One of the main reasons I like to travel solo is because I get to meet more people that way. It forces me out of something familiar (like traveling with a friend or partner) and into the unknown. It’s not always easy, as it requires you to really open up and push your boundaries, but more often than not it leads to new adventures and new friendships.
I’ve had the absolute pleasure of going on a few road trips now, all of which have been with strangers. From my midnight adventure in Vegas to my incredible explorations around Iceland to my 5,000 mile trip around the USA, road trips have been an amazing way to see and experience new countries. But as amazing as these places have been, it has always been the people I travel with that make the experience memorable.
But don’t take my word for it.
In this post, I reached out to people I have travelled with in hopes of using THEIR words to convince you of the benefits of road tripping and traveling with strangers. Without a doubt, my travels would not have been nearly as amazing without these people. I promise you that if you take the risk and reach out to strangers on the road, you, too, will have some epic adventures to notch in that YOLO belt of yours.
Hannes – Austria
"Traveling with strangers helps coin a new facet of your identity that will be tied to a new country. After one or two hours with a group of fellow vagabonds, for better or worse, you suddenly feel a sense of belonging. Often a group will bring out a specific version of you. You can be a mountain guide, leading your fellow hikers along a narrow ridge in fog and drizzle, and that role shapes who you are during that trip. Or, you can be the poor darling boy with a toothache in a party crowd in a Portuguese surf hotspot and everyone will look out for you, wherever the group washes ashore. You can also be someone to confide in or to share a profound emotion with on a cobbled sidewalk in Toledo – or on the backseat of an old car wedged between two shepherd dogs somewhere on the Hebrides. Those moments will frame the impressions you get from a city, a country, a moment. It’s those human interactions that make travel experiences that little bit more special and unique. Simultaneously with cultures, languages and landscapes, you rediscover yourself as an explorer, an art enthusiast, a Viking, an agony aunt, a philosopher, a naughty boy, or a partner in crime. Your travel experience, thus, depends not only on the place you go but also the people you meet."
"It's a huge risk to get into a car with people you have just barely spoken more than a few sentences to. You don't know what to expect or if you will like them or if they will vibe with you. But the best rewards come from taking risks! Traveling with strangers guarantees you an unexpected journey and forces you to put yourself out of your comfort zone and daily mindset. It teaches you to let go of expectations and to just go with the flow. You may not enjoy everyone OR they could become your best friends. Even if you don't vibe with a crowd the experiences teaches you to look at the adventure from a new perspective and find humor in the things that normally may get on your nerves. Traveling with strangers doesn't last long, and that's simply because these strangers will quickly feel like family as you bond over these new shared experiences. It's a risk, but it sure as hell always makes for great memories."
Max – Netherlands
"Travelling with strangers came naturally for me. I always felt the urge to go on vacation alone because it would be some kind of milestone for me, so I booked a holiday going to Madeira and the Azores. What happened to me on both islands is that I met some really cool, open-minded, interesting people that all lived very different lives, yet they came together like it was nothing during this vacation. It was as if nobody really cared about differences, and on both islands I felt really accepted without even trying too hard or anything. On Madeira which was the first part of my trip I kind of fell into a road trip with strangers, because I just met some people and they invited me to go with them, and without hesitating I said yes and I had one of the best days ever there. Then when the end neared (after watching a beautiful sunset) I really felt at peace or something.
When the second part of my trip, the Azores started, I wasn’t really sure something cool like that could happen again. But then I realized that I could just easily suggest a plan like it myself, or at least try to find people who’d like to join me on the things I wanted to do because it is true that it’s more fun with the right kind of people. The breakfast table of the hostel I stayed in was the perfect setting to find likeminded individuals. At first I felt a bit strange coming up to people and asking them to go on an adventure together but that was exactly the reason they were there as well so why the fuck not.
I ended up having three days of road tripping around the island, and two of those days we even went with two cars because of how many people wanted to join. Looking back on it, I had the best vacation ever. Besides the landscapes being one of the main reasons for that, the people I met and the talks and fun I had made the trip so worthwhile. I remember all of them very fondly and I was really sad to have to say goodbye to them. Then again, I was also really thankful that so many different human beings joined together just to have a good time and they restored a lot of my faith in humanity."
"Your mom probably taught you to never get in the car with strangers. As a kid, she's probably right. As an adult, using your better judgement and hopping in can lead to incredible exploits that won't leave you as a hostage. I only have one encounter with this in the form of a road trip, and it was jam packed with amazing experiences.
