So, you’re thinking about that trip of a lifetime or gap year but are worried about doing it on your own. Here are four options to consider:
1. Travel Companion Websites
This is the only one of the 4 options I haven’t personally tried; but I’ve heard both tales of joy and woe from people who’ve paired up this way.
One pitfall is that you contact your potential companion and confirm that you have the same interests, but fail to consider whether you have similar finances. It can be pretty uncomfortable when you reach your first destination and find your companion either wants to eat out way beyond your budget, or alternatively spend as little as possible.
Arranging to travel with people you’ve never met can be a risk; check them out thoroughly before your journey e.g. meet up beforehand in a public place (to vet),
check passport, take their picture, let friends know your arrangements etc.
- Lonely Planet forum
- TourRadar find companions for organised tours and adventures (see next section)
- travelchum.net (free to use, new to me in 2016)
- Travel Companion Exchange (free or premium membership)
- CSTN (membership fee?)
- companions2travel.co.uk (membership fee)
solotraveller.comGone? Unable to access @ 14 Mar 2016
Note: I’ve not used the above sites, so I can’t comment on their reliability.
2. Tours with groups
Some tour operator websites now enable you to contact and find out about other potential travellers.
TourRadar allow you to find, compare, and check reviews on 20,000 trips from over 500 tour websites AND find travel buddies. I requested more information, and received this explanation from TourRadar’s Anna:
“If you’re interested in going on an organized tour or trek, TourRadar can help you get to know your travel companions even before you book. First, you browse the TourRadar website and find a tour that looks interesting.
Once you have a trip in mind, you can then pop over to our “Meet Others” app either through Facebook or the TourRadar site, where you can join message boards full of other people who are looking into booking or have already booked that tour. Don’t see the tour on there? No problem. The app provides a simple function to create a group for your tour, based on your (potential) departure dates, tour operator or destination.
By exchanging a few messages, you should be able to get a better idea if the group is right for you. Once you’ve booked, you can keep on chatting with your future tour-mates right up until departure.
It’s a great feature especially for first-time or solo travellers who may otherwise be nervous going into an organized group tour. By using the TourRadar app, you’ll have made friends even before you step out your front door!”
Note: we think TourRadar is outstanding for its range of tours and reviews and affiliated with them last year. If you are aware of other tour operators offering similar “trip buddy networks” please let me know and I will list them here.
I expect more tour operators will soon be providing travel companion facilities. Until they do, my own personal rule of thumb is that if the tour group size is 12+ you will probably find a soul mate among them.
Tours usually work out well and could end up as the trip of a lifetime – as long as your interests match others of your age group. On a Kayaking adventure I guess you won’t find many people over 35, and on an expensive tour of historic Europe you might find a high proportion of retirees.
3. Solo travel and meeting people in Hostels (recommended)
Even if you set out by yourself, it doesn’t mean you end up travelling alone. You rarely get to meet people in hotels; but in hostels where you share dormitories, kitchens and common rooms together, you will meet people who share your interests and humour; and you may end up journeying together.
I spent a year “solo” travelling staying mostly in hostels. Your fellow hostelers love to hear and share stories about your/their travel experiences. In every hostel I met people to spend the days with, and even traveled from country to country with some.
If you haven’t used hostels before, you should definitely consider them. (See this article on hostelling)
4. Study for a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Qualification – but do it abroad.
If you are fairly independent and self contained but just need that confidence boost at the start of your travels, then this could be for you. There are 2 internationally recognised TEFL qualifications (Cambridge CELTA & Trinity College’s Cert. TESOL ) that are door openers for you to teach in many language schools.
Studying for a CELTA abroad at a decent language school you will find:
- there is a large ready-made group of fellow solo traveler students to socialise and enjoy life with
- you have support and advice from the language school as you get to know your new city – e.g. maps, advice on public transport , where to eat and drink, decent shops etc.
- they might be able to arrange accommodation (if you wish, sharing a flat with other students) for a lot less than you can do it yourself.
- you feel that you are really experiencing life in the city, you have a flat there, you take the tram to the school every morning etc.
- you are well prepared to teach, with a qualification that is a door opener to many language schools so you can earn money during your travels.
Cost: Depends on where you take the qualification. I took the 4 week CELTA course at International House (IH) Language School, Budapest which had a very good reputation. The language school arranged my flat in Budapest for me so the total cost (in 2005) including the accommodation was about the same as you would pay in the UK for the course alone and I was allowed to extend my stay in the flat for another 2 weeks.
Author Andy Wrigley+ last update