While backpacking may not yet be part of the Filipino psyche, view MNL Boutique’s founders—Maica La’o, Gonzalo Santos, and Celina Cruz—see the potential in providing a budget-friendly shack for global nomads.
“We’ve had a few locals come and stay for a weekend, just to see what hostelling is like,” La’o says. “On Friday nights, the street is closed and we set up tables and chairs outside to just chill. Anyone can pop by and hang out to get a feel for the hostel crowd,” she adds.
For backpackers, meeting fellow travelers is one of the highlights of any adventure. While yes, you may have to share a bathroom with strangers, the benefits (and fun) that comes with travel are worth it, starting with the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals on the road.
Here are some tips to make the most out of your travel adventure:
Take the hostel route
Why book a dorm bed in a hostel when you can have a nice private room for just a little bit more? Because it encourages you to talk to people, for one.
“The space is set up so there’s that social aspect. You get a chance to know the other guests,” Santos says.
At the very least, ask where your fellow travelers are from and where they’re headed. “Sometimes our guests end up traveling together after chatting for a few minutes,” La’o says. “It’s something that naturally happens in a hostel.”
Still feeling queasy about sharing bathrooms with a dozen strangers? Fear not. You can book a local homestay or a bed-and-breakfast through Airbnb.
Staying in someone else’s house allows you to connect with another human being beyond ‘here are your keys’ and ‘checkout time is 12noon’. I’ve sat in someone else’s living room watching ‘Prison Break’ on Netflix. Although it doesn’t always stimulate deep, soulful conversations, it gives you that nice feeling of being part of a shared experience.
La’o suggests couchsurfing as a budget-friendly option. Backpackers can stay in couches or spare rooms offered by their local hosts for free, in exchange for gifts, a cooked meal, or insightful conversations.
Not so sure about staying with complete strangers? You can still hang out with the locals. Ask for a meet-up at their favorite watering hole and ask them for some travel tips.
Book a tour
Local tours—especially walking tours—are a great way to see the city and meet new people at the same time. A sure win is smiling at them, and then offering to take their photo. At the very least, you’ll have someone offering to take your photo as well.
Ready to immerse yourself in local culture? Go take a class and chat up the person next to you.
Whether it’s cooking, art, rock climbing, or a local language, taking up a class puts you in a place where people around you are generally open. They are already in a sharing and receiving mood, so capitalize on that.
Get connected online
For the really adventurous and sociable, you can get a head start and post your travel plans on TravBuddy. Aside from connecting with fellow travelers, you get to do a bit of research on your travel destination.
Keep an open mind
This is an overarching principle as you follow any, or all, of these tips for making friends with people of different cultures.
Making new friends on the road requires openness. “When you’re in an international environment, there’s really no place for judgment,” Santos says. “You have to get rid of your biases.” And that’s what I love most about travel: it breaks barriers, including the ones that reside in our head.