We all know I’m a big time solo traveller. I love the independence of travelling on my own and the devil may care attitude with which I’m able to approach my travels. But solo travel isn’t for everyone, nor is it for every destination. My trips to India, Cuba and Iceland all told me that solo travel isn’t the best all the time. Plus, the more I travel and the more people I meet, the more I may know a travel buddy who wants to go to cool places too, so we may as well go together!
But finding a travel buddy who makes your trip amazing is not as easy as we would all wish. Travel is an intense experience, people are together 24-7, often in uncomfortable or stressful situations, and very rarely at their best. My past travel buddies have seen me at my worst, and vice versa, and while not all travel buddy scenarios are planned (hello spontaneous travel buddies on the road, I love you!), walking in with eyes wide open is a good idea.
Because let’s be real, nobody intends to murder their travel buddy.
I have travelled with all kinds of folks, friends from home who I planned the trip with, friends I made along the way, and friends I got thrown with and was lucky as Hell that it worked out for us. So while I tout myself as a solo traveler, I have done my fair share of buddy travelling. As well as travelling with my parents, in case anybody missed that gem of a blog post…
Tired of solo?
My 3 Tips on Finding a Travel Buddy You Will Love!
Choosing a travel companion is just as complicated as selecting any other partner in life, ever if it’s only for a week or two. Because while a lame husband can ruin your life, who wants their trip to Peru to go south? I mean, it’s Peru!!
And don’t worry, I’m not going to frame myself as the most perfect travel buddy on the face of the lonely planet. There is surely crap that I do that is annoying, or downright infuriating, plus my travel style isn’t for everyone. So even though finding a travel buddy sounds like it’s all about the other person, really it’s far more about you and who you are as a traveller than anything else.
1. Do You Actually Need a Travel Buddy to Begin with?
Many people recruit travel buddies because they’re scared to travel alone. Sorry if I’m calling you out right now, but it’s true. I hear it all the time “I would travel but I have nobody to travel with,, I would be scared to travel alone”. What? I can’t stand this excuse.
Like, seriously, ugh. This excuse is all about thinking you’re going to be lonely, or not knowing how to travel, rarely about a realistic safety issue. If you’re going to get murdered while abroad, the chance of your travel buddy saving you is slim to none. Also, the USA has a higher murder rate than most other countries, so the whole safety excuse is bunk. So just be honest, just, ugh. Anyways…
Truthfully, there are a ton of great places to go on this planet where you are perfectly safe to travel solo, but there are a few places where travelling with a companion is beneficial, and may make you feel more comfortable, especially us women.
I was very glad to be with my friend Maddie when we travelled through Northern India together. Nothing actually bad happened, except for the worst 20 minutes of my life sponsored by multiple misogynists in the Delhi Train station, but I was still glad she and I were together. There had recently been a string of assaults against women in the country, and having each other gave us both a piece of mind. Though again, if I was going to be murdered, I doubt Maddie could have done much.
But I did enjoy pedalling her around Delhi for a while.
In some countries, it is way to expensive to travel solo. Like Iceland. Wowzers, would it have done my wallet in if Dana and I had not shared the costs of that road trip. Gas and car rental alone would have been enough to bankrupt me if we weren’t splitting it half way, plus most of the accommodation available didn’t offer a single person dorm bed rate. That means you’re single little bank account is paying for a private double room. Which is crap, but that’s the true essence of travel monopoly.
Surprising to many, Cuba is a country where I wished I had have had a travel buddy, both to defray costs and be my literally buddy. Accommodation in Cuba is mainly in places called casa particulars, where you pay the rate of the room no matter how many people are in there, even though all rooms are made for 2 people. Meaning as a single I was paying the same as that gross couple across the hall.
In turn, Cuba’s accommodation nuances meant that there were not that many singles travelling around, nor were there all that many opportunities to meet solo travellers. This made for a pretty solitary 3 weeks, as when I travel solo I depend on meeting cool people along the way. I didn’t even meet the gross couple across the hall to be honest. I did read 14 books though.
2. Self Awareness is Key in Choosing a Travel Buddy!
Many people in our world have no idea who they are or how they come off to other people. So before you go bashing folks who may be travel buds, take a look in the mirror and remind yourself that you poop every morning too. At least I hope you do, if you don’t, you should see a doctor. Or go to Kyrgyzstan, that will definitely help.
Think about who you are and what you want out of your travels and your experiences. Look at what you enjoy and how your favourite days travelling have shaped up. Do you love to sleep late or get up with the pigeons? Are you a museum dweller or a boutique shopping fiend? Do you prefer the hiking trail or the whisky trail (I love both, so no judgement here!)?
What gives you the drive to travel in the first place and why do you want to leave your front door at all?
On the other edge of the sword, what are your habits that may make a travel buddy have a less than enjoyable day? Do you refuse to ask for directions? Are you a vegetarian and therefore not the easiest to please with a local menu? Do you leave you dirty underwear on the floor? Are you set in your ways and unwilling to compromise? Do you have the patience of a testy toddler and therefore can’t stand being bored? Do you insist on hitting on bros until the sun comes up? Do you hate/love shopping? All in all, what do you bring to the table, and what do you take away?
