Freelance writer/editor. Despite having a horrible sense of direction, has somehow made her way through more than 30 countries and back home to Toronto. Also: tree hugger, beer drinker, book lover, proud auntie.
I’m usually not one to generalise (ahem, like writing an article on “things travellers have in common”), but on a recent road trip with new friends I had made while cycling and hiking the South and North Islands of New Zealand, I found that the similarities among us — despite being from all different backgrounds — were too noticeable to ignore. Our family of misfits: one Canadian (me) and solo travellers from Sweden, Switzerland, China, and the Netherlands. Our differences weren’t just in where we were from, though. Gender, age (over 15 years difference), profession (engineering, finance, technology, publishing), and stages in life (from student to divorced dad) all made us a ragtag group with what should have been very different outlooks on solo travel. Instead, we all found we shared more than a few personality traits.
We make friends fast
I’m not sure if our experience was intensified in the small quarters of our car, but three days with our group of five was one of the most interesting highlights of my time in New Zealand. And I got a matching tattoo with a British girl I met on the tour (and knew for two weeks). That’s sayin’ something.
We’re all Boy Scouts or Girl Guides
Put born travellers and explorers in a glowworm cave, and we’re running around trying to find tunnels. Put us in a playground, and we’re climbing as high as we can. Put us at a bonfire on the beach, and we’re all trying to build the biggest and best flame. Solo travellers like to explore, like the outdoors. So, given the opportunity, we’re all Boy Scouts or Girl Guides again.
We all think our nationality can out drink you
Most travellers like to enjoy a drink or two on vacation, but put together groups from different countries and it becomes a competitive sport. Our tradition: we would cheers in all our languages (Cheers! Chin Chin! Proscht! Skål! Gān Bēi!), and if you finished your beer first, you’d slam down your glass and yell out your country’s name. (By the way, Canada won — every time. Just sayin’.)
We’re all obsessed with photography
This, I appreciate. I don’t take many photos, so I could rely on my other solo travel compadres to document my trip. But, guys! They wanted so many takes of the same shot! Also: SO. MANY. SELFIES.
We’re tech savvy
This goes along with photography, but solo travellers on the road want to document their travels, pass the time and keep in touch with people at home. We probably had 25 electronic devices between the five of us. We used a Chinese music streaming service for our road trip tunes and an iPad for directions. I learned how to tether to my laptop and use mobile hotspotting. We shared favourite phone apps from around the world. We were like a travelling electronics help desk.
We know all the words to Taylor Swift songs
We decided to make a road trip playlist, where each person would pick a few songs from their country. Some of my selections: Barenaked Ladies and Walk Off The Earth’s cover of “I Knew You Were Trouble” by Taylor Swift. All of a sudden, all five of us were singing the lyrics at the top of our lungs. T-Swift has no international boundaries.
We all have the gift of the gab
Travelling solo doesn’t give you a fallback pal to talk to, so it’s essential to have some decent communication skills to not only make friends, but to ask someone to watch your bag, where the best sushi restaurant is in town, or to join you for a beer. The plus side: if you’re not in the mood to chat, you don’t have anyone you feel required to talk to. Unless you’re stuck in a car with them for three days. Then, just pretend to sleep.
Travel is our priority (duh)
We’ll do anything to make travel possible. Quit jobs. Study abroad. Work abroad. Volunteer. Bring kids along. Leave partners at home. Travel with friends. Travel solo. Because, travel is the priority. We don’t care how it happens. We just make it happen.