Personally, along with food and nature, people ranks right up there as one of the most fascinating and rewarding elements abroad. I thoroughly enjoy mingling with fellow backpackers from all corners of world, hearing their stories and learning their cultures. And of course, when you put a bunch of wanderlust filled youths under the same roof, with enough booze and whatever else being passed around, love inevitably follows.
OK ladies. That intro was my somewhat half-assed diplomatic attempt to lessen the doucheness of what’s about to come. There is no way around it. After many requests, this article is about hostel pick-ups, a much fantasized, somewhat sensationalistic subject that comes up way too often, whether I am sharing a drink or two with a fellow traveler, or catching up with old friends back home. Time has changed, but sex is still a somewhat tabooed topic. The truth is that any dude would love to win over that stunning dime in the party, yet most of us go through our lives without even a try.
A lot of my guy friends have some inexplicable anxiety when approaching girls in a social setting. They hesitate and psych themselves out, instead of simply walking over and having a casual conversation. Guess what fellas, personality and confidence matter a whole lot more than looks and money, so stop fretting (and start fratting… that should be on a t-shirt somewhere) about a bunch of nothing. Now I am no Hitch, and there is no secret sauce. But here are a few universal rules you could try out to make yourself a bit more comfortable in a room full of strangers. And who knows, good things do happen to good people.
(Don’t worry ladies, a female perspective of this article is currently being brainstormed and written by a very savvy friend of mine from Austria)
1. Make sure you know what you are seeking.
This sounds silly, but you gotta know what you want. If getting laid and diving head first into a few days of drunken shenanigans are your priorities, then check yourself into a party hostel, or just follow a gang of Brits or Aussies :). Your liver will be put to the test, and inevitably, so will your sanity. There will be douchebags (figuratively… oh God) , there will be disgusting bathrooms, and there will be sticky carpets. You will no doubt witness sights, sounds, and scents you wish you could bury deep down into your consciousness. (sort of like popping a bad acid… the risk/reward gets a bit blurry, and you never know when it’s coming back to haunt you) Needless to say, Retox Budapest, thanks for a good time, but ole Lei won’t be checking back in for a while.
On the same token, if you are a desperate romantic hoping to meet someone special and have an intimate conversation or two, go seek out a low key guesthouse. Do some journaling and reading in the living room; you might just find that soulmate of yours. But then again, travelers in low key guesthouses tend to prefer being left alone. Your call.
I often find the photos and reviews on Hostelworld.com or Booking.com fairly useful. You can easily get a decent feel of the vibe of a place after just a few minutes of browsing. And word of mouth is quite rampant in the backpacker community. Speaking of which, there is usually a hostel that caters to a specific clientele in backpacking meccas. You probably don’t want to end up in an all-Korean hostel in Vang Vieng or a living room full of Israelis in Lake Atitlan, unless that’s your thing, of course.
2. Guys make the move. Always.
I do have a few boyband-esque-velly-good-looking friends who claimed never having to approach girls in their lives. They just sit around looking suave with a couple of beers, and apparently girls just magically pop up one after another. Must be nice… They are probably full of shit. And if you are an average Joe like me (or I guess average Chan in my case), don’t expect any stunning hot girl who just so happen to stumbled into the seat next to you. Take a big swig of your drink and get over there.
3. Don’t hesitate.
Make your move within the first 3 minutes. We’ve all been through this. We walk into a party, and there is usually someone who catches our attention right away. We keep a close watch on her while trying to look casual and avoid any eye contacts. We pretend to pay attention to our friends’ conversation while stress about when/how/where/what to talk to her. After the initial butterflies, we start to find excuses and psych ourselves out about the “What If”s. And bam, it’s already too late. Her friends come out of the bathroom, some handsome boyband member swoop in, or you make an awkward eye contact and are now more self conscious than ever. You have a zero, I repeat, zero chance standing where you are; it can’t get worse with a casual “Hey, how’s it going?”
4. Always approach from the front at a composed pace.
If possible, go in at a slight angle. Without diving too deep into human behavior and instinct, people tend to be a bit less guarded when having a clear vision of the approaching subject. This makes them more open toward strangers.
