of saying ‘plenty more fish in the sea, luv’.
50. Contact me! I’m always interested in meeting new faces so if you are in the same part of the world, get in touch via the comments below. (Currently in the South Island, New Zealand. Let’s hang!)