(And yes, I am definitely some of the above people, but clearly not the vegetarian! Or the hitting on bros one…)
As I have gotten older, and like totally more wise, I know there are some definite aspects to my travel style that may not be everyone’s jam. I am typically an early mover, I can be budget conscious to a fault, I rarely ask for directions, and I’m more likely to pick up that harmless looking hitchhiker than not. I’ve more or less moved past the museum phase of my life (yep, I get bored and my back hurts and I’m hungry and wahhhhhhhhhh). I am not the most stylish of travellers, so if looking cool is important I’m far from that cup of tea. And I talk about my cat more than is appropriate. I realize this, but no I will not stop and you can’t make me!
In terms of what drives me crazy, I hate it when people never shut up, I can’t handle whiners (I am aware it is raining, I too am wet), and I don’t want to be the only person putting in any work to actually get from point A to point B. Everyone needs to share the dang load!
When thinking about the trip itself, do you want to lay on the beach for a week straight, or go and climb that mountain? Are you into city dwelling or getting off the beaten path? Do you only go to English speaking destinations or are you ok being out of your linguistic element? Think about it, you may surprise yourself with how specific you want your trips to be.
Armed with the knowledge about who you are and what you want out of travelling, you are far better suited to look at potential travel companions not with a critical eye, but with a proper perspective. Because none of us are perfect, not even you!
3. Be Realistic!
After you have your proper motivations and perspectives in place, now is the time to figure out the reality of your travel situation. If you do decide that your trip would be better with a travel buddy and that you yourself would not be an awful person to travel with, think about who you know who may be down for the kind of trip you are looking for.
My friend Morgan and I travel well together as we are both active enough, but not crazy active, and we like to read books in bed by 9pm like the proper old ladies we are. Dana and I are great travel buddies because we are into getting off the beaten path and exploring what may be down that unpaved road. Also, neither of us talk incessantly in the car, yet we can also yammer on about our various tv shows for hours if desired.
I love travelling with Jeremy and Mark because they have a lot more money than me and rent nice hotel suites, into which we order in a cot and I sleep like their grandchild in the living room. We always eat amazing food, and if we’re doing an activity, Jeremy will often get bored at the exact same time as me, so it’s perfect!
All that said, I wouldn’t do city stays with Dana because she is way more of an outdoors lover. I can’t travel whenever I want with Morgan because she’s a teacher and must abide by the blasted school year schedule. I can’t gallivant with Jeremy and Mark too much or else I would be bankrupt, plus they get grossed out when I eat iguana soup from a local market in Curacao. They have these things called ‘hygiene standards’, whatever.
But looking at the people you love most in your own life is the best place to start. There are lots of friends I would love to do a trip with (and some I wouldn’t want to, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love them!).
Speaking of those friends you don’t want to travel with, there is no problem in that, it’s just not a good travel fit. Maybe your friend loves to shop in world cities and you would rather get muddy on the Inca Trail. Doesn’t mean you can’t be friends, but it probably means you shouldn’t travel together.
Same goes for if you and your potential travel buddy are in different stratosphere’s in terms of budget. The only reason I can travel with Mark and Jeremy is that they realize how poor I am, and for the small amount of time I am with them I pretend to be less so.
But generally speaking, budget can be a real deal breaker. I will gladly stay in dorm rooms, but if my travel buddy can’t do less than 5 star, we would have problems.
Unfortunately, the truth is that as we age and people’s lives become so serious and adult, fewer and fewer of our perfect travel buddies are ready to drop everything and go on a trip.
Enter the internet!
Various travel buddy match up sites have developed in the recent past, all with the purpose of joining people searching for travel buddies. These include sites like Travel Buddies and TravBuddy, or even SoloTraveller. These sites and many others offer areas were folks can make profiles and search other people who are maybe travelling in the same direction as they are. You might also like to check out travel agency franchise sites which not only offer ways to monetise your travel, but they also contain a huge network of professionals in the industry that can share their tips for travelling solo.
There are also women only sites, like 5W (Women Welcome Women World Wide). 5W has created an amazing worldwide community of women who connect through travel, so definitely check them out!
There is always the classic word of mouth, both in real life or digitally. I have often put it out to friends looking for people to meet up with in a certain place and inevitably someone will say ‘yeah my cousin lives there, I’ll connect you!’ If you’re looking to plan an entire trip with someone, let people in on your plans and let them know you would be interested in travelling with them. They can’t read your mind after all. I specifically asked Dana “How do you feel about Iceland in September?” And the rest is history.
WARNING: Do not, and I repeat DO NOT put a general, all-comers welcome invite on a trip, either online or in person. The last thing you want is some random from the past jumping onto your trip and then you’re stuck with them. Literally my nightmare.
The last, most important thing…
But really, when it all comes down to it, the most important thing about a travel buddy is that you have fun together. People can do some annoying things and we don’t always have to be on the same page, but if you understand each other, all will be well.
Set some boundaries, like taking an afternoon to yourself every once and a while. Be up front about budget ranges were you feel comfortable, and about activities that are non-starters (No, I do not want to go to that botanical garden, and YOU CAN’T MAKE ME).
And lastly, if your travel buddy is starting to bug you, cut them some slack. Travelling with you probably isn’t always a dream either.
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