Now there is definitely something to be said about a pleasant surprise. And I do have friends who prefer sneaking behind and tapping girls on the shoulder. But then again, they have balls of steel and are hella witty. Keep it ABC. Smile, keep your head up, and maintain a friendly eye contract. Nice guys do win…. well, sometimes.
5. Don’t be a prick.
I know you’ve all heard of the phrase “Girls love assholes” or “People want the things they can’t have”. Mehh, there is probably some merit to it. But travelers on the road either ARE very different or ACT very differently from folks back home. With new found freedom and a sense of adventure, (and without the naggy influence of societal pressure), people are just less pretentious and guarded on the road. Don’t play the game; don’t pretend to be hard to get. It might work on some Tinder girl with daddy issues back home, but chances are, that chic from Oslo you just locked eyes with is a lot less insecure than you are.
6. Be confident. Even if you are not, fake it till you make it.
This is probably the single most important factor that leads to physical attraction. If you aren’t sure of who you are or what you are doing, how the hell are you going to convince a stranger to spend her one night in Barcelona with you? Show her that you are comfortable in your own skin, and demonstrate you are interesting and otherwise not a waste of her time. Take some chances. Don’t be afraid to look like a jackass. Jump in the pool with your cloth on, be the first one on the dance floor, crack a bad joke, tell a funny story. The last thing you should worry about is people’s impression of you. 1) You probably won’t see any of them again, ever. 2) You aren’t nearly important enough for anyone to care.
I once had a conversation with a smoking hot salsa instructor in Medellin. I asked her why girls like guys who can dance, thinking that girls associate body movements with sex. Nope. Girls indeed find guys who can dance more attractive. But it’s not how they dance, but how they lead. They want someone who can take control. So be confident, be adventurous. Lead the conversation, and lead the night.
Now I know it is hard for folks to “magically” become confident. But always remind yourself that there is a reason for all of our existences, and each of us has a very unique way of contributing to the greater good. You might not be tall and handsome (in our current societal standard, anyway), but you can be a loving family member and a loyal friend. Remember, being confident is not a skill, nor a natural born talent, but a mindset. So keep your chin up, fellas!
7. Sell yourself, demonstrate your values.
This ties back to the last two points of “Don’t be a prick” and “Be confident”. It could get a little tricky, and it takes time to find the subtle balance to not “Peacock” too excessively . But this is very important… Everyone is good at something. Sports, cooking, music, art, poetry, or straight up eating more chicken wings than anyone you know. Do some soul-searching, find what you are good at, what you are passionate about, and own it. It’s OK to talk about your profession back home, and it is OK to describe the places you’ve traveled. Shoot, it probably doesn’t hurt to mention something amazing you and your ex once did. You are trying to tell her a story of who you are, so add some depth and color to it. Let her know you are responsible, adventurous, and caring. And this goes without saying, please don’t be cheap, and buy her a drink. (Just to be safe, ask before you buy someone that drink. Although chivalry is still much appreciated all around the world, girls from Western Europe are genuinely very independent)
8. Be conscious of your body language.
Posture/non-verbal cues are paramount. Not only does the right body language brim confidence, it also shows how at ease you are. Open up your torso, relax, smile, maintain eye contact, and get comfortable.
9. Initiate some subtle physical touches.
I found it very helpful to occasionally tap a girl on the elbow or the knee (so please don’t start by looping your arm around her or being creepy in any other ways). It’s meaningful to establish that initial physical connection. This is also a great clue whether the girl is into you. Consciously or subconsciously, she would be doing the same, so be aware of those signals. Once the conversation continues seamlessly, that subtle touch tells her you are not a threat, and that both of you are comfortable in each other’s presence. Of course, if this makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it. Wait, second thought, fucking do it. If you can’t tap her on the forearm, how are you going in for a kiss?
10. Don’t force anything.
Let things run its natural course. Lingering eye contacts, genuine smiles, light touches, staying after as her friends leave, you will pick up clues if a girl is interested. But if those signs aren’t there, let it be, and just enjoy the moment and the conversation. A night out is so much more than just getting laid.
While you might consider this as a cheeky pick up guide of some sort. The truth of the matter is: this is not a manual, nor any life lessons. What I’ve learnt from traveling, and from encountering all those wonderful souls on the road is that none of this stuff matters. What truly counts is how you treat people, and how you accept one another. Genuine appreciation and interest in another human being is the ultimate pickup line.