A World Of Friendship: How Hard is it Finding Travel Buddies Online?

I feel like I’m being a little premature in writing this, as I’ve only been looking for four days, but I have already discovered that finding a travel companion when none of your real life friends are up for an adventure is quite the complicated process.

It all started when my plans to visit Norway with two close friends fell through and I was left with an unrequited wanderlust and a bunch of clothes that would probably look a little excessive if I wore them for a trip to Tesco in the Great British winter. There was no way I was going to give up on my dream; to go to Norway and photograph the Aurora, fjords, and mountains, but now I faced a new challenge. I had to find someone to go with.

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Image from norway.nordicvisitor.com

You’d think that would be easy for someone with 397 Facebook friends, including several “besties”, a good amount of actual friends, plenty of colleagues, and many perfectly decent acquaintances, but no. The unfortunate thing about adult life is that, in order to survive, you have to work and earn money, meaning it’s not as easy, or affordable to get out and see the world as you’d hope. There’s also this strange decision that a lot of my friends have made, to have children who require childcare while you go off travelling. So, when I looked for people I actually knew to come away with me, the responses went along the lines of “I’d love to, but I cant get time off work”, “I really want to say yes, but I can’t afford it”, and “If only I could get childcare!” I found myself with no choice but to look elsewhere.

My first step was a wary one. I am an avid Tumblr user and have several accounts on there to showcase my work and to indulge in my various interests. I put out a call on my “professional” account, asking if anyone would like to join me on my adventure. I made sure to stress that I didn’t want any funny business, but knowing how people online aren’t always that genuine, I almost didn’t post it. I haven’t had a single reply, and maybe that’s for the best, in hindsight. I don’t fancy turning up to the airport and discovering that the person I met online has hidden agendas, or is a completely different person in real life.

I then set about finding another way to meet potential travel buddies, and ended up on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum, which I figured would bring me a bit more success than Tumblr or Facebook. So far, I’m still waiting to be proven right, in terms of finding someone to actually travel with, however, I do actually like the forum.

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Research your travel ideas on lonelyplanet.com

Unlike on Tumblr, I actually had some responses, and I feel a lot more confident that these people are more genuine than people I might meet in a less specific place. On Thorn Tree, I can see that its users want the same thing I want – to travel. Of course, I’m still apprehensive, as I’m sure other users are too, but I feel less anxious about messaging people and posting on the forum.

The first person to get in contact was a girl four years younger than me, who lives about two hours away. I had a good feeling about her so responded, hoping to discuss some ideas. I can see that she hasn’t come back on the forum yet, but a part of me is starting to worry that I’ve put her off in some way… stupid neuroses! Anyway, I soldiered on and spoke to a couple more people.

Within two days, I had already started to feel a bit more confident. Instead of waiting to see who would contact me, I began actively seeking people out. I’m looking predominantly for someone who lives in Britain, preferably close to myself in the South East, who I can get to know and maybe meet up with a few times to see if we click, then to plan something together. In addition to finding a buddy for this trip, which I’m now hoping will take place in February, I am also open to making some new foreign friends. I want to make a go of travel blogging and I believe I’d be more inclined to bravely wander off on my own if I had someone to hang out with when I reach my destination. On my own, I’m just not that brave!

I will admit that I am a complete wuss when it comes to being by myself. It’s not the experience of being by myself that makes me uncomfortable. I happily spend time alone most of the time, be that at home or going for nature walks in my local area. What scares me is having no one around to back me up in a sea of strangers. If I could teleport to the fjords right now without having to make my way to the airport, navigate the airport, talk to the airport staff, navigate the airport at the other end, then get to my final destination, I would do it in a heartbeat, but all that stuff scares me! I know other people don’t find it daunting at all, but I do.

This morning I checked on Thorn Tree and I had received a message from a fellow photographer from Britain. He wasn’t signing himself up to be my travel buddy, but he did offer me an inspiring pep talk on travelling alone. He is going to Norway in two weeks and said he would tell me about his experience when he gets back, which would be amazing. I added him as a contact and followed him on Twitter, so hopefully I can form some sort of bond with him. I’m completely open to gaining a group of friends who I can share experiences and tips with as we travel around, and if we ever did meet up, that was also be cool. I do have high hopes that Thorn Tree will bring these people into my life, but I think I need to give it longer than four days to find my kindred spirits.

Who exactly am I looking for? Well, I don’t have any boundaries on age, nationality, or gender, although someone around my age (28) would be preferable. My real life friends are an eclectic mix off all ages, sexualities, ethnicities. It’s just a shame that none of them are able to join me on my travels, hence why I’m broadening my search. My ideal travel buddy is someone who is open minded and fun, but not too crazy! I’m not a party animal, and I can veer on the shy side, so someone with a calming personality is a must. My travel buddy would have a passion for nature and beautiful scenery, and would be willing to go on long walks into the unknown with me. They would appreciate my need to spend time taking photographs, and if they also want to take photographs, that would be brilliant. We could share tips on how to get the best shots and enthuse about our images at the end of the day.

I don’t want to be stuck with someone who takes drugs, and that’s something I’m absolutely solid with. What people put in their bodies is their business, but if they are my only ally in a foreign land, I don’t want to wind up looking after them while they’re tripping out, and I certainly don’t want to be dragged into any legal dramas their habits might get them into. I personally don’t drink alcohol, but that’s not because I have strong feelings against it – it makes me ill. That being said, if my buddy is a drinker, I’d like them to show some restraint while they are away with me. If you wake up hungover, I won’t sit and nurse you. I’ll be off wandering around outside whether you’re with me or not.

I’m not a fussy eater. I have a few allergies, but can eat most things, and I’m up for trying Norwegian cuisine, so someone who wants to try it with me would be great. I also want someone who is interested in the culture and history of Norway. I want to feel mentally stimulated, and to walk away feeling like I’ve learned something.

I’m sure that, given time, I could find someone like this on Thorn Tree. To be fair, I already have found several people who tick the boxes, but they are already planning trips at different times to me. With my job, I can only travel at specific times. There is no flexibility at all, which limits me a lot. In the future, if my travel writing turns into a career, it would be infinitely easier to get around, but I can’t make that happen overnight. So, for now, I will continue on my search for a travel buddy, and if that fails, I’ll just have to pull my socks up and go it alone.

If you are someone who wants to get away to Norway in February, and you think you fit the bill, please do get in touch. I’m open to discussing ideas with people, and will reply to any genuine messages. Use the contact form and send me your thoughts and we can take it from there. I look forward to hearing from you!

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