I love to travel. When I was young, I hitch-hiked all over Europe, once with my sister and once by myself. The adventures we shared have (so far) lasted a lifetime.
At almost 70 years old, I no longer relish the idea of hitchhiking anywhere. But I still have a desire to see new places. I searched the web and found some very interesting new forms of travel, like www.freebirdclub.com/, whose senior members provide lodgings (fee-based) and varying levels of hosting to other seniors. Several sites, like www.goeco.org/, offer the new concept of voluntourism which sends volunteers all over the world to see new places and make a difference while they vacation. I also found websites that link up solo travelers–fellow YOUNG travelers. That, combined with my desire for a compatible travel companion “of a certain age,” sparked the idea for Senior Travel Buddies, www.seniortravelbuddies.com, a website whose purpose is to create a community of seniors who love to travel and want to find like-minded people with whom to seek out new adventures.
The success of a travel partnership is based on several things. If you are honest with yourself, as to your travel wants and needs, it will go a long way toward finding someone whose wants and needs will mesh with yours. How do you determine whether those things that are important to you are also a priority to the person you’ll potentially travel with? Compatibility goes a long way toward an enjoyable trip. Here are some things to consider:
• I am a fanatic non-smoker. I remember while I was pregnant ages ago, I could smell smoke from the car far ahead of me on the freeway. I could never share my travels with a smoker.
• I used to be a morning person and now I think I’m both a morning person and a night person. (That can happen when you leave sleep out of the equation.) You’ll want someone whose at-home schedule meshes with yours. Someone out the door at 6 am may have little patience for the traveler who rolls out of bed at 11.
• I’m pretty flexible when it comes to where I’m staying. What kind of accommodations do you like when you travel? Youth hostel? Cheap hotel? Airbnb? Luxury hotel? It’s smart to know ahead of time that your travel companion’s expectations match yours.
• One member says, “To be honest, I'm looking to share expenses and a little company would be good, too.” You’ll need to agree on a travel budget with your travel buddy before you leave. If you’re prepared to spend $2,000 - $3,000, you may not enjoy traveling with someone going it on the cheap. Talk about what kinds of things you splurge on. And on what you’re uncomfortable spending money.
• As of now, I’m comfortable walking, hiking, or otherwise being active up to two hours a day (and I hope that following my knee replacement, I will be able to triple that amount of time). How active are you? Is 1-2 hours of walking a day about right? Or, do you like hiking, sailing, biking, etc., all day? The two of you will want compatible activity levels. Are there any activities in which you will most definitely not engage?
The Next Step
These factors and others help you find someone who wants to go where you want to go, when you want to go, and in the style you want to travel. When you register at www.seniortravelbuddies.com, you complete an extensive inventory of your travel wants and needs. As a member, as well as being able to contact potential travel buddies, you will be findable as a companion. Members are looking for specifics: who, what, where, when, and why. When you create your profile, include as much info about yourself as you are comfortable sharing.
Let’s say you find someone you think might make a good travel companion for you. What’s next? Do all you can to ensure your safety. Make contact with potential travel companions. Introduce yourselves with an email. Continue getting to know each other with phone and video chats. If you live near each other, get together for coffee. When you arrive in a completely new environment, where customs may be very different than your own, it is an opportunity to see the world from a new perspective, an opportunity to broaden your life view. You’ll want to be able to trust your buddy to be there for you and vice versa.
The ability to be flexible helps considerably when you are traveling. And it’s easier to be flexible when you know ahead of time what to expect, and what the other person expects.
Communicate about and set ground rules in advance. It’ll save potential disagreements and headaches and ensure a more pleasant journey together. You don’t have to spend all your time together. For example, if one of you like museums and the other prefers art galleries, separate for the morning and meet up for lunch.
Enjoying Travel with a Buddy
What’s the bottom-line message for enjoyable travel with your companion?
• Plan together.
• Communicate with each other.
• Stick to the agreements you make.
• Be flexible, tolerant, and considerate.
• Be open to experiencing the new and unusual.
You’ll increase your enjoyment of what you’re seeing and of your companion. You may even plan another trip together.
If you’re ready to plan your next trip and seek someone with whom to travel, check out www.seniortravelbuddies.com to find a compatible travel buddy. You’ll also find articles to help you plan, pack, and safely enjoy your travels. Our best adventures are yet to come.