Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

Traveling as a Group: Finding Friends on the Road


Traveling as a group was something for which I hadn’t planned. But as my time in Sihanoukville ended, I found myself on a new group adventure across three countries.

I met Mona, from Norway, in my dorm in Sihanoukville and hung out with her a few times.  On Christmas night, we met Chris and Jon, two mates from the UK who were traveling together.

We had a great time that night, making for a fantastic Sihanoukville Christmas.  Then I assumed I’d never see them again.

Well, just a few days later, the four of us found ourselves staying in the same guesthouse in Siem Reap!

That’s the thing about the backpacker trail — you meet the same people again and again. And even more often if you stay at the top-ranked place in Lonely Planet, which we had done in both Sihanoukville (Monkey Republic) and Siem Reap (Green Village).

The four of us had a blast together in Siem Reap.  So when Chris and Jon’s plan to spend New Year’s Eve in Vang Vieng was thwarted, I suggested they, and Mona, join me for New Year’s Eve in Bangkok.

And so a travel friendship was born!

In the past, group travel has often irked me. But that didn’t happen this time.

Traveling with fellow backpackers is very different from a weekend in Vegas with your girlfriends. Backpackers share the same travel style, similar budget concerns, independence, and often a love for the nightlife.

But most importantly, great groups come together organically. The five of us had amazing chemistry as a group and with each other individually, and that’s what made it work.

After arriving in Bangkok, we met an Irish guy named Anthony at an open-air restaurant and convinced him to come out to a Bangkok ping pong show with us.  Less than 24 hours later, he was on the train with us to Vang Vieng.

And for a few weeks, we traveled together, partied together, ate amazing food, had epic nights out, and took hundreds of hilarious photos. New friends — Neil and Ben in Vang Vieng; Mike and Stephanie in Bangkok; Paul, Anna and Frederique in Siem Reap — joined us in destinations along the way.

What I loved about traveling in a group is that there’s always someone to join you, whether it’s for dinner or dancing or on a bike ride around town.  I especially appreciated this in the party town of Vang Vieng.

Our final night together was in Luang Prabang, Laos. And then we scattered:

Jon went home to the UK.

Mona took the slow boat to Chiang Mai.

Anthony went diving in Koh Tao.

And I went back to Vang Vieng with the intention of finding an easier route to Vietnam.  Chris joined me for a few days, then left for Bangkok to get his China visa.

These past few weeks were some of the most fun I’ve had in nearly three months of travel. I have these awesome people to thank for that, and thanks to Facebook, we’ll always be able to keep in touch.

I’m still a solo traveler at heart — I love the freedom that comes with traveling solo.  But joining a group for a few weeks taught me that with the right people, group travel can be amazing.

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33 Responses to “Traveling as a Group: Finding Friends on the Road”
  1. I find that when meeting fellow travelers in hostels, especially those from your own country or who speak the same language, you share a bond already (that comes from being foreigners in a foreign country) that makes friendship on the road easy to forge. The downside is that you tend to say good byes quite often.

  2. Deano says:

    Getting a little bit concerned about your penchant for Ping pong shows here Kate!

  3. Traveling alone is great, but occasionally you do miss sharing experiences with others. Occasionally I’ll team up with other people for a week or two also. It’s good to mix it up.

  4. Sheryll says:

    ummm HELLO hot guy on the left in the second picture!

    I’ve never traveled alone, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do just to meet new people. It’s a wonder how much you can learn just by the group you travel with.

  5. Annie says:

    I think you are very right! Although, I’ve admitted before, I haven’t per-say traveled alone but I have gone to a new country to live alone and ended up meeting the most amazing people that I didn’t ever want to leave!

    I can imagine the freedom is amazing (and I’ll know soon enough!) but i think you are very right that it’s all about the mentality of the people you are meeting! They get you! 🙂

  6. As bad as it sounds, that’s what I most miss about being able to travel alone: meeting others on the road. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love traveling with my husband, but it’s not the same and you don’t seem to meet nearly the same people (or same types at least) if you’re traveling with a companion.

