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Squad: The Benefits of Travel Buddies

November 25, 2016

Remember that road trip across Spain in 2010? What about the amazing week in Bangkok in 2014? Costa Rica back in 2006 or Hong Kong in 2015? Well, there is someone who does. A friend or family member who took the plunge, bought the flight, and came along on an adventure to somewhere new.

I have tried to travel alone, and failed. Not because I didn’t reach Point B from Point A, but because I have forgotten so many things, even those I wrote in my journal. I failed because I didn’t enjoy it and didn’t appreciate it. I drove from Ireland, top to bottom in 2014 and it was gorgeous.

That is normally how I reiterate that trip for people who ask if I have been there. I often leave out the details of my Ireland trip because it was something I did alone. It still feels personal on some level, but it was also a silent trip. There were no inside jokes to make me giggle or accidents resolved with an accomplice. Just me and because of this I rarely think about that trip past the green-hued highlights. At first, I assumed this was something wrong with me. Perhaps, I am needy or immature.

Then I realized, the pressure to travel alone is fake. It is the false perception that traveling alone is somehow more sophisticated, or more authentic. It isn’t. It is simply a preference. After this realization, I spent years nodding my head in quiet agreement as travelers describe the wonders and joys of traveling alone. Although, inwardly I was screaming a slew of profanities and insults. But that is not nice, and travelers, while sometimes pretentious, do try to be nice.

It is time to break the silence and stand up for travel buddies all over the world. Time to announce that having a squad is so much better than going it alone.

On a trip through Europe in 2008 I was thrilled to have the company of a friend from university. When we set out from London we were merely acquaintances, but within days her friendship was invaluable. Not just for the hours we spent lost in Barcelona, but because she was there to recount our day before bed and there in the morning to piece together a night at the bars. Years later, we still laugh about our first encounter with the prostitutes off Las Ramblas our first night out, and sometimes she calls just to replay the details of a picnic in Parc Guell with three French guys. After each of those phone call, I am incredibly grateful all over again.

That first travel experience also taught me that my mother was right, two heads are better than one. A mantra that is useful in short and long term travel. While decisions on where to eat or what to do might take longer, once made there is camaraderie in the decision. There are two people working towards the goal of finding the bus station, catching the train, or simply sliding onto the next bar stool.

As well, the best way to keep a memory alive is to retell it. Over the years, friends and family are sick of the stories, particularly the ones that are told again and again. However, there is one person who never grows sick of the same old stories. That is the person who lived them with me. Every trip I have ever taken with a travel buddy can be retold, relived and experienced again with a friend or family member. We exchange pages from our journals and grab glasses of wine that end in hours of maps and drawings to remind one another how we went and what we did. A hilarious trip that continues long after the real one ended.

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