I subscribe to a Facebook page called Global Nomads, it was introduced to me by a French guy who was sitting behind his laptop in the communal area of a Mexican hostel. It's a group for backpackers to discuss travelling and to get advice but the main use for it seems to be the promotion of travel blogs and pegging free stuff off each other. Some people also seem to use the page to find people to travel with. This perplexes me to no end. The main reason I've been driven to write this is that the last thing I saw before I closed down Facebook was a picture of a nice looking blonde girl beside a guy who looked like it was only possible for him to travel because he'd slipped his tracker bracelet and the authorities hadn't notice that a cat had been wearing it for a week now.
I should actually message the girl and ask her what on earth she's thinking. It's like a shotgun wedding where you're pointing the gun at yourself. What if a week in she figures out that he's a freak or he figures out that she always lets him buy one more round of beer than he does? You'd have to have an awkward kind of break-up, leading to shattered self-esteem for the person on the receiving end of the line "You're great, I just think we should maybe travel with different people."
Maybe I'm just being cynical. They could become best friends, they could even make a great couple and after the two months they'd planned they might continue this lovely new romance. Maybe they'd have a couple of kids, watch them grow up and one day let them wander around the world with strangers they've picked up on the internet.
I don't know, it just seems to defeat the purpose of solo travel for me. I went away when I was 19, I knew one person in Tasmania who I'd eventually link in with and that was the extent of it. The most beneficial thing about this was that suddenly I was without a support net. I had to approach people, I had to force myself to be social rather than just sit in my room playing my Gameboy. This is a great thing. It's something not everyone gets a chance to do and it's an amazing opportunity. By being alone I had to seek company where I never would have looked and this led me to make some really amazing friends, friends I never ever would have made had I been with a girlfriend, friend, cousin or some weirdo I met on the internet. I know; I travelled with a girlfriend later on and that support net made me less social to strangers.
Maybe it's a good thing. The Internet is a new forum for travellers to meet on and maybe there are friends to be made there that I'll never make outside of that. It's making the global community a more integrated and accessible concept. It possibly makes travel safer, the girl who's picture I saw will surely be a lot safer travelling along with a guy who looks like a serial killer, at least that'll keep the other serial killers at bay. It makes things more comfortable, none of that crippling anxiety about making no friends and having to sit alone in a bar while everyone else is having fun, you've already got your pre-arranged friend so sitting alone isn't an option. I'm sure it would make things easier too, two heads are better than one in a crisis. But that's not what travels all about, it's not supposed to be safe, it's not supposed to be comfortable and it's not supposed to be easy. If it were all those things your boring uncle who hasn't made much of himself would be strapping on the backpack and heading off to cross the Darien Gap.
I'm not going to pontificate on the evils of technology because I'm even getting bored of myself going on about that. If people want to bubble-wrap themselves against the dangers and difficulties that make travelling such a beautiful thing then I say let them. I'll stick to the old fashioned way, one hand outstretched, a beer in the other and I'll probably start with something like "Hi".