For many people the very thought of just walking down the street next to someone you’ve never met is disconcerting. Who hasn’t been told, “Stranger danger, stranger danger!”? But now, thanks to the internet, barriers between people all around the world have been torn down. We’re friendlier and more adventurous than we were in the past, and we should be proud of that. We’ve come so far in the last decade that nowadays we book stays in strangers homes and apartments – and we even travel with them.
Solo travel is growing more popular every year, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to connect with other, like-minded people. There is so much to be learned by having a quick conversation with a reader on the bus, but for an even better experience, try having a late-night secret-sharing session with your new friend from Chile. By traveling with strangers, you’ll make memories you can tell your grand kids and make friends they might even get to meet. Still not buying it? Here’s why strangers can make your trip abroad so much better!
1. COMBINE YOUR SMARTS
No, seriously. Maybe you’re an awesome cook but can’t read a map for your life. When you go traveling, you’re bound to meet people with different strengths and weaknesses from you–maybe you’ll meet someone who’s a pro at navigating. So help each other out: you offer to cook meals, and they’re in charge of the GPS. Humans are all different, but by working together, they can be incredibly strong. That’s part of what makes the human race so beautiful.
By huddling together like a herd of penguins (just kidding), you’ll have a blast swapping travel tips, sharing staycation secrets, and taking photos of each other (for the Instagram feed, of course). And if, say, you’re in China and your new friends there really have to pee, you’ll finally be able to whip out your rusty high-school Mandarin and help them out.
2. NEVER GET LONELY
Solo-travelling can be fun, but it can also get overwhelming. It would be awful to stop by a beautiful waterfall and have no one to share the experience with! Makes you think of the paradox, “If a tree falls in the forest, does it still make a sound?” When traveling with strangers, you’ll be able to decide if you want to be alone or if you want to socialize—unlike traveling with family, who tend to smother you!
You can hop on a stranger’s couch and start chatting with them about the awesome food you tried last week, or retreat to the quiet of your room when you’ve had enough. And if you simply love, love, love meeting new people and talking about life, you’ll never get bored.
3. MAKE NEW FRIENDS
Of course, you will! What’s not to love about forging lifelong bonds? On normal days, you might feel like you’re stuck in a small town where no one understands you. When traveling, however, you’re almost guaranteed to meet other open-minded, friendly, and adventurous people who will accept you for who you are.
Say you’re a fan of a really independent band that no one else seems to know about. You could very well meet another fan during your group travels, or get one of them hooked! Who knows, maybe you can even invite them along on your next big adventure.
4. BECOME MORE OPEN-MINDED
When you’re sharing a tiny hostel room with five people with whom you’ve never slept before, you’re bound to deal with some pretty weird people. You might argue about where to eat, what temperature to keep the air conditioner at, and when to leave the hotel, but you’ll be stronger and better for it.
We promise. By learning to accommodate other peoples’ differences, you’ll open your eyes to the fact that differences aren’t necessarily bad. Other people have different ways of doing things, but those ways are just as valid as ours. Wiggle room makes the world go ’round!
5. A VERY DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE
Trekking through the beautifully-paved streets of the French Riviera might land you in a small music bar next to someone twice your age. If you decide to sit down with them and share a few drinks, you might just learn something new about the world, other people, or yourself. Maybe they went hiking on a mountain in the Himalayas, or have a story to tell that you would never have guessed at just by looking at them.
A person raised by one parent in a small American suburb will have a different understanding of the world compared to someone who lived with their grandparents and siblings in a bustling Indonesian city. The more you hear about other people and their life stories, the wider your scope will be. It helps develop understanding and compassion. Talking to someone older might help you understand your parents or family better, and talking to someone younger could lead to a perspective you never considered.
6. NEW TRAVEL BUDDIES
The more people come along on a trip, the cheaper it (usually) gets. By booking groups, you can often get deals on tours, boats, and even accommodations. Before you part ways, make sure to get your new friends’ contact information (name, number, Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook, Sarahah — orany other weird and obscure social media platform the world is currently obsessing about). That way, if you decide to take them up on their offer to visit their home (which could be 4000 miles away from yours), you can.
7. IT IS SAFER
Solo traveling is still considered risky, and for good reason. Accidents can happen without warning: for example, if you’re hiking a trail by yourself but accidentally fall, you won’t always be able to call for help. You might be lost in the middle of nowhere for days (whole movies have been made about those scenarios).
If you’re traveling in dangerous areas (especially if you’re a woman), it’s never recommended to go alone. By traveling with strangers and staying in a group, you can keep each other safe and accountable.
So there you have it – seven good reasons why you should travel with complete strangers. But remember they are strangers, so you should still take a few simple precautions to enhance your safety. If you are going off the beaten track with strangers, let family know where you are going, or register with your country’s local embassy or consulate, and take heed of travel warnings provided by foreign affairs departments. And to ensure the security of you personal belongings, invest in a bag that has a good quality lock. The combination type is a good option because then you don’t have to worry about carrying a key if you are swimming or engaging in other activities on the water. You can check out the websites of online retailers like Luggage Direct to see what types of bags provide the best security. Then you can travel with peace of mind and enjoy the company of your new-found friends!