It was September 2008.
I was depressed and in need of a change. At least for a few weeks.
I took my world map and, with my eyes closed, let my index finger choose a destination. It was Bosnia. I was traveling to Bosnia!
I’d been wanting to go on a big trip for a while. But I didn’t have the courage until that day to make it happen.
I’d never been brave in my life, and I decided it was high time. I was going to travel on my own.
But even though I was traveling solo, part of me needed that social component. So I decided to find people who were also traveling solo.
Finding strangers to travel with me was my second brave decision.
As a former I’m-afraid-of-everything person, I understand the pros and cons of traveling with strangers. But for me, the pros infinitely outweighed the cons.
To help you experience the pros, I’ve put together a list of seven killer apps for traveling with strangers.
The pros and cons of traveling with strangers
It’s important to be mentally prepared for the pros and cons of traveling with strangers before your trip.
From what I’ve experienced in my own trips, these are the main things to keep in mind:
- You’ll meet new, amazing people: Even if you don’t plan on it, when you travel with strangers, you all create a bond. Some friendships will last a few days while others will last a lifetime. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even meet the love of your life!
- It’s a unique way to travel: You may be used to traveling with friends, a partner or your family. Traveling with people you don’t know beforehand can shed new light on your idea of what traveling means and introduce you to new things.
- You’ll get to know yourself better: When I traveled to Bosnia, I realized that I’m stronger than I’d always thought. I learned a lot about myself and discovered new passions. Treat traveling with strangers as a step on your journey to self-discovery.
- Compatibility matters: When you arrange a trip with strangers or join their group along the way, you may realize that you aren’t compatible enough to spend days on end together. Bear that in mind and always have a plan B!
- You can still feel alone at times: You may find yourself in situations where you’re traveling solo for a few days before you meet up with strangers. If you’re one of those social animals who needs to be surrounded by people, this could be stressful or lonely.
- It tends to be more expensive: Unless you’ve paid for a travel package beforehand, traveling with other people can be surprisingly expensive at times. It’s easy to get caught up in going out for big meals and lots of drinks with your new friends. You may have felt comfortable sharing a room with friends from back home, but if you don’t like the idea of bunking with a stranger, paying for a single room can be a drain on your wallet.
- You can feel unsafe: Thank goodness, I’ve never had a bad experience while traveling with strangers. But I’ve had friends tell me about doing so and being left behind, getting mugged by their “new friends” and more. Don’t go out there with the mindset that something bad is going to happen to you, but be very aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on the people you feel may cause you trouble.
This being said, if you find fellow travelers through reputable sources, you’ll likely experiences far more pros and cons.
Here are seven reputable apps for traveling with strangers.
Calling All Brave Travelers! 7 Apps for Traveling with Strangers
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If you’re going to befriend strangers in foreign countries, you’ll need to be conversational in at least one other language. (Preferably the local language of the country you’re visiting!)
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To be honest, I’m a little obsessed with Findery.
Findery allows you to see other tourists’ travel notes about pretty much any place in the world.
Wherever you are, just check the app and you’ll automatically see what’s interesting and worth visiting exactly where you are! The notes are added by fellow users, so you can be sure you’re receiving legitimate advice about attractions.
With Findery, you can follow and contact other travelers who plan to travel to the same place or are already there. Meet strangers and discover the world together one travel note at a time!
Couchsurfing is one of the most popular travel apps out there—and for good reason!
With this app, you can meet and stay with local hosts for free. It’s a great way to meet people while also saving money.
Couchsurfing also promotes meetups so you can encounter other couchsurfers traveling similar routes. You may even decide to join them in their adventure.
You can also become a host and meet friendly strangers in your own place.
Whether you want to be a traveler or a host (or both!), Couchsurfing will make meeting fun strangers easy and cheap.
Backpackr is like Facebook for travelers.
It helps you find travelers near you and allows you to contact them. The rest is up to you!
Travel together, share experiences, go grab a drink or just have a quick cup of coffee and say goodbye.
The best two features in this app are the “Common Room” and the “Nearby” tabs.
In the “Common Room,” you can meet fellow strangers, ask for information about your destination and even gather people for a group trip.
Using the “Nearby” tab, you can see what’s going on in your area, as well as who’s there and what other travelers have planned for the evening.
There are endless possibilities with this app!
Oh, man. I adore TravelPal.
First of all, the app introduces you to a list of hosts who are willing to help you during your stay.
They can show you the best places in their cities, offer you a meal and even let you stay in their place overnight! Just open the list of hosts and contact them.
You can also open a second list where you’ll see travelers like you.
You’ll see where these nearby travelers are headed and when. If you want to join them, just send them a private message through TravelPal.
There’s also a huge group chat where everybody gathers to talk about traveling. This is a great place to meet friends all over the world. However, the group chat isn’t necessarily the best place to find a travel buddy because there’s so much going on at the same time that it’s hard to keep track of it all!
My favorite feature of the group chat? It gives you the option to use phrasebooks with preset expressions, such as “hello” and “how are you?” Then you can send them in any language you want! It’s as if you became a polyglot within seconds.
Finally, if you don’t have the time or the money to travel at the moment but still want to meet travelers, you can become a host through TravelPal.
Flip the Trip
Flip the Trip is a relatively unknown app, but it will definitely change the way you travel.
It helps you contact hosts in more than 4,500 cities and ask them for help, advice and even a place to stay for free!
The app also connects you with fellow travelers who are nearby. You can meet them and maybe team up for part of your trip!
The app also gives you information and tips about the places you visit.
If TravelPal seems a little too crowded for you, give Flip the Trip a try.
Showaround is an app that connects travelers with locals. You can use Showaround in three different ways.
First, you can just browse the list of locals who are willing to show you their city and pick the one you like. Some of the hosts offer their time for free, but others have a per-hour rate. Bear this in mind when choosing one.
Second, you can post your trip itinerary on the app and let locals make offers. I found this option to be the easiest, fastest and cheapest way of getting a stranger show you their town.
Finally, you can become a local host and be the one receiving strangers to your city. You can even earn some money along the way if you wish to do so, although I would personally offer my services for free. That way, it’s more likely the travelers staying with you will do the same for you if you ever visit their country!
Now you know where to start your search if you want to travel with strangers.
Bear in mind the pros and cons of this kind of travel, and when you feel ready, just download the apps and start your adventure.
Each of these apps can be helpful in different ways and for various purposes. But they all have one thing in common: They help you find people who are in the same place as you, both physically and mentally.
I wish you many great trips with strangers from now on.
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