One of the best things about travelling on your gap year is meeting new people and making friends. Whether you are travelling on your own, with friends or in a tour group or programme, it is always worthwhile making the effort to meet new people.
If you are a little shy or cautious about talking to strangers, please don't be. Give it a go! You will find that after a while you'll just do it naturally. It's not like in the UK, where people generally walk past and ignore one another. Instead, while travelling, you'll find a world of friendly people who, in most cases, will want to talk to you and get to know you better. Remember, lots of people are probably travelling for the first time too and are feeling just as nervous about talking to you as you are to them! If you are thrown together in a tour group or through sharing the same volunteering experience it will automatically give you some common ground from which to start. You'll be surprised how quickly bonds are formed!
Many gap year travellers are torn between travelling alone or with friends. If you do decide to head off on your own during your gap year, you might be worried about where and how you can make new friends on your travels. A great place to make friends during your gap year is in hostels, as they provide you with plenty of opportunities to talk to other travellers. You can strike up a conversation with someone in your dorm, the communal kitchen, hostel bar or while checking your emails. The number one rule is to smile and be friendly. Do this and most people will be happy chatting with you and you never know you might make a friend for life - or at the very least someone to have a beer with!
Mealtimes at hostels are fun and can provide a great opportunity for socialising. Some hostels include breakfast in the price and, as travellers don't like to miss out on a freebie, most people make the effort to get up to claim their complimentary breakfast. You normally find that everyone sits together and chats about what they have planned for the day, so you've got a very good chance of finding someone to hang out with.
As you travel around the world and meet people for the first time, you will soon realise that everyone starts with the same initial conversation, which includes some or all of the following questions:
From these initial questions, you can easily extend the conversation to other topics that you have in common. For example someone might say they have just come from Thailand, which just happens to be your next destination. You can then say 'I'm going there next, can you recommend a good hostel for me to stay in Bangkok?' They will give you some recommendations followed, no doubt, by stories about the mad nights out and how you'll just have to visit a certain bar or place.
It's not all about picking up tips and recommendations of great new destinations. You may find that you have discovered someone to go to the beach or share a few beers with, or if you are heading in the same direction, you may decide to go on there together to share the travel costs. They may suggest hooking up with a mate of theirs in Sydney who they think you'd get along well with and could show you around the city. Networking opportunities are endless and is part of what makes travel so exciting.
There are so many ways to start a conversation and start the process of making new friends on your gap year. The key is to keep it simple, smile and have fun. By the end of your trip, you are bound to have added many new friends on social media and will probably have invitations to stay with people in the UK and around the world. You never know, you may even meet the love of your life!