Posts Tagged ‘reflections’

During the past year, I have had some “issues” with yoga. After years of regular practice and deep immersion in the yoga world, I began to realize that the yoga community can be a little too extreme, as well as how a yoga practice can easily be taken in what I feel are unhealthy directions–physically, mentally, and spiritually. These feelings and changes in my relationship with yoga came about from a variety of experiences, and in order to fully process them, I found myself needing to take a complete break from my yoga practice, and eventually, from any type of spiritual practice at all.

Though losing what I thought had been a solid foundation in my life was difficult at the time, I now realize what a gift this past year has been. By gaining distance from the yoga world, from spiritual extremism on one hand to pop culture fads on the other, I gained the perspective needed to reintroduce various practices and ideas into my life with greater discernment. As a result, I am now creating a more sustainable practice (physically and spiritually), rooted in experience, balance, and a deeper understanding of myself and my subject matter.

During my years of practice and trainings in the yoga world, I studied many techniques and philosophies related to coming into balance and finding optimal health in mind, body, and spirit. As I begin to reintroduce the practices that I find most healing into my own life, I would like to begin sharing them here, with all of you. Take what works for you, forget what doesn’t (or come back to it later). Ultimately, the greatest way for any of us to reach wellness is to follow our own intuition.

Pink Lotus © 2007, Juniper Stokes

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I’ve traveled a lot. I’ve been to every continent except Antarctica and covered ground in 39 countries. I did much of this travel solo, joined some tour groups in a few locations, and met up with groups of friends for other trips. I could go into the pros and cons of all these types of travel, but for now, I want to focus on one specific type of trip–that done with a “travel buddy”.

Solo travel offers freedom and independence, and it has been widely romanticized in travel literature. There are countless articles and guides expounding the benefits of traveling alone. And while solo travel truly is wonderful and should probably be on all travelers’ bucket lists, I don’t think we should overlook the perks of traveling with a partner. I’ll admit it, traveling with a partner can totally suck. But a bit of awareness in choosing the right person to travel with can lead to a wonderful travel partnership.

In Part 1 of my article on travel buddies, I’ll discuss the often overlooked benefits of traveling with a friend. In Part 2, I’ll go into more detail about how to make sure you end up with the right travel buddy for you.

The Perks of Travel Buddies


Traveling costs money. No, you shouldn’t let financial concerns alone stop you from traveling, but in most places, gone are the days of living on $10 a day and the kindness of strangers. So buddy up. Split some costs and extend your adventures!

Sharing a room with a friend is almost always cheaper than doing it on your own. I’m at the point now where I want to stay in hotels and private rooms rather than hostels (I paid my hosteling dues and them some in my early twenties), and often the cost of a room is the same whether one or two people stay there. Even if you do prefer hostel travel, sharing a private room with a friend is often only slightly more expensive than both of you paying for beds in a larger room. You’ll still have the social benefits offered by common areas, yet you’ll also have the security of being able to lock your own door while you’re out.

Beyond accommodation expenses, it’s also great to be able to split the cost of renting vehicles. While I tend to go with public transportation whenever possible, there are certain places where renting a vehicle opens up a new world of freedom and possibility. In Greece, for example, my travel buddy and I rented the cutest little yellow car on the island of Ikaria (the only public transportation on this island was the school bus–I guess that could have been interesting . . .). By renting our car together, we were able to drive to hidden beaches and ancient ruins that we never would have had access to otherwise.

our little yellow car, the only automatic on the island © 2012, Juniper Stokes

I also recently returned from South America, where two friends and I rented a car for a three-week road trip through Chilean Patagonia–no way could I have afforded a trip like that without sharing the cost. Not to mention, I’m a much better navigator than driver :)

you can’t get a shot like this without your own vehicle © 2012, Juniper Stokes

Often a big part of traveling is needing to eat meals in restaurants. This can add up quickly. Sometimes portion sizes are big enough to feed more than one person.  At other times, too many things on the menu look too delicious to choose just one. In both cases, a buddy helps. Splitting meals cuts costs, and being able to taste a variety of dishes is an integral part of travel. And even if you go to the store to buy and prepare food yourself, you’ll save money doing so with a partner.

Argentine parilla is much better split between two–salad, proveleta (grilled provolone deliciousness), and assorted grilled veggies © 2012, Juniper Stokes

Safety and Health

Safety is another huge benefit of traveling with a partner. When you’re out at night, having a buddy to walk or even cab home with can be crucial. Also, as a young, blond, smallish, American woman, I feel much more comfortable having a companion with me in many parts of the world. I have a feeling Egypt would have been a very different trip if I wouldn’t have had a great guy to travel with.

