6 Tips On How To Weather Your Social Faux Pas When Traveling Alone
Breathe- you can bounce back from that cringe-y moment!
Traveling alone isn't all tapas dinners with new friends and splitting bottles of wine on dorm room floors. Sometimes you're going to be feeling outgoing and open and happy...only to be shot down hard by the person you're approaching. It's going to be awkward, and it's going to make you want to die, but I'm here to help you weather through it all. Below are six social faux pas you'll have while traveling, and tips on how to survive them.
1. You Ask Someone For Directions And They Ignore You
Incident: You just got off your train and are standing all lost-like in the middle of the station, suitcase gripped in one hand and a completely perplexed look slapped across your face. Right. Where's the subway? Where's the #7 bus you have to take into the city center? Where the hell are you?
So you do the knee jerk thing we all do when we have no idea where we are: You ask a stranger. But as one, two, three, four people ignore your “Escuse me, do you speak English?” ice breaker, you begin to feel your cheeks turn pink, and the possibility of camping out on one of the benches that night seems strong. So how do you weather this?
Suggestion: Get aggressive. Block the exit with your mammoth suitcase and refuse to budge until someone points you in the right direction. Just kidding. Instead, try to find a cafe, bar, restaurant – anything with a Wifi signal – and enlist the help of good ol' Google maps. If that's not available, go look at a subway or bus map and try to take the line that'll get you as close to the city center as possible. Once you're there, you'll have more options on how to get help to find your hostel.
2. You Try To Make A Friend, And It Crashes And Burns
You're on a tour bus and on your way to the next stop (maybe a castle of some sort, or one of the endless parade of Gothic churches,) when you hear someone talking about how they went to Cuba in the seat in front of you.
Wanting to get in on this conversation, you perkily ask, “You've been to Cuba?” The person pauses for half of a second, acknowledging that they heard you, only to continue talking with their pal. You've been snubbed. Hard. Core. Snubbed.
Suggestion: Honestly, I'd just repeat it again. Sometimes people are reluctant to let in new people in their conversations when they already have a traveling buddy with them, but with a little goading they'll open up to the idea. And they'll usually be glad to make the new friend after the fact. So I'd repeat the question again, and hope that they answer the second time around.
If they don't, quietly put a pox on their house and be done with it.
3. You Invite Yourself Out With A Group, And They Indirectly Shoot You Down
Oh ouch, that burn stings. Say you've chatted up a group at the breakfast table next to yours, only to learn that they're going to a bar that night that you've been meaning to check out. And so you invite yourself along, asking what time they're going.
To which you get a non-committal answer of “Well, some time after eight probably,” or “Hmm, maybe after dinner?”
To which you want to curl up and die, because it's quite clear they don't want you to tag along. Ah gawd, now what?
Suggestion: Just weather it. God, yes, the embarrassment burns, but it's not your fault they just want to hang out with their group for the evening. Maybe they have social exhaustion and they don't want to meet someone new. Maybe they want to spend a night rehashing inside jokes and going over memories, and an outsider would throw off that vibe. Who knows, but a rejection doesn't take away your worth as a person: You're still fun and interesting and a total laugh to be around. So just smile and wish them a fun night. You'll find someone else to go with.
4. You Invite Someone To Meet Up With You, And They Blow You Off
You made plans to meet up for lunch after your museum visit, and you're sitting in the cafe for 20 minutes now, certain they must have fallen into a canal while crossing the street because why else would you be sitting alone right now? But a quick skim through Instagram shows you they in fact have ghosted you and are enjoying the other side of the city, with a group of friends you don't know. Now what? You've been officially stood up, which requires a healthy dose of shame. What do you do?
Suggestion: Sometimes people lose track of time, so I'd suggest messaging them and asking if your plans are still a go. They could have just completely spaced on the plans! Case in point: I one time had a date with a boy in Dublin, and before I went out I took a quick cat nap...only to wake up at midnight, effectively ditching the poor guy. So don't be timid and riddled with embarrassment – reach out and remind them you're supposed to be enjoying a BLT right now. And if they answer they're canceling on you? That's a pity, but it's not the end of the world. Order that BLT and move on to your next plans – a hitch like this is not allowed to ruin your day.
5. You're At A Bar Alone And Feel Totally Weird About It
It's dinner time and you've spent a whole day wandering alone and are ready for some company. So with the idea of meeting a warm group of people at the local pub, you pop in somewhere with a warm dim and choose an empty bar stool...
….Only to continue to sit there, all alone. Everyone around you has a group, and you're left there awkwardly hovering over your pilsner, unsure where to turn or who to talk to. And you don't even have a beer label to peel off to work off your social anxiety. What do you do?
Suggestion: Chat up the bartender! They're always willing to talk if it's not crazy busy, and you already have the go-to ice breaker of “Hi, I'm cute and traveling.” There's loads to talk about there. And once you get comfortable with getting chatty, force yourself to talk to the person sitting next to you. Unless they're having a real lousy day, almost everyone is usually willing to have a short conversation over a cold beer. It's up to you to be outgoing: Just take a deep breath, scrounge up your courage, and say hello to a stranger.
6. You Show Up To Your Hostel's Dining Room, And Have No Where To Sit
If you're backpacking, chances are you'll be ending up in hostels to save a little bit of pocket money. If that's the case, then every morning you're going to get the chance to grab a bowl of cereal, a glass of orange juice, and make a new friend. But what if you have a moment of complete overwhelment, and end up just standing there awkwardly with your tray, staring at the tables full of strangers' faces. How do you break free from that cringe-y moment?
Suggestion: Find the first available stool at a table and ask if it's taken. Proceed to plop down and begin talking about today's plans, as if you've known the guy for weeks now. If you act casual and self assured, people will respond in the same manner. Don't be nervous and self-conscious – everyone is willing to meet someone new when out traveling. If you're nervous AF over it, just fake it till you make it: Pretend you're the outgoing type that chats up strangers on the regular. No one will know you're having a mini stroke inside but you.