When I was eighteen I was mad about Kung Fu. As soon as I left school and had saved up enough money I embarked on my first solo adventure – to China.
After living in and travelling around China for five months I had well and truly caught the travel bug, and I extended my trip down into Southeast Asia, culminating in a month hiking in the Himalayas of Nepal and Bangladesh. And so my life in travel began.
Solo travel is great but…
Most of my travels have been by myself because I simply couldn’t persuade anyone else to come with me: “Hey do you want to come and travel up Latin & Central America for six months?” “Um, no, I have a job..” So that was that.
This doesn’t mean it was easy. Solo travel is great when you meet likeminded people and travel together and have incredible, genuine experiences with local people. The problem is that these don’t happen every day, and sometimes not for weeks at a time.
Also, those really amazing off the beaten track experiences don’t just fall in your lap; you have to actively seek them out. Finding them involves quite a lot of on-the-ground admin and time, and a lot of going up the road less travelled only to find that, actually, that road is pretty rubbish.
Travelling as a woman and/or with time-constraints
It’s hit and miss. If you have no other option like I didn’t and time is on your side then you just take it as part and parcel of the highs and lows of travel. Another important point is that I’m a man. Yes I’ve been in some pretty sticky situations where my natural physicality came into play, and yes, had I been a woman I can imagine that those situations may have significantly escalated. Which is a sobering thought.
So fast-forward out of your teens/early twenties and you now have a more structured life where you don’t have six months to play around with, but rather a week off work where you want to do something amazing. It is most likely you will still face the problem of a limited number of people to go with you. Friends aren’t into it, have families, are booked up, Life.
And then there is the problem of the group tour. How embarrassing – to be so pigeonholed by life that the only option available to you is to sit on a bus alongside bland people being ferried along a stylized version of a country that never comes close to being real or impactful.
Choosing the right path
But you know what. It doesn’t have to be like that. When you choose to follow an idea that has got soul and realness and interest, likeminded people will be attracted to that idea alongside you. And yes, it’s a safer and easier option for both men and women; for a group in exceptional environments, people have got your back.
There are other companies also doing what I am doing if you are looking for something different. Just don’t short-change yourself; you have options. Pick the right path you will rub shoulders with the right people. There is a great big world out there and with access to more and more companies offering experiential travel experiences, what initially seems like a problem can actually lead you to new and exciting outcomes.
I, a guy who hates the notion of the superficial group tour, have created a company that brings solo travellers and small groups of people together because I believe I can create experiences where those key elements of the right place, genuine interactions with local people and the right travelling companions are brought together. And another you know what; it is working.
Finding your people
I get calls from all over the world. This week I spoke to a 63 year-old lady in Australia who wants to go to the Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan, a 40-something Argentinian man who lives in Vermont in the US who wants to visit the Gheralta Mountains in Ethiopia, a young Italian woman in London and a South African guy living in France who both want to go to the Bale Mountains.
Some of them book, some of them don’t, but what is really telling is that they are My People. I can hear it in their voices. They are up for unique, real and interesting experiences. And I am interested to meet them and spend time with them, to find out what they are about. I take great joy not just meeting them on trips, but also in watching their interactions with each other, seeing how often they get as much from each other as from the places they are travelling through.
If you take a chance, you can find your people too. If nothing else, I love the fact that there are 63 year-old ladies in the world who want to rough it in yurts watching nomads on horseback fighting over a headless goat carcass (Buzkashi or ‘nomad polo’) – I mean, who wouldn’t want to meet her?