How to avoid the same old boring hostel conversations
Meeting people is half the thrill of travelling. Okay, maybe more. On the road, you often come across characters who inspire you, entertain you and sometimes even support you through mishaps and unforeseen circumstances. But as exciting as socializing can be, sometimes hostel conversations can start to get, well... repetitive. Suddenly, rather than finding yourself immersed in an interesting exchange, you feel like you’re in a sort of backpacker Groundhog Day.
If you ever find yourself ten minutes into the same ol’ where you from, where you been, where you going conversation before realizing you don’t even know your new friend’s name, it’s time to shake things up. You don’t have to submit yourself to listening to someone list every country they’ve travelled to or hear them whining about how things were better X years ago when nobody knew about this “super-secret” part of Asia. Rather, Neo yourself out of these boring convos by following these tried and true strategies:
Stay away from the clichés
1. Randomness is your friend
Sometimes, the best way to be cliché-free is to throw a bit of randomness into the conversation. Instead of going through the motions and nodding as people talk about where they’re from, what country they just visited and where they’re going next, start the conversation with something that is completely out of the blue. Need an idea? Ask people what one weapon they would choose for surviving a zombie apocalypse. Or try one of these amazing hostel conversation starters from YHA Australia.
2. Don’t be afraid to come on strong
The reason why normal hostel conversations can end up being boring is that they’re usually superficial. Getting personal is the perfect antidote for this. You don’t have to get into uncomfortable territory or single someone out, but if you’re in a group, playing a question game where you ask people to share their deepest fears or first heartbreak stories can save you from monotony.
3. Make a strong first impression
I once saw a guy introduce himself by stating that no one in the room knew more about chickens than he did, and challenging us all to prove him wrong. Not only did he get everyone’s attention, but his unique icebreaker also started interesting and random conversations that were unlike anything anyone in the room had ever had. Be like the chicken guy, make your quirks shine.
4. Let trivia help you
Sometimes, being a nerd pays off, especially when you see someone approach you at the hostel and you blurt out the name of your homeland before they even ask the question. Trivia can save the day by providing endless topics that can be brought up at any point. It doesn’t even have to be fun facts; it can be an interesting article you read in the morning or something you learned from a YouTube video. Just make sure that the information you have is actually good, and that it contributes to a conversation—nothing kills the mood in a room like a know-it-all.
5. Ask about hobbies
Sometimes, you can’t avoid the usual suspects (or rather, subjects), but once the pleasantries are over, you can definitely keep the conversation from staying on that path by doing what people do when they socialize outside of hostels: ask about hobbies. This can often give you a better idea of who a person is than a list of their favorite countries.
6. Stay away from travel topics
Things are often simpler than they seem. If you don’t want to talk about travel, just don’t! It may be hard to believe but there are other topics out there (gasp!). Ask about music, movies, general interests, passions. Travel unites people, but it isn’t the only thing that does so.
7. Ask for help or advice
Not sure where to go next or what to do for the day? Kill two birds with one stone by asking someone else for trip-planning advice or local must-dos. Not only will you get some ideas about where to go and what to do, you can use this input as a jumping off point for new conversations (and maybe even find yourself a new travel buddy).
Derailing boring conversations
8. Again, trivia is a lifesaver
So you’ve tried all these strategies but you’ve still found yourself in the midst of someone’s tale about how life-changing their backpacking trip to the Himalayas was back in 2007. It’s time to steer the conversation away from the obvious. Once again, trivia can save you. Just take an element of the story and start spouting fun facts until you’re sure that the conversation has successfully changed tracks.
9. The TV show trick
Travel tales are great, but sometimes different people tell the same story. If you feel like you can’t deal with another digital-nomad-in-Medellin or getting-lost-in-a-Moroccan-medina story, bring in TV shows. This trick only needs you to connect something in the story to a similar plot line from a popular TV show. This turns attention to something different and usually gets everyone laughing. Are you in the midst of a backpacking in Eastern Europe story? There’s a Friends episode for that.
10. Add some controversial spice
If you love a good debate and seeing people get riled up, get into something controversial. Go ahead and talk politics, or discuss which football team will win the next World Cup. People’s passions will show up, and the conversation will flow. This strategy usually ends in one of two ways: either in a stimulating debate that brings people together and elevates their intellect or with everyone sitting on separate sides of the room fuming. If the latter happens, take consolation in knowing at least you can take a breather from basic hostel talk.
When all else fails… bolt
11. Take a bathroom break
Sometimes you have the misfortune of being stuck in a terrible conversation with someone who you simply do not like. If you can’t find a way out, excuse yourself to go to the bathroom. This breaks up the conversation completely, and you are not obligated to come back. Downside: you live in the bathroom now.
12. Pull the tired backpacker card
If you’ve followed all previous advice and you still feel like you’re in a time warp, remember there is no shame in simply going to bed. Travel burnout is real, and lying in your bunk bed with a good Netflix show may be just what you need to recharge and be ready to interact with people again. As a traveller, jetlag offers you the perfect excuse to pull the ‘chute. Just make sure you haven’t just been talking about how you’ve been at the same hostel for the past two weeks.