So I decided to take a 3 month trip to Europe in sept thru nov. I am wondering what is the best way to meet new people. This will be my first backpacking adventure. I just don't want to be the weird old guy in the hostels. Lol
Hostels are a great way to meet people! I've met some of the most interesting people I've ever met in hostels, i found it a truly eye opening social experience. Find like minded people who enjoy what enjoy, go to clubs or activities and increase your chances. Or there is always the old, meeting people in bars or clubs, although I'm guessing you were looking for something less cliche.
Other than that just get yourself out there and enjoy yourself, you'll be sure to meet some great people on your way.
[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]
I think hostels really are the best way still but you could also look at using something like Meetup to find out about events going on in each city. There's bound to be a group around something that interests you.
As the weird old guy of 43, you have a valid concern. I'd say that half the time the crowd in a hostel lounge don't want to engage with someone much older. However in dorms they usually get past this and chat, and once the ice is broken they're fine - and frequently end up thanking you for your different perspective / travel experience.
Best I can suggest is to avoid the obviously party hostels (from reviews) to try to meet a slightly more mature crowd.
Either that or meet locals more than travellers by staying with AirBnB. I've not yet tried it but keep hearing good things.
You can try Air BnB, or even better couchsurfing. Through couchsurfing you can choose your potential host using different criteria, age for example (provided however that the city you're planning to stay is big enough to have vast range of active hosts). I've made few fantastic friends thanks to couchsurfing.
Thanks to all for the replys. I have booked some on airbnb. I will look into the couchsurfing. All help was appreciated.
free walking tours and pub crawls, couchsurfing
One of the most interesting guys I ever met in a hostel was 67 years old and the older I met on his early 80s, so do not stereotype here.
In general I think it is easy to get a sense of what is the "vybe" of a hostel either in their own website description, either reading reviews on the net/guidebooks, either talking with other travelers who have been there/plan to go/had a firend of a friend who have been etc etc... So if a hostel doesn't fit your traveling style, you may avoid.
Many hostels are in general relaxed places and although sometimes people traveling on a large group usually tend to stick with their own company, solo travelers or people traveling in smaller groups are usually keen to meet other people. People on a trip are usually more openminded, social and interested to new cultures, attitudes and... people, so there is generaly a welcoming/feel good ambiance in hostels. Of course there are always some bad apples out there, but I believe they are a minority...
The most important creteria for how intruding/respectful/friendly/annoying other people might be, is usually your very own attitude though.Lots depend on your own "vybes" : )
All that said, I find the whole "You have to stay in hostels to meet fellow travelers" thing sort of overrated. First of all not all people want to meet other travelers. I am absolutely happy with my very own company, this is why I travel solo anyway. Secondly, if I have to meet someone, I prefer to meet local people and learn a bit of their culture and lifestyle rather than hung around with visitors like me. Third, when I feel like it, I am open to meet fellow travelers, but not necessarily similar traveling style/similar budget to mine. I like to meet people from different backgrounds, offering diverse ways of thinking. Fourth,if I want to meet whatever type of traveler, even people staying im hostels, it is easy to do so just visiting bars/restaurants/sites/areas that those travelers visit too, or join a walking tour or a day tour or whatever.
I find the whole "You have to stay in hotels when on a budget" over-rated too. On my experience a private hostel room for one person usually costs about the same to a private room on a small guesthouse or B&B hotelk in most of Europe. Often breakfast is included in rate of a guesthouse/small hotel. This might be true for some hostels too, but in hostels usually you get some cereals and some slices of bread+ jam and cheap coffee or tea, while often breakfast in a gueshouse can fill you in and fuel you for most of the day. Then although self caterring is a great boost for one's budget and hostels usually provide a common kitchen to use, in some countries/locations/hotels, you can get a room with basic cooking equipment or at least a small fridge so you may prepare some snacks anyway.
So, to make a long story sort...I stay in hostels every now and then for budget purposes ( let's face it, dorms usually save you some money) and 99% of stays are uneventful, but I much prefer to have a private room and my own space rather than sleep in a dorm with 10 other people. I find that a private room in a hostel does not make much difference cost-wise to a private room in a nice cosy local guesthouse or small B&B hotel, so if I have to chose between hotel or hostel, I usually go with hotel when finances allow. This is a personal thing though.
