Erm… Sorry… Hi… Hello… Sometimes it can be difficult to start a conversation with a stranger; and in a new place, a new city, a new country, this can be amplified even more so.
If you haven’t yet, please do read the previous article “So Lonesome I Could Cry | Downsides To Solo Travel”, as this is more of a continuation of that, that article dealt with the loneliness I experienced when I first started travelling and in this article I will be discussing the best way to deal with loneliness: by speaking with people.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I suffer from a social phobia and I certainly can’t speak for those who do, but I’d say I’m more naturally quiet; it doesn’t hinder my daily life but I’m not particularly outgoing. Even before I started travelling, I would find it slightly awkward to chat with strangers; even with someone stood next to me in the bar, I wouldn’t be the one to start the conversation. Taking that attitude with me out on to the road instantly made me cautious to strike up a dialogue with another person. As I explained in my last article, the first couple of hostels I stayed in really didn’t give me the opportunity to chat with others at will but as I progressed, I found that others started chatting with me first and I was open to reply to them but not yet comfortable to initiate anything.
I would probably estimate that it took just over a week for me to start to become confident enough to spark up a conversation with people, even if it was just offering them a beer, it was enough to get me to engage with another. As time went on, I started to not only become accustomed to chatting with people, but also I started to stay in hostels where they encouraged people to speak with others and this was more than enough to boost my confidence to what it is now, plus of course working in hostels kind of made it my job to interact with people first, to welcome them to their accommodation.
As a solo traveller, meeting a person, or a few people and exploring a place with them, can ultimately define the experience you have in that city; if you make lots of great friends, you can make some great memories there and, of course the opposite applies too, if you don’t meet anyone you click with, that can hinder the experience you have there. However, As I said at the start, I’m naturally quite withdrawn and thus socialising with a lot of people a lot of the time can wear me out and so, when I’ve felt particularly overwhelmed, I’ve stayed in hostels that didn’t incite hobnobbing, big hostels with numerous rooms and floors. And doing that is ok, because I know that as soon as I’m rejuvenated, I would jump straight back into everything.
The point I’m trying to say is that it’s ok to be shy; it’s ok if you’re slightly reclusive, and it’s ok to not make new friends in every single place you travel to. The great thing about hostels is that socialising tends to just happen; it’s not something that can be measured. Sometimes the hostels that I had low expectations from surprised me, and gave me friendships that I still value today. And as I expressed in the article “Stopping And Stalling | Downsides To Solo Travel”, it’s ok to take a or two day off, even if that time off is from socialising.
This article is one of a series highlighting some of the more negative aspects that can be found while travelling. I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from travelling but more trying to explain that it’s realistic to have inconveniences.