It happens. You're an inveterate solo traveler but sometimes you get fed up with your own company. You don't necessarily want to 'hook up' or travel with a group.
You just want some girlfriend travel.
You need a female travel companion.
Alone is often wonderful - but not all the time
Why would a solo traveler want to travel with someone else? Maybe...
- it's your first trip and you're just not ready to go it alone yet
- you've been through a crisis and you need a bit of companionship to get your mind off things
- you're worried about dealing with travel loneliness and feel you're too shy to just 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 in the mood for solo travel
All very valid. But if you're used to traveling solo, you might struggle to find people to travel with.
The advantages of traveling with others
Let's face it - however much you love solo travel, occasionally there can be real advantages to traveling 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 - safety in numbers - if you're headed somewhere dodgy
- perhaps you're the gregarious type who wants someone to talk to
- you may also be more comfortable in societies that frown upon solo travel for women
- you won't have to wave around the dreaded selfie stick - someone can take your picture for you!
Female travel companions can provide friendship along the way. Sometimes you get tired of your own company just isn't enough.
And the disadvantages
There are also some 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 6am, 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.
- you may be a solo traveler at heart!
Sometimes, things just happen - so let them
I met Tim and Nica in a Harare guest house, where I spent a month.
As I traveled across Africa, I reached my guest house in Blantyre, the capital of Malawi. A weak voice called my name - Tim was bent over, pale with bilharzia. He would soon fly off to recover in Kenya.
Some months later, in Kenya myself, 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.
Months later, continuing my Africa trip to Asmara, Eritrea, I was sipping an espresso at an outdoor café when a group of travelers mentioned meeting a couple called Tim and Nica. I left a note in the Poste Restante (General Post Office, in pre-cellphone days) and ended up meeting them again later that month.
We became good 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.
So you never know what shape your travel companionships will take...
Huge cities can be crowded yet lonely; you might feel more inclined to explore if you have a companion along
How to find a female travel companion
What if you've looked at all the obvious potential travel "victims" but no one wants to go with you? Your partner, if you have one, your friends, your relatives - 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 suggestions to get you going.
- Some of the best travel forums, such as Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, have threads dedicated to finding travel partners. Post a message there!
- Ask on Facebook. Someone you know may be planning to travel too, so this is a great place to start looking for someone. 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.
- Of course, there's Good Ol' Google. You can try searching for "female travel partner needed" and see what comes up (some of it quite questionable!) If you're up for group travel, even for a short while, try looking into companies that don't charge a single supplement.
These sites (free and paying) specialize in connecting people – some are for women specifically, others for travelers more generally:
Find a travel buddy: 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. Looking for a travel companion requires discernment!
So please exercise some caution and common sense.
- Make sure your first meeting is in a well-lit public place and is during the day. There's every probability your contact will turn out to be, just like you, someone interested in traveling with another woman (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 strict 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, lonely stuff
Is your travel companion compatible?
You've made the decision to seek out a travel partner, you're got a few nibbles of interest 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 luxury spa traveler, 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 color-coded itineraries prepared a week ahead of time
- 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, spending the afternoon in a museum or bungee-jumping
- The 'alone factor': you will each need some space, so make sure she's not planning on being joined to you at the hip
How does she mesh with you? What do you have in common? That's the question you have to answer.
And then... you need some ground rules: how to resolve disagreements, how to choose destinations and accommodations, how to... everything. Things will go much more smoothly if you know how to communicate.
Here's what I suggest: do a test drive.
That's right - travel together for a short while, a day or a weekend 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 get anywhere near an airport.
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