I think it's safe to say that I've done about half my traveling solo. There is a benefit to traveling by oneself. You can do exactly what you want, when you want to. You have ultimate flexibility. You are more open to connecting to fellow travelers or locals. However, there are some downsides. Safety is one. Solo travelers can be more vulnerable to harassment, robbery, and in the worst cases, violence. Less seriously, it can be lonely to not have someone to share incredible experiences with, to talk to over dinner, and to help you arrange yourself in the most flattering way possible for the ultimate instagram photo. Enter in the travel buddy.
Everyone who loves traveling and doesn't want to do it solo all the time knows the importance of having a great travel buddy. Someone who complements your own travel style and enhances the experience with as few of the drawbacks as possible. For some, that person is a romantic partner. For others, a very good friend or close family member. For me, it's Caroline Pattie.
Caroline has been one of my closest friends since we met the first day we arrived in Strasbourg, France to begin a semester studying there. I walked into the youth hostel I was instructed by the program to go to after arriving at the airport, dragging overstuffed suitcases, terrified, excited, and not sure what to do or who to talk to. This girl with a massive amount of salt and pepper hair comes in, rushes over to me, points to the tags on my suitcase denoting that I was there for the Brethren Colleges Abroad program, and says "ARE YOU WITH BCA TOO?!? Hi I'M CAROLINE PATTIE." And so began a friendship that has now lasted half my life.
We travelled together a little that semester, but we were both young adults finding our way and while alike in some ways, also very different. She was much more self-assured than I was, and more intrepid. She travelled almost every weekend while I stayed in Strasbourg with my host family, content to slowly adjust. After that semester ended, and after we both finished our time at our respective universities, I moved into her apartment to Arlington, VA to figure out how to get into gradschool in the area. Our friendship continued through Gradschool for me, Vet School for her, and then into our careers.
I think the first trip that we took together as "real adults" was to the Dominican Republic in 2011. We had gotten a six-day package at an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, and the first five of those days was spent at the pool, at the beach, exploring our own activities according to our personal preferences, and then coming together again in the evening for dinner. This is why traveling with Caroline was so great. We were both pretty independent by then, and had no problem splitting up for the day while we did our own thing. But it was always fun to find each other in the evening and compare adventures. We made friends wherever we were at, mostly because she would talk to everyone while I was a little more shy. By the time we were set to go, we had met I think half the staff and visitors on the resort. On the eve of the day were supposed to leave, Hurricane Irene hit the island. Our flight back to the States was delayed about five days. What could we do? We commiserated with everyone else who was stuck there and raised another glass of mamajuana (a local drink with supposedly aphrodesiac properties) in the pool after the hurricane blew through the island.
As we got ready for our rescheduled flight back, we saw in the news that the hurricane was now barreling up the east coast and was set to hit the Baltimore area the same day we were supposed to arrive home. Whelp. We rescheduled our flight for three days later. Still in paradise, we (meaning Caroline) continued to make our way round the resort talking to people, shaking our fists at the disruption in plans (here, have another Presidente), flirting with a bachelor party that arrived, and making the best of it. By the time we finally left the DR, we had somehow earned the names "the Mayor (Caroline) and the Duchess (me)."
This depicts a typical trip with Caroline. We always come away from our travels with a story, a few adventures, a lot of laughing, more Facebook friends, and plus or minus an article of clothing that may or may not have come in our suitcase originally. Overall, we just straight up have a great time. We've now taken about three international trips together (DR, Turkey, Costa Rica), and a few domestic trips. We have other trips in the works that we talk about as we both get through the COVID-19 pandemic. I'm forever grateful to have her as my travel partner, as well as my friend. So raise a glass to your best travel buddy, and thank them for taking one of the best travel experiences you could have had on our own, but chose not to.