Lost travel friends

Before Facebook–hell, before mobile telephones and email–it wasn’t all that easy to keep in touch with people you might meet on the road.

You could exchange addresses and telephone numbers, of course, but by the time you were in a position to make a call or scribble a letter, the immediacy of the connection you’d shared while staying up all night on that Sardinian beach would probably be gone. Just like that, your travel friends would become lost travel friends.

In some instances, the fact that connections were more difficult to establish was a positive thing. Only connections of consequence would outlast the original encounter. The rest would fade away in a pleasant swirl of nostalgia, and you’d never be confronted by vile comments on your Facebook wall from that faint blast from the past who doesn’t belong in your future.

Nonetheless, there’s a little bit of sadness associated with all those lost travel buddies. The kinds of connections forged on the road are quite special–immediate, often effortless, involving snap decisions to trust, share, and engage.

Here’s my own hall of fame of fascinating people met on my travels over the years with whom I either immediately lost touch or failed to remain in contact.

Elke. I think that was the name of the soft-spoken anarchist who alighted from my Berlin-bound train at the final pre-border station in West Germany in the summer of 1989. We’d talked for hours and shared each other’s food. I think she wanted to write children’s books. She was deeply alienated by consumerism and dressed quite shabbily, yet she seemed cautiously happy. I remember that she waved goodbye as she left the train.

The countess. She had a von in her name and lived in a super rich suburb of Munich, on a lake. I was 17. We took the overnight train from Paris to Munich and stayed up the entire time talking and smoking a million cigarettes. Where are you now, countess? Living with your five children and count husband in a Bavarian castle? Doing drugs with your Romanian bodybuilder boyfriend in Mallorca?

The French couple who drove me and my father from Rijeka to Ljubljana in their miniscule car. We met on the Jadrolinija ferry from Dubrovnik. He was portly; she was tiny. They spoke very little English and our French was execrable but we laughed the entire way.

The East German man. Lars? It was 1992. I was stuck at a hostel in Oostende for a few days waiting for a ferry to England. He was a mad traveler, driving off every few weeks to explore another corner of Europe until recently forbidden to him. He told me how much he wanted to visit Iceland, and several months later I received a postcard from him from Reykjavik. I wonder sometimes if this fellow now works in the travel industry.

Carol Ann, the American nun. She shared a regular train compartment with me and my sister, which we tried to turn into a makeshift couchette by drawing the shades and pretending to be asleep. Whenever someone would open the door looking for a place to sit, my sister, 14 at the time, would sit up in a fake stupor and ask them to be quiet so that we could remain sleeping. Sister Carol Ann giggled each time this happened.

[Image: Flickr | fazen]

Intrepid Travel wants to know who your ultimate travel buddy is

Twenty years ago two good friends, Darrell Wade and Geoff Manchester, launched a new adventure travel company with the idea of sending small groups on intimate tours to some of the most unique places on the planet. Their plan was to get travelers to experience their destinations on a grassroots level, interacting with locals and getting off the beaten path when ever possible. They called their new company Intrepid Travel and today they offer more than 500 trips to 100 destinations around the globe.

To celebrate their 20th anniversary, the company has launched their Ultimate Travel Buddy contest, in which they are giving away twenty travel packs, each of which will send you and your ultimate travel buddy off on a trip of your choice. To enter the contest, you simply have to go to this website and fill out an online virtual postcard that allows you to select where you want to go and what you want to do while you’re there. You’ll also select which of your buddies you’ll be taking along with you, and then in 25 words or less, explain why you should win.

You options for your adventure are nearly endless. You can go cycling in Tuscany, hiking the Inca Trail in Peru, or ride camels through the Sahara Desert in Egypt. These are just a few of the dozens of trips to choose from. So, head on over to Intrepid’s website and fill out your postcard now. And remember, I make an excellent travel buddy!

5 ways NOT to find a travel companion online

Some people like to know that, when they land at their destination, there will be someone else there waiting for them. Thankfully, more than a few websites exist to increase your chances of finding a travel companion. If you look through the listings though, you’ll find that very few of them receive responses.

Here are a couple tips to ensure that your listing will likewise go unanswered.

1. Avoid the forums at Lonely Planet.

That huge faceless guidebook monolith called Lonely Planet is the reason that your favorite once-deserted beach is now crawling with grubby backpackers. Plus, their hotel information was outdated that one time, and they also sent you to a mediocre restaurant a couple years ago.

To get back at them, avoid the hundreds of people who browse their Travel Companions forum, and instead keep your “street cred” by using a more “indie” site with only a fraction of the traffic.

Also steer clear of Bootsnall’s Travel Buddies forum. With all the traffic there, it probably sucks too.

2. Compose your listing like it’s a personal ad.

Be sure to specify that you’re looking to travel with a member of the opposite sex only. And ask for a picture. You don’t want to end up traveling with some uggo, do you?

Guys, remember: anonymous travel forums are where most pretty girls go to find relationships. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Come up with a nickname that shows you’re a really cool guy– something like “JCrewTravelDude.” If possible, use a handsome font. Girls are impressed by this.


WHEN YOU TYPE LIKE THIS, people notice. So go ahead, press that Caps Lock key and let ‘er rip. Not only do capital letters get people’s attention, they make you appear completely normal and not at all like some freak who stopped taking his medication.

4. Be incredibly vague about where you’re going and when.

Ads like “I’m up for anything, whenever,” are almost guaranteed to work just perfectly. Don’t list anything about where you’d like to go, or when you might be leaving. People will be falling all over each other to come up with your travel itinerary.

5. Indicate that, no matter what happens, the two of you will be spending all your time together.

Remember: the two of you are going to be a team, and teams stick together. Make it clear that under no circumstances will you two separate. You’re traveling companions for the whole trip, come hell or high water. This does not reek of desperation or newborn-baby-like dependence.

Follow these tips, and I guarantee you’ll end up just like that pathetic-looking loser in the photo above.