Though we've been asked, we have always stayed away from acting as a matching service for solo travelers.
We've been asked by:
- Solo travelers who want to find a travel partner for a tour or cruise to avoid the single supplement
- Solo travelers who simply want someone to travel with independently
- People behind websites and apps that help people find a travel partner
This has been an issue since I started Solo Traveler over six years ago. I've had time to think about it – over and over again. And while I think that some services are fine, others make me anxious.
So what is it about matching that concerns me? Where do I think they have a place?
First, Your Opinions on Matching Services
There was a lively discussion on matching services for solo travelers on the Solo Travel Society on Sunday.
- The majority of people considered this service counter to solo travel. Karen wrote: “I don't want to connect with anyone, love being solo.”
- Some thought that there was definitely a place for it. Danielle wrote: “when it comes to hiking or camping remotely while solo, that's a little nerve wracking and I'd love to meet up with people who are in the same mindset.”
- And some liked the idea as a means of getting around the single supplement. Mary wrote: “I like the idea of being connected to someone sometimes to avoid that “single-occupancy tax”.
Solo Travel Match-ups and Meet-ups I Can Recommend
Me? I like the freedom of being solo and connecting with people who interest me along the way. I typically don't want to be matched with anyone before I leave. However, I do understand perspectives 2 and 3 above.
I agree that camping solo and hiking in remote areas can be a bit unnerving. Having someone with you is a good idea. In Hong Kong I connected with a hiking group before leaving on my trip. In Patagonia I met a woman on the Navimag ferry, knew her for three days and then we decided to camp together.
I also think matching is a reasonable, though not perfect, way around the single supplement. Many tour and cruise companies will match two people of the same gender who have purchased the same trip. (This is the minimum standard required for a company to promote their tours to subscribers of our Solo Travel Advisory.) I would go with the company's matching service rather than an independent online matching service. Your tour company has a vested interest in your safety and satisfaction with the trip.
Fortunately there are also a few resources outside of tour companies that I can recommend to help you connect with locals or other travelers along the way.
- Meetup.com – I used this site and found people to hike with in Hong Kong.
- Couchsurfing – There are Couchsurfing events all over the world that give you a chance to meet other travel enthusiasts – local and otherwise.
- The Global Greeter's Network – I've used this service in Paris, New York and Chicago. Local volunteer greeters are waiting to show you their home.
- Broads Abroad – Like the name suggests, this is a network of women around the world. You can meet for a coffee or book an overnight stay with another member.
Both Couchsurfing.com and BroadsAbroad.net can help you find accommodation as well. I recommend them for meeting people but if you plan to use them for accommodation please read Overcome Your Fear: how to practice safe couchsurfing and always follow your instincts and err on the side of caution.
Match-ups Could Become Unexpected Hook-ups and This Concerns Me
There are independent apps and sites online that will help you find a travel partner. This is where I get uncomfortable. Here are my three reasons.
- Catfishing* is one reason why I can't promote independent sites. Without a real life connection, (such as a friend or tour company) there is no way to know who is real and who isn't on social media. This could put you in a vulnerable situation where the person you thought was simply going to be your travel partner is actually expecting to hook-up or worse. In recent years a number of people have been in dangerous, and in some cases deadly, situations due to catfishing. Here's an example of couchsurfing.com gone wrong.
- The potential for a serious misunderstanding is another reason I don't promote these sites. Your new travel partner may have not had any intention of deceiving you and may not mean to cause you any harm yet they may have different hopes for the trip than you do – hook-up hopes.
- Finally, by participating on an independent matching site you are telling the world that you are traveling solo. That you are alone. While I don't hide the fact that I'm solo while I travel, for safety reasons I don't broadcast it either.
Because I won't promote these sites I'm not giving you a list of them here. However, if you are still interested, all you need do is Google “find a travel partner”. If you do so, I hope you'll be cautious and read the Solo Travel Safety section of the site before leaving.