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How to Make Friends and Conquer Social Fears as a Solo Travelling Introvert
Tips to help all you introverts out there not be so introverted!
So you’ve done it. You’ve made the leap and booked that solo backpacking trip. You’re conquering your fears and exploring the world. You’re a strong independent woman who don’t need no friends. Except it’s lonely out there, especially when no one around you speaks your language and you can’t remember the last time you actually opened your mouth and uttered a sound more than mumbled apologies to no one in particular.
It’s hard to travel the world alone, and let’s face it, breathtaking views and mouthwatering exotic dishes are all the more enjoyable when we have someone to share them with. That’s why making friends on the road is essential and for normal people, easy peasy lemon squeezy. But if you’re anything like me, taking initiative and engaging in small talk is right on par with swallowing a ghost chili pepper and burning your insides from tongue to intestines. In fact, you’d prefer the pepper to small talk, at least then you’d have an excuse for curling in a ball weeping in the corner. But fear not, there will be no weeping if you learn to master these particular set of skills that are seriously not at all difficult difficult lemon difficult.
Fight that intense desire to stay curled up in bed with a nice book
Maybe you feel like leaving home and embarking on this journey alone was difficult enough and thus has earned you the right to your isolation, but fuck that. You didn’t travel across the globe to do the same shit you do every day back home. Putting yourself out there and opening up to strangers is undoubtedly uncomfortable, especially for introverts. But there’s only so much fulfillment you can get from solitude. And half of experiencing the magic of a new foreign city is exploring its nightlife (which we all know you’re not doing on your own). So challenge yourself, put down that book, and get out and join a group activity. I vote for pub crawl.
Suck it up and go say hi
I know it seems extremely difficult to initiate conversation with complete strangers, especially when found in massive intimidating groups, but trust me, they’re not going to hate you. They’re not going to tell you to fuck off. Most of them are in the same boat as you, lonely backpackers looking for compadres. So stick with the typical easy questions – where are you from? How long are you here for? Where are you traveling to next? Yes they’re tired, boring questions, but they’re the easy ins and great ways for you to get a feel of the person and possibly spark up some common interests. At worst, the conversation will peter out awkwardly, and you can just do an about face and find a new potential bff. At best, you’ll hit it off and find you’ve just discovered your long lost soul sister and have a good travel mate for the next stint in your journey. Neither outcome is the dreaded catastrophe you’ve built up in your head.
Come bearing gifts
Nothing is more welcoming, especially in the backpacking community, than free food or even better, free booze. If the thought of entering a room filled with carefree backpackers engaging in witty banter that you could never hope to keep up with makes you want to run for the hills, this trick is a no brainer. Grab a cheap bottle of wine or bag of crisps and offer it up with a smile, then watch as you’re welcomed as a conquering hero. Starting up a convo is 100 percent easier with gifts in hand.
Bring up Game of Thrones
99 percent* of the world’s population are Game of Thrones fans. So if you’re too poor to share your precious cargo or can’t bare to have another boring travel convo, this option is like a golden ticket to the friend zone. Just casually mention how sick it was when Dany roasted those bastard Lanister soldiers and you’ll be immediately bombarded with praises of agreement and “oh my god, I almost shat myself when Drogon got shot!” Really, just say anything Game of Thrones related and no doubt you’ll secure yourself at least one mate (but more likely heaps more) and have one less thing to stress about, as you’ll always have this special topic to bond over. And if you’ve found yourself faced with the rare unicorn who’s never heard of Game of Thrones, delight in having the ultimate opportunity to convert a new fan (and lifelong friend) with nonstop gushing and complete nonexaggeration of the epicness that is Game of Thrones.
There you have it, four tried and trusted ways to prevent perpetual loneliness on the road. Now go out there and fly, you anxiety-ridden baby birdie.
*statistics are totally accurate, as gathered from my own estimations and personal experience.