  7. mia says:

    I met so many great people on my solo trip to Thailand. In fact, I made the conscious decision cancel my reservations at hotel fancypants in whatever city and stay in hostels and cheaper hotels, even though I could afford the more expensive joints. I knew this was probably the only way I was going to meet other solo travelers or pairs/groups who were open to accepting a new face. There’s also something about SE Asia – it’s the most friendly if you’re solo, especially for females. Sites like travbuddy help as well.
    I read somewhere recently a list of things to do before you die. One stated simply: “Travel to a foreign land alone.” I couldn’t agree more. And yet it’s nice to have someone or others there to share in an experience. I too went to a ping pong show, with a couple of guys I met up that same night in Bangkok. They are sealed in my memory bank forever now.

  8. Paul says:

    I LOVE traveling solo and meeting a great group of people on the way. It’s seriously one of the best parts of traveling. And the great thing is, there are so many people on the road that you’re bound to find a travel crew. Even on short 12 day trips, I’ve met great groups of people and continued on with them.

    The awesome thing is you make these friends and they can visit your home and vice versa.

    Just because you’re going solo doesn’t mean you’re going to be alone.

  9. Theodora says:

    Travelling with my son, we tend only to hook up with other people when we’re in hard to reach or obscure destinations — or en route thereto — or unless we’re arranging things like diving. Actually, that’s quite a lot of exceptions…

    I think the whole point of solo travel is that you don’t have to be solo all the time: you have the freedom to pick and choose. Whereas, as Kristin says, couples do tend to be treated as an entity, rather than part of a group…

  10. Ira says:

    Great to hear you’re having a good time! I too am amazed at how easily it is sometimes make connections with people if you’re on the road. Personally, my ‘connective’ is Couchsurfing, I meet couchsurfers almost everywhere I go and the leads to me having the time of my life. 😉

  11. Gareth Sear says:

    You never really travel solo. You set off solo and then enjoy the amazing companionship of other travellers, locals and generally anyone who you talk to. I’ve made life long friends with a large number of pepople I travelled with. We’ve all moved on into careers, families and mortgages and business now. But we still meet up now and then to reminisce. Some even married eacah other – so watch out!!! Meeting peopel when you travel is second only to the places you experience. Or is it better than the places you visit? Hmm….Answers on a postcard to… (or tweet or email or blog post!)

  12. ayngelina says:

    So funny how people are afraid to travel solo but what they don’t realize is that you are rarely alone. And when you are you welcome the time to yourself because you know you’re going to meet up with people soon.

    Looks like a fun group 🙂

  13. Andi says:

    The friends that I’ve met on the road have become my best friends!!! It’s why I travel, the people! 🙂

  14. Erica says:

    You guys look like peas in a pod!

  15. Amy says:

    I love traveling solo, but it’s great to meet new friends and have travel buddies!

  16. Tijmen says:

    Group or solo travels both have their good and bad things, I do find it a lot easier to make new friends when I travel solo instead of with a group. But in the end you always meet great people on the road sooner or later. And most of them turned out to still be good friends years later!

  17. Rease says:

    You have definitely taken some fun photos! I love that traveling can really bring people together.

  18. Chris says:

    Just in case anyone doubted the truth in this article…YES WE WERE/ARE AWESOME! Great times McCulley. You and your Smelly Pirate … Face

  19. cevin says:

    so wonderful; to travel with your group. You can enjoy many things like jokes, riding, climbing and so many more.. It can enhanced you personality.

  20. You know, for as much as I look forward to traveling alone, posts like these make me excited for the friends that I will meet along the way. I’ve done a lot of local travel solo, but some larger trips, like those to the beach, are just more fun with friends.

  21. nairita says:

    I am 26…What is the group travel agency you would recommend?


Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. […] Kate writes about the joys of meeting fellow travelers on the road and making true friends.. One of the many goals we have for our […]

  2. […] From the Single Occupancy Weekly: Kate McCulley (aka Adventurous Kate) makes yet another appearance in Weekend Intelligence. This time, she muses about group travel, having just completed a circuit of Cambodia and Thailand with four other friends she met on the road. Kate’s not giving up solo travel by any means, but she’s embracing the benefits that group travel can bring when you travel with the right people. Read it. […]

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