As supermarket shelves fill with cheesy greeting cards and heart-shaped chocolate boxes, it can be easy to feel a little cynical about Valentine’s day.
But there are plenty of reasons to celebrate, even if you’re sick of cupid-themed paraphernalia.
While the holiday traditionally revolves around couples, increasing numbers of people - like ‘Galentines’ devotees - use it to celebrate platonic love, too.
To mark the occasion, Euronews Travel has interviewed travellers who have forged life-long friendships on the road.
Fiona: Making friends of ‘all ages’ through travelling
When 78-year-old Fiona joined an Intrepid trip to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia in 2015, her aim was to see the world. But she ended up making three new friends: Denise, Ronny and Yvette. Now, all four of them meet up every year for a new adventure.
“The other ladies are younger than me, very independent and far more tech savvy,” the Surrey-based retiree explains.
“They could find the post office and the best places to eat all by pushing the right buttons on their phone. They weren’t afraid of getting lost, or of new experiences.”
“Our friendship has taught me to be more self-reliant, widened my horizons and brought much laughter and joy into my life.”
The intergenerational friendship has made Fiona bolder than ever - last year, she trekked up to Everest Base camp with her daughter, an opportunity that allowed her to meet “so many different people.”
“Making connections while travelling can change your point of view and confirms the fact that you are not the only pebble on the beach,” Fiona enthuses.
Sharon: Forging a bond with a fellow photographer
Sharon Cheung has stayed in touch with many friends she’s made on her travels.
On an Intrepid trip to Cuba in 2016, the veteran solo traveller met Jan from California. The pair hit it off over their shared love of photography then bonded over their experiences as mothers and recent divorcees.
“We have a lot of shared life experiences despite being from the UK and USA and ended up travelling to Morocco together where we were roommates for part of the journey,” Sharon says.
In early 2020, Sharon decided to sell her house and embark on a solo adventure for two years. This dream was interrupted by the pandemic - but she has since started travelling again. Solo travel has allowed her to meet people from all walks of life.
“I’ve always had friends of different ages and backgrounds but travel has made that blossom even more,” she says.
“Meeting people from around the world, it brings the news headlines you read to life. We keep in touch, and we talk...they’re there living through it.”
Elizabeth: Celebrating a milestone birthday with friends from her travels
For Elizabeth Howse, group travel has given her the confidence to explore the world.
"I’ve never shied away from adventure but I’ve always shied away from doing it alone. Group travel seemed the best way to do that and since then I haven’t looked back."
Since meeting herbest friend on a solo adventure in Morocco with Flash Pack, she's formed at least 10 lifelong friendships.
"To celebrate all these connections, I’m now organising my 40th birthday trip to Brazil with some of the friends I’ve made along the way."
These bonds that cross time and distance are testament to the strength of friendships made on the road.
"If you can leave a trip with one good friend, that’s a success. But I’m lucky to have made many, and to have formed such strong bonds on these trips."
Claire: Solo travel that wasn’t so solo
Irish journalist Claire Scott has spent much of the last nine months travelling around the world. She was “hooked” on solo travel after jetting off on a Roamies trip around Europe - a tour for 18-35 year olds facilitated by G Adventures and Hostelworld.
“I developed incredible friendships over the course of the 34 days of travel from Amsterdam to Athens and I joke that I now have couches to crash on across the world - the trip was made up of backpackers from the UK, Sweden, Finland, Australia, the US, Switzerland, Canada and Germany,” she says.
During the tour, she shared hostel dorms with her fellow travellers - an experience that brought everyone closer.
“You almost feel like family towards the end. It was very emotional saying goodbye to everyone, but I’ve already met up with several people from this trip with while travelling on other continents,” she recalls.
Travel is the perfect way to meet like-minded people, she says.
“You share a love of learning about new cultures, seeing new terrain, trying new things - all of those things are encompassed in travel so there’s so much common ground from the get go when you meet people on the road,” she said.
“There’s the excitement of getting to meet friends you make in their home country at some point in the future too and I think I’ve probably invited everyone to come and see me in Dublin when they can.”
Amaury and Clara: Travelling with a group gave us the “Summer Camp effect”
Young professionals Amaury and Clara were “bored” with having no one to go travelling with. Their friends were always working or busy - so they decided to take matters into their own hands.
They organised an impromptu trip to Morocco, posting on social media in solo travel groups to see who wanted to join.
It was a “great success,” Amaury says.
“People were mainly from London but we also had a few Spanish and French people - everyone loved it and really bonded,” he explains.
“Some of us still see each other and text. We made some good friends in the group.”
The group went surfing and explored Taghazout and Agadir. Building on the success of their most recent trips, they’ve founded a startup - ‘Your Friends are Boring’ - for like-minded young travellers who want to explore new places and meet new people.
“When you are in a bubble with a group, you share amazing experiences. Sharing those precious moments will make you bond with people… you start as strangers, but by the end feel like you've known each other for 10 years.”