Making new friends and reflecting on trips gone wrong
We’re back with another edition of Travel Unravelled, answering questions from and giving travel advice to our community of global travellers! This time, we look at how to come out of your shell and make friends at your hostel, for those travellers who are a little shy. We also reflect on what happens when trips don’t go as planned, and whether you can ever rule a place out completely based on a bad experience.
I love travelling and making friends from different places, but I am a naturally shy person. I want to push myself out of my comfort zone and meet more people. Do you have any tips?
Hands down, my favourite part of travel is getting to meet people from all over the world. I have seen a lot of beautiful places, eaten great food and ticked many things off my bucket list, but it is still the people I have met that have had the biggest impact on me.
The first travel advice I’ll give is to relax, it’s not a job interview! Most people you meet in hostels are there for the same reason as you – to see cool things and meet cool people – so there’s a good chance they will be keen to chat! You’re also staying in the same place, which means you have some common ground on things to talk about – another bonus point. It’s very different from randomly striking up a conversation with someone at the supermarket and no one will be surprised if you start talking to them. It’s all part of the hostel experience!
My second piece of travel advice is to turn to the person next to you and ask the easy questions: Where are you from? How long are you staying here? What did you get up to today? What’s been your favourite place so far? Sure, these questions aren’t all that unique or creative, but you don’t need to ponder the meaning of life five minutes into meeting someone. You give them an easy topic to talk about, plus can walk away with some great insider tips for your own travel planning. There’s a reason I don’t tend to plan things well in advance – I like talking to people and finding out where they recommend heading next!
I also recommend being open to changing your plans for the day. Some of the best days I’ve had while travelling happened on a complete whim, spontaneously deciding to join in on whatever plans were being discussed at breakfast – going hiking on a rainy day, hiring a boat or car to go exploring, heading out for a big family meal… you get the picture. If no one has a plan, you can also suggest your own! Walking tours are an easy way to see a city and I usually drag a couple of people along from the hostel. A key piece of travel advice: The chat function on the Hostelworld app even lets you meet your fellow travellers in advance, so you can walk into the hostel on day one to some familiar faces and plans in place.
The final thing I want to point out is that travel pushes people out of their comfort zones in different ways. For someone like me, who could quite easily talk for 14 hours straight, chatting to people in common areas is second nature. But ask me to climb down those rocks to the secret beach or head to the edge of the lookout and I will be freaking out! In those moments, I’m very happy to follow the lead of the more adventurous people around me and am very thankful for their (literal) helping hand. It seems like a fair trade that if they can help me not fall off a cliff, I can introduce them to some people at the bar that night!
Is there any country you wouldn’t visit again?
Interesting question! In short, no. There isn’t a country I wouldn’t visit again. If anything, having a bad time in a certain place almost makes me want to go back more, because I think I could have a much better trip the second time around, having learned what not to do. My month in India sums this up perfectly. I would love to go back to India… and do the complete opposite of what I did the first time!
India was a rough trip for me, but I learned three important lessons – don’t travel in a group of 15 friends, don’t eat food from the Western menu and don’t ever jump on another scooter. My first four days in India were great, enjoying the Taj Mahal and spicy Indian curries. Then I decided to order a sandwich with tomato and spent the next 48 hours in a world of misery. My stomach never really recovered after that. I managed to pick up food poisoning twice more in the next three weeks, including the night before our friend’s wedding (with the rest of my 14 travel companions). My stomach finally came good in our last week and I got to enjoy the famous fish curry in Goa. Then, on my last day, we decided to rent scooters and head to Palolem, not realising how dangerous the roads were. We clipped the side of a bus and I found myself in the local hospital, with a broken leg. Despite my travel woes in India, I would love to go back someday. I’d like to visit the mountains of Darjeeling and Rishikesh, sit on the rooftops of Udaipur, enjoy the beaches of Kerala and explore more of Mumbai, preferably without food poisoning next time.
I’m actually more hesitant to go back to a place I really loved, because it might not live up to my memories of it if I go back without the same group of people or with expectations now set so high. Sometimes, a big part of why a trip was so amazing is simply the group of people you had around you when you were there – which comes down to pure chance as to who is staying in the hostel if you’re travelling solo! Having a local to show you around can also provide a completely different perspective on a place, as you get to experience a side of somewhere other tourists might not see.
Most countries have a whole lot on offer – from big cities to beautiful natural landscapes or adventure activities. The more you travel, the more you learn about what you like and don’t like. Decide what your vibe is and lean into it. If you hate big cities, somewhere like Bangkok or Mexico City is likely going to feel overwhelming to you. Likewise, if you’re not a fan of the beach or sun, a tropical island might not be your thing. Ask for tips from locals or those who have already visited, think about what sounds appealing and what you want to avoid, and be prepared to change plans if your gut tells you to. Travel comes with its ups and downs, but that’s all part of the fun!
We hope this has inspired you to socialise more with other travellers or reconsider your feelings about a certain place. If you have your own Travel Unravelled question you want travel advice on, drop us a DM on Instagram @hostelworld. We’d love to hear from you!
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