It is up to you to decide how you want to travel, what you feel comfortable with... I find that the older I get, the more I value my privacy. Of course it is hard to know without trying. You may want to try a small dorm for a start, maybe a 6-8 people's one, rather than a 20 mixed sex dorm and see how it goes. Most of the time it is not necessary to prebook everything in advance... So if you try a hostel and you do not like the experience, you can always look on something else for your next destination....
An important point is to consider traveling on your own as a bonus, not as a nuissance. Sometimes meeting people will simply not happen. Maybe you arrive in a deserted hotel and visit a museum when raistorms caused most traffic problems and most people decided to stay home or you fall into a hiking group while all you are interested is shopping or whatever. Having the freedom to plan an itinerary based on your likes and dislikes, change your mind last moment, take your time to enjoy scenery or sites without disruptions, have some "me" moments are some of the pleasures of solo traveling not to be dismissed!
Whatever you decide to do, Have a great Trip and Let us know how it went !!!
Re the couch surfing thing... My ideal vacation is not to intrude into one's house and have to compromisse my needs, so I haven't use it, but of course I understand its appeal. Do note that originaly the idea idea behind it was to get a free place to sleep but also to be willing to allow time and sometimes money to get to meet a local person and for the host to meet people from all paths of life. This was not meant to be one sided or for people to use it only as a free place to sleep. It seems like many people recently try to use it exactly as that and show no respect to their host. I had exactly this conversation with someone who used to host people in Athens and said he stoped because most people were not interested to spend time with him, weere leaving the house in a mess and in general show no appreciation or interest. he had host many people who avoid to host him when visiting their part of the world. This is quite common issue in cc and many valuable contributors to the system do not host any more, or are very hesitant who to host. If you feel it is an interesting idea, you better start hosting people in your home before this trip, so you create some bonds, learn some tips and also build a credibility inside the system. People will be more willing to host you if they see you have hosted other people yourself. Remember that you will create commitments after your trip is finished, possilbly having to host your hosts in return sometimes in the future...
Re AirB&B... I find it a very nice idea originaly but many people seem to rent out illegaly and local authorities seem to start a campain to crack illegal rentals down. You do not mention where you plan to travel, but there are reports especially for France and Italy and maybe other countries. Something to keep in mind, you do not want to arrive somewhere thinking your reservation is on and then find out you have no place to stay.
Mariha, I'm surprised at some of your comments. I have used AirBnB, CS (couch surfing) and hostel accommodation a fair bit as well as staying in B&Bs, etc. I like to mix it up. My experiences with these seem vastly different than what you're saying. Although I do agree with many of your comments re: hostels.
In CS it IS about a cultural exchange most of the time and you can't look at it as if you're imposing on them as they're often getting something out of it too! Yes, you have to work around their schedule, but I've been able to experience and learn a lot through this that I would never have had otherwise. You can choose your host just as much as they choose you, and I think that's the key with the community. Choosing people that have similar interests or personalities helps. That aside, they also have social events in most cities that allow you to connect with other travellers. I went to a pot luck on Christmas Eve for example through the site, found some fellow travellers to road trip with through Iceland, and had really interesting political discussions with my host in Northern Ireland about the troubles. Bad movie nights, pub nights, and unique cultural things, most of which didn't require staying with people at all. I do agree that if you want to explore this option it is a good idea to go to some local meetups, etc. first to get an idea of what the community is all about though and build up a couple references.
I've nothing but positive experiences with AirBnB as well!
I do agree with above posters about hostels though - make sure you pick a hostel that reflects you and what you want. There are a broad range of hostels out there and they all have their own personality. I'm a fan of pod dorms when available (own light & outlets at each bed - Wombat's in London, Generator in Dublin, or Code in Edinburgh are some examples). Otherwise, it'll be fine. I wouldn't worry about being the old guy in the corner - hostels attract a range of people in various ages and, by nature, I do think that travellers tend to be more open minded. Worst case scenario, go to a local pub or cafe and strike up a convo with some locals. Free walking tours are also a great way of meeting other travellers sometimes.
In any case, have a great trip!