Best photo-bomb ever, plus a fantastic travel partner (thanks Russell)! 

And on any trip, weird, difficult things happen. Your credit card might suddenly stop working (and, as I’ve learned from experience, if you don’t tell the bank that your plans have changed and you’ve added another country to the list, the card really will stop working), or worse, your important documents could get lost or stolen. In these cases, a trusted friend to help out is invaluable.

I also have made expeditions to pharmacies for friends in need, and have sent buddies out for supplies when local bacteria decided to take over my body, as well. Traveling in so many different countries has given me a pretty strong stomach, but on my last trip to Indonesia, something in the Gili Islands made me ridiculously ill. Nothing would stay in my body, and I would have become dangerously dehydrated if my wonderful travel buddy wouldn’t have trekked out to buy sports drinks and crackers for me.

Gili island fun before the amazing Hanni brought me life-saving hydration

Skill Sets

Another great perk to traveling with a partner is taking advantage of differing skill sets. I don’t relish the idea of driving in other countries, but I’m an excellent navigator in a car. But I’m a terrible navigator by foot–I always think I’m following the map perfectly, only to look up and have no idea where I am 10 minutes later. My travel partners who have been willing to take the wheel and get me from place to place with minimum distress have been huge assets on my trips.

For my part, I am crazy-organized. There have been times when my less organized partner has introduced me to new adventures and possibilities that I would have missed out on otherwise, but an equal number of times where my organization and preparation have saved our booties. I’m also great at communicating with non-native English speakers, probably from years of teaching English as a foreign language. While I may need my braver friend to be the one to initiate a conversation, I will always be the one to see where communication breakdowns are happening, and what type of linguistic strategies are needed to restore clarity in communication.

I know my strengths and weaknesses as a traveler, and I am forever indebted to those buddies who have balanced out my traveling skill sets.

enjoying a private Vietnamese boat ride with Kay and Lea–each of us definitely contributed something different


Companionship is also an obvious yet often overlooked benefit to traveling with a partner. There is something to be said for being able to share new experiences with an old friend. As amazing as an experience in a foreign country may be, sharing it only with your travel journal isn’t quite the same as sharing it with another human being. You will always have that time together, and your relationship with always be at least slightly enriched by your new shared experiences.

Also, as any experienced traveler knows, sometimes traveling is just hard. You miss your train. A local treats you like sh*t and you don’t know what you did to deserve it. You get lost . . . for hours. You end up in a hotel room that looks like a murder scene, and you’re pretty sure the guy at the front desk is responsible.

Or, you find yourself in one of those many difficult situations that can only be resolved by spending half of your travel budget. (Like trying to save money by spending the night in the most uncomfortable airport ever, only to realize the next morning that you’re at the wrong airport, only to realize that busses aren’t running because of the snow storm, only to realize that this will make you miss your flight, and then to realize that you’ll have to pay a million dollars on a taxi and new flight  . . . and yes, this did happen to me during one of my first trips overseas.)

These things happen. And you know what makes them easier to handle? A friend. Going through difficult situations together offers you both the chance to be each other’s strength, to take turns shouldering the pain and lightening the mood. And just as with positive experiences, negative experiences also give you shared memories that I have found tend to evolve into comedies with time. It is much easier to laugh about taking a train for eight hours in the wrong direction with a friend than by yourself!

Greece might have been one of my favorite trips, but only because my travel buddy Katrina made the tough times easier 
*twin outfits were totally accidental*

You’ll Still Meet New People!

One of the most common responses I hear to the travel with a buddy or travel alone question is, “But you meet so many more people when you travel solo!” This is simply not true. The only way you’re going to not meet people while traveling is if you really just don’t want to meet people. In fact, I tend to meet more people when I travel with a partner than when I travel solo. We can take turns being the friendly one who initiates conversations, and since we still tend to meet people individually, we end up having twice as many new connections as when traveling solo. Also, it’s often easier to befriend other people who are already traveling together when both parties are groups of people, rather than individuals. Of course you will meet people traveling on your own, too, but really, it’s just as easy, if not easier, with a buddy.

friends are fun for stateside trips, too . . . in Washington State’s Hoh Rainforest, with Ginger and Katrina (photo credit)

There are many perks to traveling with a buddy. But, it really does need to be the right buddy. Ending up with a travel partner that you don’t quite mesh with can absolutely ruin an otherwise wonderful trip. So how do you find the right travel partner? Read Travel Buddies Part 2!!!

By the way, I’d love to hear your feedback about this subject. What types of experiences have you had with travel buddies? Good and bad! Please share! Do you enjoy traveling with a buddy or prefer solo travel? I’d love to hear from you.

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