Backpacking is about extended travel with the least amount of possessions. It’s about visiting cities and countries on a budget—a subjective term based on who you are and who you’re traveling with. In our first five months traveling through South America, Neil and I have found the Gringo Trail easy to navigate along and off. We’ve seen sights jammed with tourists and remote
locales with nothing but hummingbirds. But no matter where we went, the highlights of our travel have always been the people. Traveling buddies are essential. They’re imperative to a great travel experience. In Otavalo, Ecuador, we met our first travel buddy: Lisa. Together we hiked to Parque Condor and the lush countryside north of Quito. We met her at our hostal and just hit it off. She was a solo-traveler, making her way north to Colombia and then eventually home after a full year of travel. Looking back over our first 5 months of backpacking, I realize that finding travel buddies is not only easy but it changes the entire dynamic of travel.
We found travel buddies at our hotel.
In Baños Ecuador, we spent one week at La Casa Verde Eco-Lodge. In the mornings, breakfast was a hearty affair of homemade breads with local cheese and avocado. Two long tables bathe in the sunlight over the mountains and the dining room becomes the perfect place to meet friends. After meeting Sally and Andreas, we had plans set to visit Latacunga, a small city hosting Ecuador’s biggest festival: La Fiesta Mama Negra.
We found travel buddies at expat bars
Expat bars can be the beating heart of a small town. Once we began renting an apartment in Baños Ecuador, Neil and I were excited to see who else lived in town. At Stray Dog Brewery, we shimmied our way into the expatriate community. From the friends we met there, we had several adventures in beer brewing and poker games. One great friend, Daniel even traveled with us to Cuenca.
We found travel buddies at South American Explorers Club
While in Lima, Neil and I checked out the South American Explorers’ clubhouse. It was abuzz
with members using the free phone, travelers hopping on the free WIFI, and the volunteers socializing with everyone else. After a long chat at the front desk, we met several other volunteers who were, at that moment, headed out to Callao where Lima’s first Flugtug was taking place. Joining the crowd, we hopped into a cambi and took the hour long trip with four strangers who’d quickly become our travel friends.
We found travel buddies on organized tours
Organized tours may seem staid, but they are actually a great way to meet people. On our trip to El Huaca del Sol y Luna, we met “The Australians”: Kate and Aidy. After a hot afternoon in the sun and climbing sand dunes for great shots of Mochi architecture, we convinced Kate and Aidy to check out our hostel called Oceano. Cheap and super clean, Hospedaje Oceano was the perfect guesthouse on the beach at Huacachina. After Kate and Aidy took the last room
available, we checked out the beach town happy hour and found an awesome bonfire party on the sands too.
We found travel buddies at the Peru-Ecuador Border
There’s nothing like a language barrier to encourage others to help you. At the Ecuador-Peru border, Neil and I found ourselves crossing the bridge by ourselves at night. Our bus and the other passengers had already transferred to the Peruvian side and were waiting for us there. When we arrived on the Peru side, three Ecuadorian travelers from our bus were waiting for us. They wanted to make sure that the immigration office processed our papers correctly. Thanks to them we visited both offices which ensured we entered Peru legally.
We found travel buddies at a cooking class.
At Huanchaco, our hostel’s owners were holding an informal ceviche class. Two Belgians had asked for a tutorial, bought all the ingredients, and generously invited us to join them. Even though we slept late and didn’t make it to the market, our two new friends, Hans and Anouk waited for us to get our camera gear ready for pictures. The lesson proceeded in Spanish and Flemish but the Belgians helped us out with English translations too. With Hans chopping and marinading, the ceviche transformed into a culinary success and our new friendship began. Even as Hans and Anouk departed for their trekking country of Huaraz, we promised to meet up further down the Gringo Trail at Lima, Huacachina, and Cusco for New Years.
The best part of making backpacking travel buddies is that the plans don’t end. Even after Lisa returns to the UK, Andreas to Germany, or Hans & Anouk head over to Bolivia, we’ve sketched out our next encounters. We’ll embark on adventures somewhere in the world with our new travel buddies. Who have you met along your travels?