During my time on the road with these strangers-turned-squad, one of the more entertaining characteristics was the food aspect. Chris, for example, unknowingly enlightened my perspective on a vegan diet (assuming Oreos count as a diet). There was so much he ate that I previously had no idea was vegan in the first place. Tristan (our other road-tripping comrade) on the other hand, did his best to recreate French meals with what ever he could find in an American grocery store.
In the event you don't along with someone, give it time and you might surprise yourself. Towards the end of our road trip, we had an unplanned addition to our group. Angela was a sweet girl from L.A who I liked, but I was nervous of the impact her arrival would have on our group dynamic. Because of my own stubbornness, I essentially willed myself into not giving her much of a chance. I had to stop and take a breath at one point and realize I was the only thing in the way of myself having a blast for the final segment of the trip. That small battle with myself helped me let go of my judgement and chill the heck out! Now, she's one of my favorite people and she only added to the positive learning experience.
Gallivanting with strangers, you'll discover so many small quirks from each lifestyle that you may not have picked up otherwise. Hearing the opinions and perspectives of people with varying upbringings can be incredibly eye opening to ideas you may not have considered otherwise. Bottom line: it turns your journey into a melting pot of culture. Whatever the case may be, it's an incredible way to quickly learn a lot about someone in a unique way every time."
Julia - Spain
"First of all I have to say I never thought of going on this road trip as taking a risk. Most of the people we went with were traveling alone and, from the beginning, seemed very trustworthy.
I went to Azores with one of my best friends and we started exploring the island by ourselves the first day. However, we quickly decided it would be way more fun to get to know some of the people in our hostel and join them. During breakfast, we started talking with some guys from Canada and decided to rent a car together and, the day after, 4 more people joined the group. As we thought, it ended up being a great idea because they helped make the trip an unforgettable one.
There are many advantages you can get from traveling with strangers. You can learn about different cultures and ways of living, explore together, share expenses (for example, renting a car is cheaper for 4-5 people than 2), you laugh more, make friends and even get to know yourself a little more. As the saying goes, experiences are much better when shared. And in such short time, when being that many hours together and sharing that many adventures, you can become really close.
Downside to traveling with strangers? Well, you have to choose well who you go with or end up stuck with somebody you don’t like or that has different traveling plans to yours. For me, this time, there wasn’t any disadvantage and, I think, most of the time, it is worth it. So go! Travel! Meet new people! Your trip can turn up to be one of your most special ones."
Tyler - Canada
"I've been travelling solo for the last 6 years, so meeting strangers is an occurrence I've been accustomed to. There is something astonishing about meeting people from around the world with different views in life from culture experiences, languages and so on...and yet within a few hours you just click. Before you know it, you’re great travel companions, sharing the whole adventure together and making memories all along the way.
When I jump into a car for a road trip sometimes it's with other backpackers and sometimes it can be locals that I've recently met. In every situation like this, following my intuition, I can say that every time has been a great adventure. Locals show you hidden gems along the way, such as remote beaches or a family restaurant who makes the best local dishes. Travelling with strangers removes you from your comfort zone which I feel everyone needs once in a while. For me I enjoy getting to know them and listening to all the interesting ways of living, wherever they are from in this beautiful world. Every interaction offers something valuable, which I truly appreciate. The best part is making connections with all these free-spirited souls, and someday later down the road reconnecting for another adventure, perhaps in their own country or mine, to share lasting memories and create new ones."
Steven - Netherlands
"Travelling solo has brought me in contact with people I’d otherwise never meet. Locals, other travellers, people much older than me, people from very different backgrounds and walks of life than me. Not being too picky about my companions, I spent hours talking to all kinds of different people on my trips. I learnt to suspend snap judgments based on the ‘accepted wisdom’ of my usual surroundings, and just listen. Talking to people with lives very different from yours helps you understand the real world beyond the headlines and the platitudes. Talking to people older than you helps you think about your own life. It’s let me experience parts of life and grow as a person in ways I could never have if I would limit myself to travelling with people I know."
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I feel very lucky that I was able to travel with some of these awesome people. Best of all? None of them murdered me, so that's always a plus.
But seriously, the absolute best way to dive into an adventure is with people you've never met. Not only will you learn a lot about them, but you'll learn a lot about yourself in the process. And isn't that what travel is about?