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The Fun and Easy Way to Make Friends on Your Gap Year

Written by Alice McLeod on 11 / 05 / 2023

Gap Year Advice

Making friends on your gap year

Whenever the topic of making friends on your gap year comes up, it’s an eternal worry for those yet to hit the road...

Yet talk to anyone who’s travelled and they’ll give you the one-line response of "don’t stress, you’ll meet loads of people". This will then most likely be followed by a ‘one time on my gap year...’ story. It’s a daunting prospect to head off on your own and have to make friends along the way. The last time you probably had to make friends was back in school, and you might be feeling a little rusty. We'll give you some tips and tricks for making friends on your travels, but trust us, you have nothing to worry about.

Just remember friendly people are a lot more approachable, so if you take nothing else away remember to smile!

Before You Go

It may seem like an odd concept but there a couple of things you can do before you’ve left home to ensure that you have people to meet on your travels when you touch down in a far flung corner of the world.

Talk to Friends and Family – The World Is Smaller Than You Think

You may be in a position where none of your friends want to travel at the same time as you, or they want to do something completely different. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t help you out.

You’ll be surprised how often someone will know someone that lives or is travelling near where you’re headed. You can then get in touch with them and organise to meet up. This will help you to meet new people and also if they’ve been in the area longer than you have they are bound to have great recommendations of where to visit and what to do.

Similarly, family is a great contact resource. The best thing about family friends is they tend to be a little older and more likely to be able to offer a bit of free accommodation as well as a friendly face.

Having pre-arranged contacts will ensure to put your mind at ease and make that all important friendship building a little easier.

Book a Structured Programme

A team programme is designed to bring together like-minded people, similar in age to yourself, and allow you to bond over the activities you participate in. A recipe for being able to easily make friends. You won’t have to go out by yourself and try and break into pre-formed friendship groups.

You can meet your group at the airport and then spend a long flight chatting about your upcoming adventure. After being thrown together with people for a length of time you’re bound to bond and from our experience lasting friendships are formed.

Thinking about team travel? Take a read of our blog about the pros and cons of both solo and group travel here so you can find out which one suits you best.

I'm Interested, Tell Me More!

So you're all set, you’ve planned your trip, saved up the money, and suddenly it’s now time to jet off. How are you going to start those conversations and meet all those friendly people supposedly hanging around the travel trails?

Whilst You're Travelling

There are a number of different techniques people use to strike up conversation and most of them are a lot easier than you might expect…

Stay in Hostels – They Are Traveller Hotspots

Whilst you might have looked into hostels to stretch your budget as far as possible, they can also go a long way to helping you make friends.

Hostels are a hotspot for travellers, all wanting to save money and meet friendly people. Their set up and layout also facilitate people-meeting. Shared rooms of anything from 3 people in a room up to 18 or 20. This will allow you to be making up your bed and instantly have five or six people around to talk to.

Here are our top tips for making friends in your hostel:

  • 1. Don't be afraid to ask questions; you could ask how long they’ve been here, how do they rate the hostel, where are they travelling to next?

  • 2. Don't just stay in your room - head to the communal spaces; the kitchen, TV room, games room or bar.

  • 3. If the idea of walking into a room full of people scares you, start with the kitchen! As soon as you start cooking someone is bound to walk up and ask you about what you’re making.

  • 4. Head down to a specific nightly event. Most hostels will put on events like quiz nights and karaoke for the exact reason to get people talking and interacting.

Pack a Deck of Cards

And have a few easy games up your sleeve, check out this post to get some ideas There are always going to be quieter moments on your travels where everyone is a little stuck for something to do, whether that's on a rainy Sunday in a hostel, or on a travel day waiting for the bus. If you always have a pack of cards, you can easily make conversation with those strangers in the lounge or at the terminal. Just take out your pack and ask if anyone wants to play.

The Common Theme: Smile

So whilst there isn’t a scientific formula to making friends, we've given you a number of fun and easy ways to meet people and start that all important conversation. As you’ll have noticed the common theme is once you’ve used one of these techniques, you need to start talking.

Try not to be shy, everyone is in a similar position to you. Or they will have been in your position not so long ago. So take a deep breath, smile and talk to everyone they’ll be lovely.

Worried about making friends?

Join one of our group gap year programmes. Not only will you be with a group of people your own age, but you'll also have the opportunities for adventure, challenge, and contribution.

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Need inspiration and direction?

Get in contact with the gap year travel specialists.

Here at The Leap we can help both team traveller through our programmes and/or the backpacker.

Jot a message below or call us on +44 1672 519 9222

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Yes please, let's keep life simple.