And many more. But this is no surprise––traveling with a group of strangers is a good way to find people like oneself. We are people who love to travel, and that’s a major thing to have in common.
On my first few Road Scholar trips, I met folks who were traveling with each other because they were mates or relatives or friends. Then I began to discover that a lot of people originally met on Road Scholar trips. Some now travel with a buddy who was also solo and some with an entire cadre.
“There was a particular snowshoeing program that felt like winter camp in which a core group participated year after year, so we formed some close bonds. Once the program was discontinued, we designated ourselves as the “Rogue Scholars” and arranged our own snowshoe trips for a couple of years. About eight of us still keep in touch via phone, email, social media, and Zoom.”
— Andrea M., Brooklyn, N.Y.
What Makes People Bond?
I’ve read blogs and articles about traveling solo with a group, but what happens after the group disperses? What makes some people game for further shared travels?
I met one trio in Cuba, and they told me that they had bonded immediately on a previous trip. They then met up in New York City to see Hamilton. In the fall they’re headed off to Africa. I asked them about what made them click.
1) Sense of Humor
According to one member of the group, it was “snarkiness,” or a similar sense of humor, that brought them together.
From my experience, travelers need a sense of humor to overcome obstacles or just to face unexpected differences in lifestyle, language, food, and bathroom facilities in other countries.
And of course, misunderstandings (and worse) are often funny in retrospect, especially when one is home and cozy. After I returned from Cuba, it took me more than a week to realize that I had been introducing my baby cousin as mi sobrina (which means my niece) instead of mi prima, which means my cousin. It could have been worse, though (mi padre? mihija?).
2) Shared Interests
What travelers have in common may range from hiking, boating, bird watching, and painting to archeology, nature exploration, and travel with grandchildren. And it doesn’t hurt to have similar bucket lists.
Of course, one’s interests may have nothing to do with travel. You may share similar personal histories, locations, or past experiences.
3) Discovering Differences
On the other hand, having nothing in common sometimes provides the spark. You and your travel buddy may have completely different lifestyles or goals. That can make friendship come alive as well.
On my first Road Scholar trip to Mt. Rushmore, I made fast friends with someone who lived on a farm in the northwest (I am a city person from the east who loves feeling concrete under my feet).But we loved talking to each other, and perhaps our friendship was successful because we had so much to teach each other about our different lives.
The intensity of travel and a compressed time frame sometimes accelerate a friendship. We can see how someone reacts to challenges and how patient they are.
Friendship, like love, can be mysterious. Four years ago, I sat next to a stranger on a flight to London. We immediately connected over our shared stories of travel. I contacted her last fall when someone backed out of a trip to India for which I was registered, and she immediately signed on. We had a blast and the trip made us even closer. That is serendipity.