Life & Stuff

Would you travel with someone you don’t know?

Ever been on a blind date? Ever agreed to marry someone before that blind date?

WHY WOULD ANYONE AGREE TO MARRY SOMEONE WHO THEY’VE NEVER MET????

For money. Definitely for money.

So if no money was involved, you wouldn’t ever do anything so committal as to say… marry, or travel with someone who you have never met, right?

RIGHT?!

Not quite, because I would do almost anything for a story, remember?

I am placing an emphasis on ‘almost’, because there will be a line drawn somewhere, even for me. However, yes, I have indeed, agreed to travel with someone whom I have never met in person. Someone I only know from being a virtual alumni of the Australian Writer’s Centre, someone I’ve got to know through Facebook photos and emails.

Someone who currently lives 10,262 miles away from London, with no chance for us to meet before our eventual journey.

Meet Jennifer from Travel Bug Within.

Meet Jen of Travel Bug Within (Image permission: Jennifer Johnston)

And now you know as much about her as I do! Ha!

Ok, that’s not completely true. Jen and I have been emailing like the way I used to post letter after letter to my pen pals in the 90s. Perhaps it’s that anonymity behind the internet thing, I find myself at ease with writing to her about our trip and sharing some of my deepest personal stories. I feel like I know her.

Could it be two writers connecting on an inner level that doesn’t require physical meeting?

Either way, we have now committed to spend three weeks travelling with each other hiking the Isle of Skye in Scotland and to navigate beyond the ring roads of Iceland, Thelma and Louise style with the hope that we will not kill each other along the way.

I’ve always been a bit gun ho

I cannot verify this but those who have cared for me when I was a child have always told stories of me chatting up to whoever I meet, exploring around shops I’ve been taken to on my own and ignoring all rules about talking to strangers!

I’ve always found it easy to talk to people, to make friends. Although I do understand at times I can be a bit… ‘much’! (Sorry. Just tell me to stop!)

Backpacking in my 20s, I enjoyed a few years of being a member of Hospitality Club and Couch Surfing, pre- Airbnb (pre- money!) communities of backpackers who share their extra couch/beds/floor space with each other, exchanging only friendship and cultural stories instead of money for accommodation.

I want to think that I have a good sense for like-minded people, but in the end I think I am just a lot more trusting than most. I want to believe most of us in this world are trustworthy and want to make friends, not war!

So, now you see why I’ve agreed to travel with someone I don’t know.

How it all began

People ask how Will and I got together. The official story is that we met in Peru and having worked and lived with each other for 3 months it felt natural that we could spend the rest of our lives together.

The unofficial version is that we got together after 3 shots of tequila on one of the team’s night outs.

I can’t remember the exact moment I agreed to be Jen’s travel buddy, what I do know, is that she didn’t need 3 shots of tequila to get me to agree. Instead, she dug deep into my biggest weakness.

Travel.

It started when Jen wrote on Facebook that she was coming over my side of the world. She had wanted to travel to Scotland, Iceland and all these other wonderful places and shared some of her aspirations for the trip.

Keen to meet someone from home, who shared the same education, profession, who wrote for the same editors in Australia, I wrote back: “can I come along?”

And before I knew it, we were planning this trip!

Just how do you plan a trip without knowing each other?

Well, without knowing each other’s personalities and preferences, the best place is to begin with things we can control and an agreement on a destination is a good start.

Seeing that it’s Jen’s big trip to Europe, it was her choice in destinations. In today’s world, anything can be done online. So being the organised writers that we are, knowing what sort of stories we sought from our travels, we each took on some responsibility in the research, created a Google Drive folder to save them in and eventually made a decision on how we are going to travel and what we are going to do.

In the end, we decided on an Isle of Skye hike with Wilderness Scotland to begin with, and opted for a self drive tour of Iceland to follow.

The theory is, we’ll get to know each other while in the safe group environment in Scotland, before we attempt to have to live with each other, sharing the same room and navigate the roads without a GPS! (Well, I didn’t pay for a GPS for our car hire booking… if you are reading this Jen, I hope you are patient and don’t mind a couple of wrong turns!)

So with a combination of extensive emailing, shared online documents and some assumption, we have now created a solid itinerary!

We are still in the middle of planning this trip, At the moment we are confirming a few more accommodations, nutting out some finer details, splitting costs at the same time as trying not to trip over each others’ toes when it comes to our story ideas!

Of course, we are both placing a lot of trust in each other at the same time!

This could be, the beginning of a life long friendship

Or… we could end the trip wishing never to see each other again.

Through our emails, we not only shared our research into the destinations we are travelling to, we also began to share bits and pieces of our lives, our highs and our lows, joy and troubles.

I feel like I have known Jen for a long time and can’t wait to meet her for the first time when she arrives to stay with us for the first two days of her European trip (oh yeah, did I also mention I’ve offered our spare bedroom to her too?).

So, I am optimistic. As the saying goes: We’ll be ‘right.

We’ll be ‘right.

RIGHT JEN????

(To be continued…)

Share your thoughts below!