“Holly, you know what I just remembered??” asked Yasemin, my travel partner throughout all of Peru. We were walking down the street in Arequipa, in search of dinner, and our time together was drawing to a close.
“What’s that? What do you remember?” I responded, curiosity creeping in.
“That time that the police escorted us home when we were lost!” she exclaimed with a grin.
This brought a huge smile to my face, and I couldn’t help but laugh as I began to remember the details. We had been in Trujillo, Peru, and it had been quite the day. We had walked through dusty, labyrinth-like ruins in the desert, been separated from our Couchsurfing host, made our way to the beautiful and distinct beach town of Huancacho where dozens of man-made boats of straw line the beach, and had even been exclusively invited up into the bell-tower of the church on the hill which overlooked the entire town, at sunset, to have a special up-close and personal encounter with the bellman, as he clanged the bell with rocks and rang the bell by the string and intermittently told us stories about the 26+ years which he had been ringing this bell, every day, through wind and rain and even earthquakes. We had then caught the bumpiest local bus ever through traffic which nearly rivaled India, to get back to Trujillo’s town center, where we jumped off, armed with a joke of a map, and a few minutes before darkness, to try and navigate our way back to a hostel which we had barely even gotten to know in the daylight. That was when I saw the police officers on the corner and decided to ask them for directions. As usual, they didn’t know which direction to point us, but three of their co-workers rolled up at just the right time and knew exactly where we were trying to go, so they told us to get in, and they would bring us there. Whew. What a crazy and amazing day, typical of traveling with joy.
When she reminded me of this, I was so grateful. I hadn’t thought of it in weeks as so many other ridiculous experiences had overtaken this particular incredible experience in my memory.
People always ask me how I feel about solo travel, and I honestly can say it doesn’t bother me to “be alone”. I have no trouble meeting people, and I also have no trouble with my own company. However one day, a guy who didn’t understand solo travel asked me, “But isn’t it better to be with someone, so you can look back on the time of your travels and laugh while you remember your stories?” That always stuck in my memory, because it is true.
After traveling half way through Peru with my soul-sister of a travel buddy, I will now disclose the 5 best parts about having a travel buddy, written on my bittersweet night of separation from one of my best travel partners yet.
1. You have someone with whom you can share your crazy, new, amazing and horrifying experiences, and better yet, you have someone who you can look to and remember these experiences. Chances are that you and your travel buddy are both going through a new place together, and will both be slightly shocked or delighted at many things you encounter along the way. Having someone there at your side to share these experiences really is priceless.
2. You can split the costs. Whether it be of a taxi, a hotel room, or a meal, dividing the bill in two helps stretch your travel budget a wee-bit further. I was really lucky with Yasemin, because we liked the same types of food, and could oftentimes share a meal, cutting down on restaurant prices, and leaving room for dessert. We were also on the same financial spending pattern, which helped a lot. We weren’t super cheap, turning over every travel penny a million times, but yet we were money conscious, opting for the most economical option when it made sense.
3. You have someone with which you can share stories, and create your own new stories. When I began to travel with Yasemin, it was especially fun because she was quite well-traveled on her own, and had tons of interesting travel stories and life experiences to share. As time went on I realized we were making some pretty epic travel moments of our own: hiking to 5000m high glaciers, picnicking alongside turquoise mountain lagoons, connecting with local shopkeepers, having personalized bell-tower serenades and police escorts, and sledding, buggying, and running down sand dunes in the middle of a desert oasis, just to name a few. It is incredible to be able to share these amazing moments with someone, and to know that when you look back on these events, you will always remember this person being at your side.
4. When the times get tough, you have someone to lean on. Travel can be hard; it can be exhausting; it can stretch you to your limits. Throughout all of this, a good travel buddy can help be your rock. They will not crumble during the difficult times, they will help reflect your own inner strength, and the two of you together can suck it up and take on the world, with whatever crazy experience comes your way.
5. You teach each other, share with each other, and help one another to be the best you can be. When I first met Yasemin, we were in the coastal town of Puerto Lopez. I was enjoying my daily practice of exercise every morning, which at that time consisted of a run on the beach, followed by yoga. At the time, she was thoroughly enjoying a solid sleep-in every morning, but soon after we started to travel together she picked up the habit of starting her day a bit earlier with me with a bit of yoga and ab exercise. I was happy to share this practice with her, and in turn, she shared her skills as a hair-stylist with me, teaching me to appreciate the techniques of cutting and coloring hair, and even helping me maintain my own locks. Before we separated, I taught her how to put in my beloved feather-extensions, and she put them in my hair like a champion. She loved the idea, and even thought she would bring it back to her salon in Germany. Talk about a win-win situation. When you can share your passions with another person, everyone comes out ahead.
These are just five of the many perks that come with having a travel partner. The truth of the matter is that having a travel buddy is a priceless gift, but you can’t settle for just anyone. If you are going to sacrifice your amazing solo-travel experience to travel as a team, you need to choose wisely with your travel partner. Be with someone who enhances your experience, rather than drains you or distracts you from the magic of travel. Be with someone who helps you be the best and the happiest person you can be. Life is short, and travel should be enjoyed. Find a travel buddy who is on your same rhythm, financially, energetically, and socially, and when you do, enjoy it as long as it lasts.
Everyone is on their own journey, and after awhile even good things must come to an end. When it came time to separate from Yasemine, it was because I wanted and needed to start moving a bit more quickly. Even though having a travel partner is amazing, you must ultimately be true to yourself.
On our last afternoon together, we had a walk to the market and as we exited she told me to close my eyes and put out my right hand. I had no idea what to expect; I thought I was going to be gifted a nut she had just purchased inside, when suddenly I felt something being slipped on my wrist. When she knew our days together we’re coming to a close, she had secretly bought a beautiful red-seeded bracelet, friendship style: one for her and one for me. It was the perfect soul-sister-travel gift. I had been admiring those particular bracelets for weeks. Now, as I set off on my own, I have a constant reminder of my special friend with whom I traveled through Peru. What a wonderfully enhanced travel time we had, and I am oh-so-grateful for my time with a travel buddy.