For some aspiring travellers the thought of going it alone just isn’t as appealing as travelling with a companion. I totally understand! After all, backpacking with a treasured companion is special. But it’s important to go with the right person! Here’s my two cents on what makes the perfect backpacking buddy/traveller’s mate and where to find them.
The other day I was having a conversation with some friends and family about travel.
It started with a brief Q and A about my plans for an upcoming South America adventure (exciting times!) before venturing into a more general ‘travel themed’ discussion.
The subject of travelling alone or with others came up.
For some around the table the thought of solo travel just didn’t appeal at all. It seemed too lonely, too isolated. The thought of having someone there to experience and enjoy it all with was far preferable!
Now, I’m a great advocate of solo travel. I think that, to the intrepid individuals who take the leap, in spite of the challenges involved, being alone on the other side of the world offers immense reward.
But I completely understand the reasoning behind wanting to go with others. Sharing an adventure with someone is an amazing thing. In fact, despite my endorsement of solo travel, I’ve often thought that having other people there is somehow preferable.
I say that because, come the end of a trip, all we’re left with are memories.
But a shared memory is a powerful thing- experiencing something with another person offers a tangible human connection to it. Somehow it makes the experience more real.
At the very least it means the trip extends far beyond the length of time you’re actually away.
I mean, time goes on and memories fade. Having someone there to jog your memory, and remind you of the adventures you had together, is a sure fire way to carry your trip with you throughout your life.
So, if you want to travel with someone else you totally should.
But, and it’s a significant but, you should make absolutely sure you travel with the right person! There’s nothing worse than finding yourself on the other side of the world with someone who, for whatever reason, saps all the enjoyment from your experience.
What makes the right person? What are some of the traits of the perfect backpacking buddy? And where can you find them?
These are the questions I hope to help you with below!
The Dangers of Travelling With the Wrong Person
Let’s consider why it’s so important to travel with the right person.
Your travels should be incredible.
After all, you’ve worked hard for this. You’ve scrimped, saved and sacrificed for it. You’ve taken a leap of faith, leaving home, friends and family behind. You’ve dreamed about this for weeks, months and maybe even years.
Now it’s a reality.
You want your time on the road to be as momentous, profound, enriching, rewarding and downright smooth sailing as possible.
Travel, intrinsically, can be tough. Fundamentally, it will challenge you. At times you will be tired, lonely, uncomfortable, and pushed far from your comfort zone.
As a basic rule of thumb, the person (or people) you travel with should make the bad times better and the better times best.
The wrong person prevents all that from happening.
They can frustrate, irritate, hinder and hamper. They can leave a negative tinge in the air and a bitter taste in your mouth. They sap the energy from the day and your time, which should be so immense, becomes an ordeal.
Simply, the wrong person can stop you enjoying the experience of travel.
What Makes the Perfect Traveller’s Mate?
So, what should you look for in a travel companion? Here’s what I’d suggest:
The right match for you!
First and foremost there isn’t one person who would be the perfect travel buddy for everyone.
Instead it’s about figuring out the sort of person that’s right for you. You want someone who complements your personality- who provides a perfect balance of similarities and differences.
Someone with Similar Interests
You want to look for someone with similar interests and travel styles; but also someone who’ll push you to try new things and pull you from your comfort zone.
It can be frustrating wanting to constantly do different things.
Feelings of resentment can rise from doing (and paying for) activities you might not usually have chosen to do. There’s definite benefit in this occasionally (any partnership requires compromise and, equally, it can help put you in novel situations), but over time it can foster negativity.
Remember, these are your travels and you should feel able to do what you want. Life if far easier if that happens to align with your companion’s wishes too!
Someone with an Adventurous Spirit
If adventure is what you’re after on your travels, there’s little point going with someone who’d prefer to stay in the hostel dorm room all day.
I suppose this comes back to ensuring you have similar interests to your travel companion. Travel is an adventure in its own right, but it can be one on a day to day level too. Be sure to find yourself a buddy with similarly adventurous aspirations.
Someone with a Similar Budget
At a practical level you also want to travel with someone who has a similar budget.
It can be hard when one person has more to spend than the other. One of you is bound to feel restricted; the other either envious of the other’s deep pockets and/or guilty at holding their friend back.
Having a similar amount of money will help when deciding what to do each day, such that you’re both able to enjoy the same things.
Someone who is Loyal and Who Has Your Back
Relationships require a level of trust, compromise and loyalty. That is never truer than when you backpack in foreign countries. You want to travel with people who you know have your best interests at heart and who’ll look out for you in tough times.
Someone with a Sense of Humour
I think I’ve already mentioned how travelling isn’t always hunky-dory. Having a sense of humour is priceless in order to get through the tough times and see the brighter side of everything.
Being with people who lack one- who struggle to laugh at themselves, taking things too seriously all the time- can be challenging. You want your travels to be fun- the ability to find the joke in the trials and tribulations of travel is always a bonus.
Someone Who Likes Their Own Company as Much as Yours
Travelling with other people is intense. You’re spending a lot of time together, in close proximity, in novel situations. It is a high emotion environment and being with them all the time would be a challenge.
So I think it’s good to travel with someone who doesn’t mind spending time alone too. In those moments when you need your own space you’ll know you can do so without risk of offending or negatively impacting their experience in some way.
