Meeting other travellers on the road can be one of the most enjoyable parts of travelling. As a solo traveller, it can also be a great opportunity to band together for a time, giving each other company and sharing costs.
I am naturally quite introverted at home and really enjoy my own company and a good book but when you're travelling for weeks at a time even the most hermity of all hermits will eventually crave some human interaction. I generally find myself travelling with other people for at least 20% of my time away. That could just be hanging out for a couple days at a time or my record was two whole months (on and off) with a lovely couple from Alaska.
I've learnt ALOT from my experiences with my temporary travel buddies; made some poor decisions and also let my temper get to boiling point a few too many times. There are definitely some do's and don'ts when it comes to partnering up while on the road.
Here’s some advice to help you succeed in your new travel duo!
Talk about your budgets
This is extremely important! Arguments about where to stay and eat can ruin friendships. Some travelers like to stay in the cheapest local hotels available and cook very low cost foods for every meal, choosing instead to spend money on activities or just extend their trip for the longest time possible. Others spare no expense, staying in 4-star hotels and eating out. The majority, like myself, sit somewhere between these two extremes.
At the very least you need to understand where your travel buddy sits on the spectrum and I highly recommend agreeing ahead of time on daily budgets for accommodation and food.
Discuss interests and priorities
Once you’ve made sure you’re on the same wavelength money-wise, it’s a good idea to talk about what your “must-sees” and “must-dos” are. If these don’t match up at all then it might make for some frustrated conversations over how to spend your days or in which towns you want to stop.
Make sure it’s clear to each party what the priorities are so you don’t get too far before realising your priorities aren’t aligned.
It’s also important to make sure you are somewhat similar in your travel habits. Are you a party animal or do you get up to watch the sun-rise? Would you be annoyed if someone was never on time and kept you waiting, or are you happy to keep things flexible?
Figure out what’s important to you in a travel partner and make sure to figure out if this new person meets your minimum criteria. Opposites can attract, but you don’t want to be stuck with someone who has completely different values.
Give each other space
Regardless of if you are travelling together for one day or one week, make sure that you’re aware of your own need for space as well as your travel buddy’s. Making new friends, seeing new things and having new experiences is exhilarating, but can also be tiring and sometimes emotional.
There’s likely a reason you’re travelling on your own in the first place and if the reason is that you like your own space then make sure to communicate that to your new travel buddy.
Plan your time together in chunks
I recommend against planning extended time together. Once you’ve figured out that you have some similar travel plans, I suggest tentatively booking only a few days in advance. Our feelings towards people change as we get to know them and that’s fine, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
Remaining flexible and not booking accommodation and travel too far ahead can help you avoid feeling trapped with your travel buddy if you need space or your feelings about them change.
Maintain your level of security
One of the benefits of setting out with a temporary travel partner is sharing the cost of accommodation. If you would usually stay in a dorm bed you might be able to share a private room instead for a similar or slightly higher cost.
This means that where before you might have had your own locker you will have to trust this person with all your valuables. As you travel together you will start to gain each other’s trust, but make sure to keep your things safe, ultimately they are your responsibility.
Keep up the communication
After being on the road together a while it could be a good idea to have a chat and make sure your travel plans are still what you both want. Bring up anything that you think you want to hear as a travel partner.
Know when to call it quits
There could be many signs that it’s time to part ways:
you’re no longer enjoying each other’s company;
you’re headed in different directions; or
if your travel plans or goals are not quite aligned
Having this conversation with your travel buddy can be difficult, but the key is to be respectful and honest. Don’t take the easy way out and leave them with a lot of maybes. “Maybe we can meet up in this town” or “Maybe we can do this together in a couple of days”. Just let them know that you’re ready to move on and you’ve enjoyed the time you have had together. Keep it simple and try to give them enough notice so they can make other plans.
Note: If the reason you want to head off solo is because the other person is just not a great mate for you then no need to tell them all the reasons why!
Make the most of your time together!
This is the fun part. It can be great having another person to share special experiences with and to talk through the events of the day.
While you are together make sure to also take advantage of having another person to help you with all those little things that could get annoying when you’re solo. No longer do you need to take your backpack into the gross toilet at the bus station. No more awkward selfies at important monuments. No more solo surcharges on tours or getting knocked back because there’s only one of you.
Travelling on your own is great and I would never have it any other way, but when you find someone you enjoy spending time with and getting to know, that also happens to have similar plans as you, rejoice! This could be just the break you need from being on your own.
Do you have anything to add? Ever met up with someone new on the road and figured out too late that they were not the right fit for you? What are some other advantages of finding a temporary travel buddy on the road?