Co-travelling is the new co-working – and you need to be part of it

Anna Brech

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Want to travel the world with fellow free-spirits? Here’s everything you need to know about the co-travelling revolution

With the freelance economy booming right now, co-working is having a zeitgeist moment. Anyone who’s anyone in the self-employed world will have a cool, creative space to hang out and trade ideas in (fairtrade coffee optional).

But what for those of us who want people to wander as well as work with? For this, look to the brave new world of co-travelling. Like co-working, co-travelling is all about engendering a community of free-spirited souls. Only instead of trading business ideas, you travel the world together – based on a mutual appreciation for all things adventure.

The beauty of co-travelling is that it’s a no-strings arrangement. You can explore new countries exactly as you please, only with the friendly back-up of a broad group of strangers. These people come from all walks of life, but they’re united with you via a potent sense of wanderlust.

Co-travelling is a great route into the more exposed world of solo travel, and – while there’s no expectation or pressure – you often end up forming deep, rewarding relationships along the way.

Here’s five great reasons why you should hit the co-travelling freeway:

You’re part of a mutual support network

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The beauty of co-working is that you’re surrounded by other freelancers or small business owners just like you. They share the struggle of late payments, and are ready with tea and sympathy when you can’t make your Facebook ad work at the 56th attempt. They’ll be your conspirators in eating an 11am doughnut, your cohorts in setting up an account app, your comrades in trading work.

At the same time, they’re not your colleagues – and that’s a beautiful thing. Co-working cuts out the office politics. You’re not there because you owe anyone anything, or feel obliged to act a certain way. It’s simply a blank slate for mutual support, in the purest terms.

Co-travelling works in a very similar way. The people you travel with are drawn together by a mutual love of adventure. They’ll share your thrill in tracking down that perfect bowl of phở in Hanoi’s Old Town, or in stumbling upon a tiny Colombian beach bar that no-one else knows about. They’ll be your drinking buddies on 15-hour train trips, your second opinion on whether to take a late-night cyclo, the people who’ll keep you sane during tricky border crossings.

At the same time, there’s no shared history with these people. They’re not your loved ones, and you don’t need to compromise on what you want to do if it doesn’t suit them. Your co-travellers merely form a friendly, supportive base from which to navigate the world.

You connect with others on your own terms

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Because there’s no expectation, you don’t have to be a certain way if you’re co-working or co-travelling. There’s no need to act super on-form because your boss is in the office, or it’s your sister’s 40th and it’s really important you help her celebrate. You simply turn up, and meet people on your own terms.

“You can just be yourself at whatever confidence level you find yourself on at the time of travel,” says Bella Stevenson, who travelled with Flash Pack to Sri Lanka and India. “All of us Flashpackers had different personalities, expectations and life experiences, but we all bought our own individuality to the tour and, in turn, created a group memory.”

Contrary to common perception, there’s no pressure to be loud or gregarious, either. “As an outgoing introvert (meaning I can do social situations but I definitely need some downtime, too), I was slightly concerned,” says Delphine Chui, a journalist who travelled with Flash Pack on our mini-adventure to Scotland. “But really, I needn’t have been. As dinners approached, conversation flowed as freely as the wine and whisky.”

You have the freedom to do your own thing

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Like co-workers, co-travellers tend to be an independent lot. You’re drawn to one another through a shared interest (being self-employed, travelling the world) but this common ground doesn’t mean you do everything together.

“Sometimes a couple of hours just doing your own thing and having a meal on your own
is all you need to recharge,” says Debs Ashby, who joined Flash Pack in Myanmar and Jordan.

“The beauty of Flash Pack is that this was totally fine. There were evenings when one or more of our group did not go to the group dinner, choosing to have some alone time back at the hotel. No-one thought it was strange or anti-social.”

Co-working takes the hassle out of setting up your workspace, and introduces you to other freelancers like you. Co-travelling does the same for adventure.

“I’m single and fiercely independent – I live alone and run my own business – but I booked the Bali trip because Flash Pack seemed to take the hassle out of an adventure,” says co-traveller Paul Grey. “I didn’t want to spend hours at a screen researching different options, so this is a trade-off between travelling with independence and autonomy, but also embarking on a trip that is formatted for you, and social.”

New people will challenge you in unexpected ways

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Us humans are creatures of habit. We see the same colleagues day in, day out. Socially, we gravitate towards the circles we always have, and typically, these circles get smaller as we age. But it’s only when we step out of these deeply ingrained norms that we see what we’re missing.

Whether you’re co-working or co-travelling, the chance to meet new people will transform your life in ways that you can’t predict. It’s a subtle process – perhaps you won’t even notice it at first – but suddenly you’ll be faced with new opportunities, ideas or ways of seeing the world.

Who you are is, to a certain degree, determined by who you hang out with. By broadening this sphere, you naturally become a bigger, more open-minded person yourself.

“Going with a new group of people just opens up a whole world of experience,” says co-traveller Craig Holiday, who joined Flash Pack in Peru. “Meeting people that you wouldn’t necessarily come across in normal life. Making new friends, meeting people from different countries. For me, it adds to the experience.”

Sam Mader, who co-travelled with a group of strangers in Norway, agrees. “The most important part of going on a Flash Pack trip is starting with an open mind,” she says. “Get to know your group and push yourself to try new things. The people on your trip will make it extra special as long as you are open to it. Learn from them and laugh with them. They can become lifetime friends.”

You can carve out a new community for yourself

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In the old days, people were tied by tight-knit networks that lasted a lifetime. Generations of people lived together in the same home, and neighbours were intimately acquainted with one another’s business. If anything, it was perhaps a little too cosy and closed-off.

On the other extreme, in today’s world, we barely connect at all. Loneliness is at an all-time high, especially in urban areas, as we increasingly retreat behind screens. In an age of Instagram, it seems we’re losing the thread of what genuine relationships mean.

Co-travelling, along with co-working, finds a balance between these two spheres. It’s a way of meeting real people in the real world again. You have the opportunity to build meaningful relationships that are full of substance, and that thrive on shared interests (travel, adventure, food, entrepreneurship).

Yet, at the same time, these communities are fluid and flexible enough to accommodate modern life. When you’re co-travelling, you’re constantly making new connections – all in an easygoing, no-pressure setting. Some will stay with you for life, others will fade away. But they will all help you grow, and taste life in new and exciting ways.

As Lee Thompson, Flash Pack co-founder says, “When you travel with a group of people you don’t know, it’s just really good fun. It’s about sharing something incredible; something that might change your whole perception of life.”

Ready to join the co-travelling revolution? Find out more about how Flash Pack works and let the adventure of a lifetime commence.

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