Travel ditching is the act of extracting yourself from the company of a travel companion you have acquired but no longer wish to share your trip with. Unless you’re socially inept, travel ditching doesn’t come naturally to most people but it’s a valuable skill to have when backpacking and can make your trip infinitely more enjoyable if you learn to politely extract yourself from the company of unwanted travel buddies. Who knows, maybe they’re trying to travel ditch you too.
After a few days hanging out with the same people, I sometimes got itchy feel and felt compelled to break free from the pack and go it alone again. Perhaps this is a symptom of having travelled so much of the world solo or perhaps this is just human instinct to desire time alone. Maybe it’s even a sign of maturity when you feel secure enough not to need constant company and can politely decline offers to tag along with other travellers when you’d really rather set your own agenda.
Here are my tried and tested rules of travel ditching… And remember, it’s not being selfish or mean, better to travel ditch than to resent their company or worse still, your time away.
DON’T BE APOLOGETIC
My friend, Chris, who I met in Sri Lanka, taught me the art of travel ditching and as an experienced backpacker, he’s now completely (and admirably) unapologetic about having to do so. In fact, he travel ditched me a couple of times during our trip when my plans didn’t quite coincide with what he wanted to do. I didn’t take it as an insult and it meant that when he did initiate plans to meet up with me again, I knew it wasn’t because he felt obliged. I took his advice and tried it myself. And I’ve never looked back.
BE ASSERTIVE NOT RUDE
I recently discovered a book called ‘The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving A F**k’ by Sarah Knight and it pretty much echoes the sentiment of travel ditching. Summarised on the cover as being a book about ‘how about how to stop spending time you don’t have doing things you don’t want to do with people you don’t like’ it offers practical tips and candid advice on how to live a more content existence by refusing to feel obliged or guilt-tripped into saying ‘yes’. What I most took away from this book is that you can politely (but firmly) decline offers and invitations to participate in activities, events or occasions without being an arsehole. And this same basic rule applies to travel ditching. You don’t have to be rude or unkind, people should understand if you travel ditch them in a firm but polite manner.
LEARN TO SPOT A CLINGER
They’re common in the backpacking community – those nervous, first-time travellers who will latch on to you and enthusiastically go along with ALL your plans. It’s easy to let travellers like this piggy-back onto your itinerary. They’re generally non-offensive, ameniable and are useful for taking photos of you and sharing the cost of transport. They are like loyal labradors but but this is no reason to hang out with them. If you’re not feeling inspired or interested by someone’s company, it’s time to travel ditch. Travelling is about making genuine connections with people and places, if you don’t feel that – you know what to do.
DON’T FEEL OBLIGED
Just because you meet another backpacker of the same nationality going on similar route to you, it doesn’t mean you are in any way obliged to spend time with them. Just because you met someone in the last hostel, doesn’t mean you’re indebted to hang out when you bump into them in the next town. And just because you want to go to Machu Picchu or Ayers Rock tomorrow, doesn’t mean you have to go TOGETHER. Have explanations pre-prepared (however thinly veiled) to avoid having to point-blank turn down their company. Note: avoid ‘it’s not you, it’s me’. This is not a break up. I find that telling someone I need to catch up my travel journal or get in touch with family is a plausible excuse.
YOU CAN DITCH A LIFELONG FRIEND
But what happens if you went away WITH that person but things just aren’t working out as hoped? It’s also fine to part ways with your mate from Uni or school and agree to meet up in a few weeks time. This type of travel ditching is infinitely harder but travelling is an intense experience and spending 24/7 in one person’s company can be a huge strain on even the oldest of friendships. Prioritise your friendship and come to a mutual decision to spend a week or so doing your own thing – it might be just what you both need.
TIME IS MONEY
Backpacking is an expensive pursuit. So remember this before you get cajoled into going on a tour you don’t want to do or paying to ride an elephant you have no real desire to mount. Travel ditching is an important money-saving tool. If you don’t feel like going out for beers for the 12th night in a row, don’t feel you need to just to be sociable. If you find it impossible to say no, you’ll quickly burn through your travel fund and regret not having travel ditched your friends at the 1st temple and gone for a beer on your own on the top floor of the Mandarin Oriental instead.
BEING ALONE IS GOOD
However much fun you’re having with a new group of travel friends, it’s important to spend time exploring on your own. Don’t be scared of this. This is especially applicable to romantic liasons you have on the road. Just because you have a holiday romance with someone, it doesn’t mean you have to stick it out for the rest of your time away – in fact, that’s a sure fire way to go from honeymoon period to arguing married couple within just a few weeks.
IF ALL ELSE FAILS…
If you really can’t bring yourself to speak the truth, you have two options. My friend Chris (the Godfather of travel ditching) suggests ‘ghosting’ – where you leave the hostel early in the morning and get on the first bus out of there. The problem with this option is you could bump into them in the next town and have to wriggle out of a pretty awkward conversation. Or secondly, you wait for them to make or suggest their onward plans and then firmly decide on doing the exact opposite.
If all else fails, just post this all over your social media and hope they get the not-so-subtle message.