Making new friends can be scary. I blame it on the awkward years of middle school that made us so afraid of rejection. Before I left for my first solo travel experience, I had visions of myself sitting alone on a curb for however many months I lasted abroad. But, I am happy to report back that I did indeed make many new friends, some of which I still call my best friends today. I’d like to think I’m mastering this art, so I’m sharing some tips that have helped me to meet people here in Iceland.
Talk to people in your hostel.
Vulnerability is key here, guys. Don’t be afraid to strike up a convo with the cutie sharing your rickety bunk bed. My go-to method? Just ask someone where they’re from! Yes, you’ll probably have this conversation 10 times a day with all your new hostel mates, but it’s a great way to get the ball rolling. And often time this will lead to the creation of dinner plans, happy hour hunting, and possibly your first date with your future spouse.
Make plans with people you meet on tours
Iceland has countless options for organized tours, so get yourself a seat on that bus and strike up a conversation with the group of goofy lads in front of you. I’ve found that travelers love meeting other travelers, so don’t fear rejection! People will think you’re super rad for embarking solo into the world. They’ll be begging to be your friend. After sharing some small talk during a tour, I’ll often ask people if they have plans for later in the night or the week. More often than not, this will turn into grabbing dinner or scheduling a different tour together.
Find friends of friends
Before arriving in Iceland, reach out to your friends and see if they know anybody living here. Then, you can awkwardly add them on Facebook and tell them you’re super stoked to be headed to their stomping ground and would love some insight from a local. They’ll feel honored that you’re requesting their knowledge and most likely schedule a coffee date to chat. Voila! You’ve made a friend before you even arrived.
Make yourself identifiable
This is going to sound a little bizarre, but wear or carry with you items that make you distinguishable. For example, wear your favorite band T-shirt or flaunt your hometown hoodie. This will make it much easier for people to strike up a conversation with you because of mutual connections. I have met at least three different people in Reykjavik because of the stickers on my laptop. People at cafes will see my weird obsession with Colorado breweries and start chatting with me to share their mutual enthusiasm. And it goes both ways—always be on the lookout for other people with shared interests.
Hang around cafes
Reykjavik has a bumping café scene and it’s very common for people to take refuge from the snowy winters to grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. I always overhear groups with mixed accents sharing the niceties of new friends when I eavesdrop at cafes (personal hobby). These are the hot spots to meet up. And it’s not unusual for someone to hear another traveler with their accent and exclaim Oh! Are you from Colorado as well? Small world. It’s not just me, I promise. Keep your ears peeled and be ready to interject when you casually overhear a mutual trait.
This is a virtual sphere for friendly backpackers. CouchSurfing allows you to search for “events” in your area where other travelers post ideas for get-togethers. Just type “Reykjavik” in the search bar next to Find Events and you’ll see people looking to rent a car with a group, scheduling bar crawls, and other solo travelers just looking to grab a cup of coffee. Pick which groups look most appealing to you and then send them a message. Bam—you’ve got yourself booked for a road trip around the Ring Road.
Connect with Facebook groups
It feels like there’s a Facebook group for everything these days. When I get to a new city, I’ll search “[location name] + [personal hobby]”. For example, “Reykjavik Yoga” or “Iceland Slack Lining.” Scroll through the options and chances are you’ll find a crew of like-minded people looking to share their passion with one more cool kid (->that’s you). You can find events near you or even message the ring leader (group administrator) to get more information on said hobby. This is also a great way to meet locals. Befriending locals means discovering all of Reykjavik’s hidden gems.
I saw that eye roll. I know, I was very reluctant to download a Tinder when I started traveling as well. But the Tinder sphere is an amazing resource for connecting with fellow adventurers abroad. Since so many backpackers are utilizing this swiping fad, it’s no longer just about romance and awkward first dates. Tinder allows you to instantly find people in your area and schedule a coffee meet-up within 24 hours. On demand friends? I accept. Just make sure you change your short bio to “looking for friends” and not “must be at least 6’4”, bearded, and handsome.”
Important to note — Always be cautious about where you’re meeting new people. If you’re connecting with someone new from the Internet, find a public space to chat. Reykjavik is brimming with cute cafes just waiting to host your friend dates. It’s always great to meet up with groups for happy hour or live music so you don’t have to deal with awkward one-on-one conversation. And always trust your gut.
Finally, if you are traveling alone – check out these great posts for solo travelers here on the blog!
This post is a part of a series of posts where Sarah, our 23-year-old Coloradan blog-helping-elf, shares her findings during her 5-week stay in Reykjavík. Before Sarah joined us here in Reykjavík she spent a year in New Zealand where she got a taste for the sweet life of travel. After Reykjavík she’s headed south again to spend a year in Australia.
Read more of Sarah Takes on Iceland here.