Having recharged your batteries, you can then get back to travelling amicably in each other’s pockets!
5 Benefits of Having a Great Backpacking Buddy
Now that I’ve covered what makes a great backpacking travel companion, I’ll fire through 5 reasons finding one is so awesome.
- You have someone to share in all the amazing experiences and to reminisce with when you eventually get home.
- You’ll have someone to keep you company in the tougher travel times, when you’re lonely, homesick or simply struggling with the rigours of the road.
- You know someone will always have your back when you need it most, like if you get ill, or drunk, or in some other form of trouble...
- Sharing in the experience together will forge a relationship unlike any other you have. You’ll become exceptionally close and develop an unspoken bond with them.
- Coming home from your trip will be easier as you know someone will understand exactly what it is you’ve been through. No-one else will understand the momentousness of your trip; your travelling companion will.
5 Places to Find the Ideal Travellers Mate
Here are some of the places you could look for the perfect backpacking buddy.
There are a bunch of online websites and communities dedicated to helping you find someone to travel with. Do a quick Google search and a bunch will come up.
Check out Travel-Buddies.com as a great example, or search for Facebook Groups for your chosen destination. There’s almost always a traveller/backpacking community board for the country. Join the group and get chatting!
On Mobile Apps
Likewise, there are numerous mobile apps that connect you with hopeful travel buddies too. One that pops right up is Backpackr.org. Why not download a couple of apps to find your next travel buddy?
On the Road
One of the best places to find people to travel with is on the road itself. I have personally travelled with some of the most amazing individuals I’ve ever met like this.
Though it seems backwards (finding the perfect travel companion in someone who is essentially a complete stranger), I think it makes sense.
When you go travelling you’ll meet dozens of people doing the same thing. Chances are you have other similar interested besides travel. There are a bunch of likeminded people looking for some company on the road.
And, if it doesn’t work out, you have zero obligation to stick around. If, after a day or so, it becomes clear it isn’t working, you can simply make your excuses and head somewhere else.
If your aim is to go from start to finish on your trip with a travel buddy, your current friendship group is a great (and obvious) place to start looking.
You know, like and understand these people, which is an awesome place to start. However, there’s no replacement for actually travelling with someone and there’s nothing like travel to make you hate someone! Even if you’re convinced you love your friend, go on a trial travel run first.
Head somewhere for a short period of time, travelling closely together to get a feel for whether it’ll work longer term.
An issue you might come across here may be convincing a friend to join you in the first place. Far too often you’ll find them set on the typical path from school to college/university to career.
And finally, look at your own family. Do you have a sibling, cousin, aunt, uncle or parent who you’d want to travel with?
A benefit of travelling with a family member is that you already know what it’s like to live closely with them. But make sure you really really get on with them first- especially if it’s been a while since you lived together in the family home.
Again, I’d recommend a trial stint away somewhere! There would be nothing worse than falling out with a family member on the road.
What to Do If It Isn’t Working With Your Backpacking Buddy
Of course, you’ll fall out with your traveller mate.
On the road that’s natural. After all, travelling is intense and you’ll be spending a significant amount of time in each other’s pockets.
However, if you’re spending a disproportionate amount of time at loggerheads with each other, something needs to change. What do you do if you’re not getting on with your buddy? Here are some options:
Acknowledge Your Role in the Problems
Sometimes we need to be self aware enough to realise that we’re annoyed not because of the other person, but because of our own issues.
We, not they, are the problem.
We’re tired, irritable, low- whatever- and it impacts the relationship. It’s too easy to play the blame game. Recognising our own role to play is an important way of making amends with the other person.
Take Some Time Alone
I’ll say it again: travel is intense. It is all too easy to get frustrated with people when you’re in each other’s pockets all the time, in emotional, intense situations.
As such it is important to get your own space every once in a while. Take a break from each other, hang out with other people you meet, explore a new place on your own and meet up again later.
In my experience, space (both physical and mental) can be an incredibly effective balm to soothe any festering wound between people.
This is a big one. If you have an issue with the other person, or are struggling with something in particular, then tell them!
Humans aren’t good at mind reading. We can’t assume people know we’re upset in some way. In the interest of fairness and openness, express the issue (in a respectful, mature way).
Problems and frustrations can build over time until you’re fit to burst and arguments ensue! Nip it all in the bud by talking more as a group or duo.
Go Your Separate Ways
It would be a bold decision, but if you’re really not enjoying your time together then consider separating.
I mean, there’s no point flogging a dead horse. If neither of you are having fun (and it’s been going on for a while), then there’s nothing forcing you to stay together.
Knowing when to quit is a brave and mature move. And it might be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Keep in mind that you, your needs and your story will change as you travel. Perhaps the issues that arise between you and your buddy are a natural outcome of that development; maybe you no longer need to be with someone else.
Try to make sure you’re both on the same page with the decision though.
Remember, you don’t want to lose a friend over this and neither do you want to walk away with a sour taste in your mouth.
And there you have it, my guide backpacking buddy guide to finding amazing people to travel with! I hope it’s been helpful for all aspiring travellers looking to find the perfect travellers mate for the road.
Do you have any stories of good or bad experiences with travel companions? What do you look for in your backpacking buddy? Let me know in the comments!