Whether you are a solo traveler or backpacking with a couple of friends, part of the experience is meeting people along the way. These people are from all walks of life, scattered from different countries around the world. But they all have something in common with you: they chose the same place to travel to as you. And then there are the locals in Thailand, some of the friendliest people I’ve met!
But this article will focus on meeting other backpackers, so you never have to have a meal alone or go on a tour by yourself, unless of course you want to. But it’s nice to have options. Believe me, after meeting so many people while backpacking, its nice to have a little alone time now and again. But I truly am the happiest in my travels when I’m experiencing new places with cool people who I just met. Travel friends are great to have, and even though they may only exist in your life for that moment in time, thinking of them will always remind you of an experience you had with them in the land of smiles.
So lets get to it. Here is how you can make friends while backpacking Thailand, or anywhere in the world!
Stay At Hostels
Hostels are where I make the majority of new friends when I’m backpacking. And it makes perfect sense since it tends to attract many solo travellers who are just as anxious as you to find people to hang out with. So always remember that! I always like to choose a hostel with a good common area that other backpackers would actually hang out in. Best way to do this is to check out photos on the hostel booking websites of each place and see which ones actually show guests in the common spaces. Often times I get in many conversations just sitting in the common area. Also its easy to meet people who’s beds are close to yours. So definitely stay at a hostel. If you stay at a hotel, you won’t meet anybody.
Start The Conversation
I am always asked by people what I say in order to start a conversation. It’s quite simple. All you have to say is ‘Hi’. That’s it! Usually they will say hi back. If they don’t, you are better off without them. If there is a silence after saying hello, you can revert to the 5 backpacker questions:
1) Where are you from?
2) Where have you been?
3) Where are you going?
4) How long are you travelling for?
5) How long are you here?
Right there you’ve already got 10 minutes of conversation, and by then you’ll have made enough of a connection to hang out. If its someone from your hostel, you can ask where is good to eat. In my experience, this always leads to them inviting you along for lunch/dinner. And you don’t always have to wait for the invite. You can ask people what they are doing for dinner or if they wanna check out a night market, etc.
Tip: Try not to be too overbearing. Be cognizant of their reaction to you. I like to have a little conversation with someone, then go do my own thing, and talk to them again later when I see them.
Be Outgoing Right Away
By this I mean that in order to be outgoing and social, you have to start. So it is best to start right away. The first person you see, say hi or smile at them. The first person you see in the common area, start a conversation with them. This is good practice in order for you to stay social and outgoing for the rest of the day!
If you are looking for more things to say, here is a good example that I’ve used on more than a few occasions. Lets say you see a group of people at a restaurant or bar…
Me: Hey, how long have you guys been in Koh Chang for?
Them: A couple of days
Me: Ah okay, is there any cool places to check out on this island that you’ve guys experienced so far?
This usually gets the conversation going. People love to recommend things they’ve seen to other travellers. If they mention that they are going somewhere that you have been, you in turn can give recommendations to them. Providing each other with value can help create a connection.
If You Are Shy, Try Liquid Confidence
I don’t usually recommend this, but some of us can have some pretty intense social anxiety. It can be a lot to even say hello to a stranger. Have a beer or two (not too many as it will only make things worse) and see if it helps you loosen up a bit. If others are drinking at the hostel, just ask if you can join them. Usually they will say yes.
Go to Social Places
This includes the common area of a hostel. Also going to a bar is a social place, but it might be difficult to go alone. I usually like to go to the bars with people I meet at hostels, and naturally we meet other people there. But there are other social places you can do alone such as a tour. I did a cooking class by myself in Chiang Mai and met plenty of people who were also taking the class. It was a fun experience and I did not feel like I was alone.
Participate in Hostel Outings and Activities
Many hostels I’ve stayed at will organize outings for the guests to go to together. I stayed at this hostel called Bunchun in Chiang Mai and one night the hostel owner took us out to a music festival in the countryside. It was a 30 minute ride there, and on the way I got to know many of the other guests staying at the hostel. By the time we got there, we were having drinks together and having a good time. Other hostels organize activities within the hostel itself. So definitely participate in these as they are designed to get the guests to meet each other.
Be a Nice Person, Project Positivity, and Be Open-Minded
The last and final point is to not only be nice, but also to project positivity. There is a term known as the ‘laws of attraction’. If you put out positivity, you will get positivity in return. I took this mentality with me on my 2 month trip in SE Asia and I only had good things happen to me. So how do you project positivity? Its easy! Just be positive. Smile. Help your fellow backpackers. Be polite. Say please and thank you. And learn how to say it in Thai so you can be equally as nice to the locals. Be a good person and good things will come your way. All of the positive people I met along the way were also the most popular. Everyone just wanted to be around them because they too in turn felt good in their presence. And part of this is being open minded, trying new things, going with the flow. Just be super easy going. Besides you are travelling, and being open to the experience is the only way to take it all in.
Well I hope these tips help you with making new friends on your travels. If you have specific question on this, feel free to ask in the comments below. And as always, follow us for more tips and advice for backpacking Thailand.
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