As a backpacker travelling on my own, I often heard the same question: “don’t you feel lonely?”. Yes, I do sometimes, but that’s very rare because I’m actually never really alone: there’s nothing easier than meeting people when you’re exploring a foreign country. There are a lot of ways to make new friends on the way: staying in hostels, going on a tour… or by using Facebook. Here’s a story about how I travelled on Vancouver Island in September 2017 with 3 Danish people I’d met online a couple of days before.
📷 For more pictures have a look at my gallery about Vancouver Island.
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The best place to start a discussion and make new friends when you’re travelling is undeniably a hostel’s kitchen. How many friendships started because people randomly cooked their pasta at the same time or sat at the same table? These moments might lead to shared road trips and explorations, but sometimes it might be hard to find people willing to go to the same places as you, especially if you have specific travel plans in your mind. The best solution in these cases is to use Facebook to search for travelmates.
Anywhere you go in the world, there will always be a Facebook group aimed at travelers in the area. Here are some examples: “Australia Backpackers”, “Iceland – tips for travelers” or “New Zealand Backpackers”. Once you’re registered to one of these pages, you can ask other members for recommendations, buy/sell items or post a message recapitulating your travel plans, hoping that someone will read it and join you. Inconvenient: you can never know who will reply and whether you’ll get along pretty well, but I’ve done it a few times myself and I almost never got disappointed by the people I met. One experience remains way more special than any others I had that way: the road trip I made on Vancouver Island in September 2017.
I was staying for 10 days in Vancouver before flying to Hawaii, and my plan was to use a couple of days to explore the city, and the rest to travel around the surroundings, including Vancouver Island that many people had advised me to visit. I met a few people in the hostel where I stayed, but none of them had the same plans as me: they were mostly looking for travelmates for a longer road trip in the Rocky Mountains. I would have loved to join, but I unfortunately didn’t have enough time for that, so I posted an ad on a Facebook group and after a couple of days, 3 people replied. Funny coincidence, all of them were Danish; a girl living there since a few weeks and a couple exploring North America. They all seemed very friendly per message, so we decided to meet in Victoria, main city of Vancouver Island and capital of British Columbia (no, it’s not Vancouver!).
The couple was already there so the girl and I took the ferry together to join them. During the crossing we had the incredible luck to see a huge pod of orcas (probably between 15 and 20) just next to the boat. It couldn’t start better than this…
We spent the rest of the day walking around Victoria, which we both really liked. The floating houses from Fisherman’s Wharf were lovely and with a warm and generous sun, the rocks on the beautiful South coast were perfect for an afternoon nap. After crossing the huge Beacon Hill Park, we enjoyed a delicious ice cream on the harbour and went back to the hostel. When we met the couple later that day we were already friends.
It didn’t take long to appreciate their company too. We all decided to rent a car the next morning, drive to Tofino (a surfer’s town at the end of the road, further north on the island) and come back by the evening the day after. We planned to make a few stops on our way, including some amazing lookouts over the bay and a short hike in Cathedral Grove, a forest of ancient Douglas fir, giant trees that are for some of them over 800 years old. Don’t miss it if you’re on Vancouver Island!
We finally reached Tofino in the early evening. All backpackers’ accommodation in town were already full, but we found 4 beds available at the Lone Cone Hostel on Meares Island across the bay, a place only accessible by water taxi. We had no idea at that moment that we would never want to leave again, but we realised it very quickly.
I’ll never forget our first steps on Meares Island. After the water taxi dropped the 4 of us and 5 other backpackers on the pier, a guy from the hostel made us jump in the back of his truck and drove us to our accommodation. Everything was insanely quiet and beautiful; it was a sunny early evening, with no wind at all and we were surrounded by a huge green forest; there was a beautiful empty beach directly in front of the hostel and the sun was reflecting on the surface of the ocean. Apart from the voices of the other guests of the hostel, we couldn’t hear any sounds at all.
We were supposed to stay there just for one night. 5 minutes after we dropped our luggage in our room, we already booked a second night and extended the car rental. It was just too beautiful to leave on the next day already.
We enjoyed the sunset that night on the beach with local crafted beers that we bought in Tofino. The view was truly breathtaking: the colours were amazing, it was so peaceful and it felt like we were friends since many years already, even though we had just met the day before. Later, we joined the rest of the group around a bonfire, melted marshmallows on sticks and listened to a guy playing guitar. The perfect cliché of an unforgettable night…
The next day we decided to climb to the top of Lone Cone Mountain, the highest summit of the island. 730m of elevation in 3,5km with the first part almost flat, I let you imagine how steep it was… But the view from the summit was worth any effort: we were staring at a succession of islands with the Tofino peninsula in the background, like diamonds dropped over the ocean by a giant hand.
The day wouldn’t have been complete without a canoe trip on a small lake close to the hostel. We didn’t know its name so we decide to call it “Mirror Lake”, for obvious reasons: just look at the pictures below to understand why…
Our motto during this stay became “this is life”, as we couldn’t find a better way to describe how good it felt to be in this perfect place. One year later, we’re all still in touch; at the moment I’m finally publishing this article I’m about to visit Denmark and catch up with the girl of our group, and I’ll probably meet again the couple in Australia where they are travelling now in a few weeks or months. Thanks to this unforgettable road trip on Vancouver Island and this awesome stay on Meares Island I now have 3 more friends!
Do you have any friendship stories that started when you were travelling? Share them in the comments!
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Have also a look at my article about Québec City, one of my favourite cities in the world!