One thing I’ve mentioned over and over again, but have never really gone into too much depth on is the topic of meeting new people while traveling. Anyone that has traveled much will tell you it’s one of the best parts of the experience. Europe has something that we in the states just haven’t really figured out: Youth Hostels. While a hostel can rarely compete with a hotel in terms of service, cleanliness etc. What it always wins in terms of is the social scene. (They’re also typically quite cheap.) Every hostel has its own shtick. Some bill themselves as party hostels, others operate more like cheap hotels, but everyone does its own thing. In my experience using them, I have learned a few things, but by far the biggest one is to find a hostel that caters exclusively to 18 to 36-year-olds (assuming that applies to you). They usually bill themselves as ‘party hostels’ but that really doesn’t mean much. I only made the mistake of staying in a hostel that allows under 18s once, and that was in Hamburg. A very bad experience. Anyhow, back to the point.
When traveling and staying in hostels, one meets countless people. From other solo travelers to couples and big groups. There’s a certain attitude among those young people who travel. They’re just more open. I’ve heard that many people who go the backpacking route, just going from one destination to the next, often meet travel buddies along the way and end up spending some of the time together. I’ve never done that, but I’ve certainly (intentionally and unintentionally) ran into the same people more than once.
In addition to meeting people while traveling, I often meet people in my host city. First Seville and now Madrid. Folks in my language classes become friends, as do the ones who happen to have the same morning coffee schedule as me, and everyone along the way.
My generation has something that the last didn’t to aid with this: Facebook and WhatsApp. Today it is incredibly easy to get someone’s info in 10 seconds that you can then keep forever. Nearly every person I’ve met and bonded with during the last 5 months, I can find on Facebook and send a message to. It’s incredible! On that same note, it seems that the entire world uses the messaging app, WhatsApp. It may have been invented in the States, but we don’t really use it much. It’s the primary form of text communication in my life right now. I don’t even have texting on my phone plan! As it uses the internet instead of cell networks, people can instantly communicate regardless of where they’re located. And it’s free! For example, the 5 most recently contacted contacts in my WhatsApp are presently located and of the nationality as follows; Madrid (American); Seville (French); Amsterdam (Dutch); Cambodia (American); Costa Rica (American). I can text all 5 of these people in a matter of seconds from the same app, despite us all being in vastly different parts of the world. It’s amazing!
I can say that I have made friends from all around the world, and that makes me so happy! In the spirit of around the world, off the top of my head I can think of people I’ve befriended from; Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, Israel, Russia, India, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, France, Switzerland, Spain, The UK, Ireland, Morocco, South Africa, The USA, Canada, Bermuda, Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, and more. With English being so widespread and my new Spanish skills, communicating with all these people is easier than ever!
In the past two weeks, I went to Barcelona and back this weekend to Seville. Barcelona was an excellent experience because that’s the kind of city it is, but it was really made by the company in the hostel. I stayed at the Pars Tailor Hostel. (5 stars! Stay there if you’re in Barcelona.) Anyways, the people there really made the trip. In my experience traveling, I have discovered that (in my humble opinion) the most fun people to hang out with are not other Americans, but in fact Australians and New Zealanders (Aussies and Kiwis). At this particular hostel there was no lack Americans and Aussies and to top it off, it happened to be Australia Day Weekend (Australian 4th of July, but not taken as seriously). Needless to say, after we cooked and shared a grand meal in the hostel kitchen on the first night, we were all buddies (or “mates” as the Aussies say). The weekend was excellent and I am able to add a few new names to my list of Aussies to visit one day.
Going back to Seville was also a splendid time, although the hostel was not nearly as good as the one in Barcelona. Nothing bad, but nothing special either. It was lots of fun to see people I knew from before. I planned to meet up with a few people and ran into a few others by coincidence. A great trip made all the better!
In my humble experience, the best part of travel is the people one meets. Solo travel is tons of fun although it is made all the better when one makes an effort to be social!