It seems so long ago now, but it must have been nearly summer of 2011. My work had put me on stand-by and I wasn’t to go anywhere for at least four weeks. This is a long time to spend only watching TV, wandering through town and having beers on a daily basis. I wanted to go on a trip, but I had no desire to go do anything culturally relevant or mind-expanding. Quite the opposite, my thoughts were: how can I organize the most fun packed superficial trip that flies in the face of everything the ‘traveler not tourist’ crowd keeps shouting out. I had had it with only eating at local food stops, staying with locals cause it’s such a damn revelation, going to unknown neighbourhoods. This was going to be Subway sandwiches and beachboy backpackers all the way.
I had four weeks, which gave me about a week to receive an Interrail ticket in the mail and head off on a three week adventure in Europe. Interrail tickets, or the Eurail alternative for non-Europeans, are train travel packages. They come in all shapes and sizes, and the one I got was for 15 trips in all participating countries to be used over a 21 day period. This way, all my transportation woes were already out of the way.
Now it was time for the other part of the strategy: how to easily find fun times, and opportunities to get royally fucked up with instant social circles. What follows are the three easy things I did to make it happen.
Stay at party hostels
There’s a certain category of hostels in the world that’s called ‘party hostels’. They’re the kind of places that are designed for social interaction and fun times. They have their own bar or common room and organize all sorts of activities to make you feel immediately like you’re a part of the gang. The walls are decorated colorfully with pictures of guests and staff, and bulletin boards full of fun tours. Cherry on top of the cake is when their Hostelworld page is sprinkled with bad reviews from boring people who claim they couldn’t get a decent night’s sleep because nobody else did. This illustrates the best part of all: most people who stay there are there for the exact same reasons you are. So this means almost everyone will be open to teaming up.
Here’s the strategy I followed:
Step 1: Place bag in convenient location, lie down on bed with something to read
Step 2: When someone enters the dorm room, blurt out “Hey roomie! I’m so-and-so, what’s your story?”
Step 3: Somehow end up having dinner with them and all of their friends half an hour later.
That’s it! Easy as pie.
You’re most likely to find these types of hostels in the bigger cities. If you Google the term ‘party hostel’ you will have no problem finding tons upon tons of blogs summing up the best ones. An alternative is checking out PartyHostels.net where they already did most of the research for you.
Go on pub crawls during the night
If you stay at the correct type of hostel, they are bound to already have several of these lined up for your enjoyment. Pub crawls are what they say they are: you pay a certain amount of money to sign up, maybe receive your free T-shirt, and then as a dislodged glacier of condensed drunken immature outsiders you crawl from one bar to the next gobbling up free shots and discounted mix drinks, learning how to say cheers in seven different languages as you slide. If executed correctly, all this results in lost memories, a dash of regret and shame, and maybe a few new friends to enjoy the hangover that follows in good company.
Go on free walking tours during the day
That leaves just a few hours a day in your schedule between snoring sessions and resuming the debauchery after sunset. Since you’re already likely to be located in the big cliche tourist stop enjoying the fruits of your hyperhostel detached from all local cultural relevance, there’s a decent chance there’s companies that organize walking tours in your vicinity to walk off the headache.
Now, look, I know I promised we wouldn’t be learning anything on this trip, and it would all be stupidity and alcohol consumption until we don’t know math anymore. Walking tours sadly are a great learning opportunity and you might accidentally learn something about the history and the rise of this great metropolitan that provides you all your desired pleasures on this very day. But this doesn’t have to be boring nor costly.
The best tours to go on are the free walking tours. And yes, there is a catch. Free means the guides will do anything in their power to make you feel appreciated and entertained for the duration of the walk, so you will reward them with a fine tip at the conclusion of it. Either you get a good laugh and great stories, or the guy in the red shirt goes to bed without dinner. Plus, they are a great place to once again meet like minded people to have a beer with afterwards. It all serves to keep the influx of good times and happy people flowing.
A great example in Europe are the New Europe tours, which have never disappointed me personally, but you can find lots of similar experiences all over the world. Just Google them in your area.
Bonus Tip! Find your buddies of the day through Couchsurfing
Couchsurfing has played an important role in my journeys for over 8 years now, and counting. I will probably talk a lot more about all the ins and outs of the service in future posts, but here I’ll drop a nice extra tip that made my train party trip more effective.
For those who have been living in a cave for the last decade, Couchsurfing in short is an internet platform where people can offer a couch or a bed in their home to travelers who prefer to take an inside look at a real local’s life while they’re on the road. There are however, plenty of people who can’t offer a couch, but still would like to meet up and show you around.
So sign up, and start looking in the cities you’ll be visiting for people whose profiles you seem to resonate with. Ask them for some company and offer to buy them a drink in return. Who knows, you might end up at a hidden college party or a birthday of someone you’ve never met.
During my trip, I ended up in Munich, and though I executed my plan flawlessly applying all of the aforementioned tips, I decided to invite a nice person from Couchsurfing along to the pub crawl. She ended up taking me and another Canadian friend I met during the walking tour to a friend’s party in a college bar. The Canadian ended up dating her best friend for the next several years. As for me, the next weekend I found myself a three day home in the guest house of my CS friend’s parents somewhere in the mountains, going from one birthday party to the next, having my face painted and stuffed with even more beer. A time I’m forever grateful for. But hey, that’s the magic of adding some local spice to your trip.
So there you have it! My patented, tried, tested, and proven “4 Step Easy Peasy Friend-Making System For Travelers”…
Maybe these tips will help you turn off your brain and get on that train straight towards the hostel for some alcohol induced headpain. Let us know how it works out!
What about you folks? Ever threw your hands up after being blamed for not being enough of a real traveler and went to McDonalds to down a McRib out of spite? Have any more tips to share to make a trip like this more efficiently outrageous? Let us know!