Say what you want about us millennials, but when it comes to travel, we’re less risk-averse than previous generations — and proud of it. We source our travel tips and flight deals from blogs and apps rather than books and travel agents, and we love to vacation with strangers in some way or another so we can make new friends on the road. In fact, even though solo millennial travel is growing every more popular, many are still keen to connect with like-minded individuals on the road at some point during a trip; just look at all the companies offering millennials the ability to do so.
Realizing that millennials want to explore on their own terms, travel CEOs have tapped into this trend. Topdeck Travel offers what has become known as "experiential" trips, which are insta-worthy, tailor-made excursions with like-minded 18 to 30-somethings around the world. I took a group trip to Vietnam with them recently, and realized that, actually, I liked being placed with people who wanted to vacation the same way as me; with authentic experiences that included locals. I didn't get lonely as it was a group trip and there was enough flexibility that I could go off and explore on my own if I wanted to, which suited me perfectly. The fact that everything from excursions to accommodation was arranged for me too, made it even better. Couchsurfing is also a popular way to meet new people in foreign lands, and, not to mention, ever-increasing number us are choosing to share our space in hostels, too.
Earlier this year, a survey from Topdeck discovered that 86 percent of us millennials would prefer to spend money on experiences as opposed to objects, but really judging from the way we love to travel, surely that percentage should be higher?
As someone who’s done a lot of backpacking, I’ve shared floors, sofas, beds and bathrooms with what I now realize is a worryingly high number of people. Am I lucky to be alive? Probably. But at least I have stories to tell and a full gallery of scandalous/precious memories. As long as you're being safe, here’s why you should vacation with strangers at some point in your next trip, too.
1. You Won’t Get Lonely, But You Won’t Overdo It Socially, Either
The best bit about vacationing with strangers for some of your trip is that you get to cherry-pick when you want to be alone or not. If you’re an introvert, you can save up all your new-friend chat for a week on a stranger’s couch or in group excursion, so you’re not feeling like a Sims 2 character with your social bar all maxed-out. And if you’re someone who craves interaction all the time like me, I can assure you that in hostels, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a minute to yourself.
2. Pool Your Skills
Now, I’m totally terrible at map-reading and my Spanish is still iffy — but in Colombia, I made friends with some people who excelled in these areas and we travelled around together. I brought my, um, charisma to the group — so it was totally a fair exchange. Totally. And similarly, during a recent group trip to Vietnam with Topdeck, I was matched up with a group of other millennial travellers eager to share their travelling experience. Seeing as we were all looking open to sharing our experience with each other, it meant we had a blast and got to swap travel tips for different areas of the world we have yet to visit. Being with others also means you'll always have someone to help you nail that new profile pic, watch your stuff on the beach, or swap language skills when things get tricky (which they will, at some point).
3. You’ll Meet Cool People
It’s a nice thought that you have still yet to meet some of the most open-minded, eccentric, friendly people in the world, on your next big adventure, right?
4. You’ll Become Incredibly Tolerant
Nothing will make you yearn harder for those halcyon days of apartment-sharing with your old roommate who never replaced the toilet paper than splitting your space with a group of random strangers from all over the world. Once you commit to a mixed hostel dorm, you also commit to a sleepless existence (and exposure to everyone’s weird-ass habits). The experience of bunking with five others in an amazingly cool Costa Rican surf hostel earlier this year was actually great — aside from everyone’s varying opinions on the optimum air-conditioner temperature. (Unsurprisingly Brits, French Canadians, and Italians all have different ideas as to what they believe constitutes "too cold.") Also, fully expect to develop a night-time hatred for your new roomies when they try and creep back into your dorm at 5 a.m. with all the subtlety of a Caribbean steel band. Renting back home in your overpriced city never looked so good, right?
5. Global Friendships Could Equal Cheaper Future Travel
Oh and when you do get cosy with all your new travel buddies, be sure to get their contact details before you go your separate ways because you never know when you’ll want to take them up on that offer of seeing their corner of the world...