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How to overcome shyness to go travelling again?

Travel Forums General Talk How to overcome shyness to go travelling again?

1. Posted by sarahj86 (Budding Member 2 posts) 1y

Hey! I'm looking for some advice. I went travelling on my own in 2011 to Australia, NZ, Fiji and the US for 6 months when I was 25. I didn't have a working visa at the time as I wanted to just travel around the countries, which I saved hard for and did for 6 months in total. I loved every minute on it, however I am a very reserved and shy person so I found it very hard during my travels to speak to people and make friends. So, I pretty much traveled on my own the whole time. Even on the Greyhound and Magic bus companies I went with, I never had anyone to talk to even though I always tried to fit in. Also with activities I was always alone as most people were in pairs or groups, and when I tired to talk, the conversation dried up quickly. However, I feel that I am actually quite a fun person once I know someone, but I never seemed to get past the first stage as people seemed to lose interest.

Now, I'm not feeling sorry for myself. What happened then, happened. And I had a great time, even if I was on my own when I was out there. But, when I came home I always hoped to go out again and maybe do it with a working visa. However, things in my life has kept me going back and after 4 years, I'm starting to think my time is running out! I'm now 29, so I'm on a time limit to get a working visa. I was thinking of heading back to NZ, I want to start being more confidant around people and experience more of the world. I am also nervous that as I'm now older now, I'm less likely to fit in with the younger crowd at hostels.

People I have spoken to about this have told me to just snap out of it and enjoy the experience I have had or going to have. I understand that traveling is the best experience I've had, but it's alot easier said than done to just 'snap' out of shyness. So, has anyone had a similar experience with this? Or any tips? I really want to go travelling again, but would like to make more friends this time! Thanks in advance!

2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4808 posts) 1y

I tend to be a rather solitary person as well, and used to consider myself shy, particularly when seemingly surrounded by nothing but easy-going extroverted people, all connecting with each other while I was still getting a feel for everything.
I did long-term bouts in Australia and New Zealand both when I was 24-26 (2 years), when I was 28 (2 months), and when I was 33 (2 months). Didn't have any trouble feeling at home in hostels when I was 28. By 33 that changed a bit, where I found myself somewhat out of phase with the early-20s crowd, though admittedly I was also travelling with a partner at that point, so was less inclined to make contact with other travellers in the first place, and I did find it easier to connect to the not-insignificant percentage of older travellers, of which there are surprisingly many in most hostels (particularly in YHA and BBH-affiliated ones).

I've always found the key to having a good time with other people in hostels, was just being approachable. I'm (still) mostly not going to be the person to just out of nothing open conversation, but by sitting around in the lounge (drinking some tea and consulting my lonely planet - but always facing the room, looking around, being obviously not very occupied), or hanging out in the kitchen cooking dinner, I somehow effortlessly invited countless people to start talking with me. (And slowly I also learned to overcome hesitation to pipe up if I overheard a conversation next to me which I could contribute to.)
Staying in one country for a full year also helps, especially in New Zealand, where you're quite likely to run into the same people from the long-term crowd multiple times, and will be more likely to stay at the same hostels for a full week or longer, and can thus get to know the other long-term guests simply through attrition.

What also might help is maybe not having the mindset of aiming for "friends", which is a rather high goal, and can easily make you feel like you're failing. Instead, aim for just having a good time conversing with anyone who happens to strike up a conversation. That is much easier to accomplish, particularly when you can show genuine interest in what they've seen so far and where they're going (you have an advantage here in that you've already seen some of the country, and can thus offer them advice on some places you've visited before). And then a (small) percentage of those people you had conversations with, will still be around a couple of days later, or will be bumped into at a next hostel, and now it'll be much easier to talk with them and ask what they've been doing, and a (small) percentage of those you'll discover an actual click with, and can just keep talking with effortlessly. That's when it might start to make sense to see if you can align your travel plans and head in the same direction for a while.

Being social is a skill like any other, and can be learned, through lots and lots of practice. Being out on the road, travelling, makes a perfect setting for that, as no one will have any particular expectations about you. Don't try to push it beyond what you're actually comfortable with - if you're like me, you'll probably always will be a mostly private, mostly solitary person - but just take it a small step at a time, celebrate the small successes, and realize they'll be building blocks for serendipitous encounters later on during your trip. And meanwhile, enjoy every minute of your time surrounded by the gorgeous scenery New Zealand has to offer; not even a year will be enough time to truly get to see everything you want to see in the country (there's a reason I keep going back), but you should be getting a very thorough overview of its beauty. I'm jealous already. :)

[ Edit: Edited on 12-May-2015, at 10:00 by Sander ]

3. Posted by Andyf (Travel Guru 640 posts) 1y

So I guess I'm the next step on after Sander. I'm now 44, and that feeling of disconnect with the early twenties crowd is now extreme. :-) But maybe 50% of the time there will be people willing to chat. Sometimes age even works in your favour, I've got a lot of travels under my belt so occasionally someone loves to use you as a travel guru.

Anyway please don't feel the clock is ticking, apart from the WHV thing. I've no plans to scale back my travels; if anything as you get more established in life you can afford more different types of travel - or quite often still do the backpacker thing just without having to watch the budget.

4. Posted by Sinead_edwards5 (Budding Member 16 posts) 1y

Hi Sarah,

I'm almost 27 and I'm travelling south east Asia, currently in Thailand. I came travelling with an ex and we broke up so I had to man up and get out there. I am very shy and reserved also and was worried that it would be full of 19,20 year olds. This isn't always the case I have found yes there are a few but i have also met a lot of older people. I understand where you are coming from completely, how do you start a conversation etc. I'm sure as you've been away before you've ha dole try of experience and plenty of stories to tell! maybe write down a few conversations starters and things to talk about, questions to ask and so on.
I am just starting to get used to this and being the one to approach people and this is 5 weeks in. It was completely out of my comfort zone but as with anything, the more you do it the more confortable you will feel with approaching people. So the first few times may be a little awkward but I'm sure once people get to know you and you come out of your shell you will be well away. Also I find a glass of wine always helps to relax me and brings me out of my shell. ;)
Believe in yourself and get yourself out there! Xxx

5. Posted by robmer (Full Member 105 posts) 1y

Sarah,

You are not too late to travel and you are definitely not running out of time. 29 is still very young and you will be able to interact with many young people. Age should not be considered a problem when traveling. No matter how old you are, there will be people your age who will share your interest. As far as the shyness, it could certainly be overcome. I think Sander's response was well said. I could think of nothing to add to it. Good luck on your future travel experiences.

6. Posted by sarahj86 (Budding Member 2 posts) 1y

Thank you everyone for your kind messages. It really has given me the boost to go and do it! Shyness is something that I am going to have to live with and hopefully with some practice will be able to manage alot easier this time round!

Thank you all again :)