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Finding Female Travel Companions
What to do when you're no longer in the mood to travel solo
It happens. Sometimes you get fed up with your own company but you don't necessarily want to 'hook up' or travel with a guy.
You just want some girlfriend travel.
You need some female travel companions.
Alone isn't always better... (Mike Baird via Flickr CC)
There are all sorts of reasons for seeking a travel partner. Here are just a few:
- It's your first trip and you're just plain nervous.
- You've been through a crisis and you just don't feel like being alone right now.
- You're worried about dealing with travel loneliness and feel too shy to meet people on the road.
- You don't know the language.
- You're concerned about attracting unwanted male attention.
- Right now, you're just not ready for solo travel.
The advantages of female travel companions
Lets face it - on occasion, there are some real advantages to having female travel companions:
- travel can be cheaper when you share
- you'll be better able to deal with loneliness if it hits
- you may feel safer and more secure
- you may simply be the gregarious type who wants someone to talk to
- you may also be more comfortable in societies that frown upon solo travel for women.
Female travel companions - any travel buddies - can provide friendship along the way, like at Barnacles Hostel in Dublin. Sometimes you get tired of your own company.
And the disadvantages
Equally, there are disadvantages to having a travel partner:
- you may not want to go to the same place at the same time
- you may have different travel rhythms or lifestyles (you're an early bird, ready to hop on a bus at 6 a.m., while your travel companion doesn't emerge from deep sleep until lunch)
- you may have different hopes or expectations
- you may have different budgets, outlooks on life, interests... different everything.
Sometimes, things just happen
I met Tim and Nica in a Harare guest house, where I spent a month and over the weeks, we became great buddies.
As I arrived in Blantyre, the capital of Malawi, I heard a weak voice calling my name - Tim was slouched over, pale with bilharzia. He would soon fly off to recover in Pemba.
Some months later, in Nairobi, I stayed in a part of town usually off-limits to tourists, especially non-African ones - and who but Tim should come ambling down the hotel hallway. The world was starting to feel like a small place indeed.
In Asmara, Eritrea, I was sipping an espresso at an outdoor café when a group of travelers mentioned having run into a couple called Tim and Nica. I left a note in the Poste Restante (General Post Office - this was pre-cellphone days) and ended up meeting them again later that month.
We became friends - as people do when they keep tripping over one another across a continent. Often we traveled together, usually for a few days. Since then we've met up in Bangkok and Costa Rica. Or was it Stockholm... Each time I saw them, it was a joy. But after a few days, I'd be on my own again, and that was good too.
Huge cities, like Bangkok, can be crowded yet lonely; you might feel more inclined to explore if you have a companion along (Milei.vencel via Wikimedia Commons)
How to find female travel companions
What if you've looked around you at all the obvious victims but no one wants to go?
If everyone is too busy, too poor or no one happens to want to visit the Galapagos when you do, don't give up: you can still find a travel partner.
Here are some tips for finding female travel companions to share at least part of your trip:
- Some of the best travel forums, such as Boots'nAll or Lonely Planet, have threads dedicated to travel partners. Post a message there!
- TravBuddy also has a large thread dedicated to... travel buddies, of course
- Ask on Facebook. Someone you know may be planning to travel too. Just make sure your privacy settings are accurate - set for Friends and Family, for example - so the whole world isn't alerted to your departure.
- Try friendly specialist websites like the Thelma and Louise Club or 5W (Women Welcome Women World Wide)
- Or travel matching outfits like Solotraveller.
- If you're retired (or just plain mature), a good bet might be Connecting Solo Travel Network
- Some travel companies also host travel boards, like Tours4Fun
- If you don't want a companion but still want information or a local contact at your destination, sign up for the free Her Mail
- And of course, there's couch surfing and similar services, through which you can meet people anywhere in the world (using common sense and caution, naturally).
- Finally, there's Good Ol' Google. You can try searching for "travel companions" and see what comes up (some of it questionable!) and if you're up for group travel, even for a short while, then Google "no single supplement" to see what's affordable.
TravBuddy is one of many forums where you can post travel partner requests
A few simple rules
Please be careful. Anyone can post a note on a bulletin board, and you don't know who is lurking behind that note.
So please exercise some caution and common sense.
- Make sure your first meeting is in a well-lit public place and takes place during the day. There's every probability your contact will turn out to be, just like you, a woman seeking another female travel companion (rather than a criminal or harasser posing as one). But be smart - be careful.
- Take your cellphone to the meeting, and let someone know where you're going. It's probably perfectly safe, but we've all heard enough stories about Internet meetings to at least be cautious. Better yet, take a friend.
- When you're searching online, be cautious with your profile. Fill in enough to show your compatibility and honesty, but not enough to enable anyone to find or identify you.
- Make sure you provide enough details on your proposed trip - when you're going, where, and your style of travel. Otherwise you might end up weeding through hundreds of incompatible proposals!
Make sure you choose a safe place to meet your potential travel partner for the first time - none of this dark, seedy stuff (Michael Cory via Flickr CC)
Are you compatible?
You've made the decision to seek out female travel companions, you're got a few nibbles and potential partners, but now you have to narrow it down.
How do you decide? How do you take that final step that may bind you to another person for weeks or even months?
Here are some points to consider when making your decision:
- Reasons for travel: is she running away from a bad situation, traveling to find herself, or simply out for fun
- Travel style: whether she's comfortable backpacking or is more of a spa hotel junkie, whether she's shy and retiring or outgoing and wanting to meet local people everywhere
- Personal rhythm: if she's a morning person or a night person, if she needs a siesta every day or won't even stop for meals
- Flexibility: is she easygoing and adventurous, or rigid with itineraries color-coded and prepared a week ahead
- Budget: how much money does 'not expensive' actually mean?
- Likes and dislike: what she likes to do on the road - shopping versus sightseeing, lounging versus sports
How does she mesh with you? That's the question you have to answer.
Here's what I suggest: do a test drive.
That's right - travel together for a short while, a weekend or a week close to home. Sharing schedules, meals and a room for a few days should give you an inkling of whether this will work longer term.
I love solo travel - no secret there - but I don't always travel on my own and when I travel with someone else - my partner, a friend, a relative - I make sure we iron out any potential areas of friction before we even go anywhere near an airport.
Have you ever traveled with a friend in this way? What were the advantages? Please answer below!