You Can Pick Your Friends: Thoughts on Choosing a Travel Buddy
Just because someone is your best friend doesn’t mean that they’re the best person to travel with. You may think you know someone, but until you actually get on the road and have to continuously make decisions and deal with travel stress, you wont know how they’re going to react. You don’t even know how you’re going to react. So before you buy some non refundable plane tickets here are some things you need to think about when picking a travel buddy.
Do you both want to do the same things?
It’s all good fun to sit there talking about where you want to go, but seriously, do you actually want to go do the same things? For instance, I love museums. I can spend all day in a museum just wandering about. But what if the person I’m traveling with doesn’t like museums and would rather be outside? Or loves to go shopping, which I’m not really that into. Having an actual conversation before hand about things you absolutely want to do or see in each city is a good way to not only avoid the “so what do you want to do today?” conversation, but also gives you a way to discuss the things you DON’T want to do as well. This is more than just activities, it is also they type of accommodation that they want to stay in, countries visited, and over all time line of the trip. If you can’t reconcile these, you probably shouldn’t be traveling together.
Do you both have the same budget for the trip?
Another serious conversation to have before you go. When one person has more money than the other, they will be way more inclined to splurges. This can cause friction if you are constantly telling the other person no to activities they want to do, or are constantly being told that the other doesn’t have the money to do all the awesome things you want to try. You don’t want to end up in a situation where one or both of you are faced with borrowing money or ending the trip early because there are no funds left.
How independent are they?
If you are equally codependent, then you should get a long swimmingly, but if you have a very dependent travel buddy when you are quite happy to fly solo, then you’re going to get frustrated really damn quickly. This doesn’t mean that your travel partner needs to have traveled the same or more than you. Nor does it mean that you should have the same language skills. But it does mean taking a look at the kind of person you know they are and thinking about how willing they are going to be to do some things on their own. Will they learn a few words in a new language and go get their own coffee or they are going to be tugging on your sleeve to translate every sing word? Will they be okay with doing separate things for a day if you both need some alone time? If the answer is no to both of those, are you okay with that?
So you’ve had a serious conversation before leaving and you still think you won’t want to murder them in their sleep by week two. Maybe you’ve also taken a mini trip together to test drive this travel partnership. But what about when you’re on your trip?
Take some time apart
No really, don’t be surgically attached to each other for the whole trip, that’s a really easy way to get sick of each other. So go off and do your own thing for a couple hours or a day. You can do the things that make you happy–even if that thing is just sleep–and then have something new to talk about when you get back. When I was backpacking in China I really wanted to go see the Terracotta Warriors, but my friend Ali had already been on a previous trip. So I went on my own. Yeah, it was intimidating because my language skills were limited to say the least. But I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity.
Divide out jobs
When I traveled with Ali she was the keeper of the documents so that we always knew where the tickets or the deposit receipts were. When I travel with Sarah I’m primary researcher (I love research and Sarah doesn’t) and in charge of scheduling (Sarah has missed more than one flight due to being asleep). By setting tasks to each other, either officially or unofficially, you don’t worry about one person or the other being forced to handle all the details. You don’t want to feel like someone’s mother having to be the one to take care of everything.
Rather obvious, no? But seriously this is the most important think you can do. If they are doing something that bothers you, tell them, listen to their reasoning for their actions, and then try to find a solution that works for both of you. If one of you hates getting up early and you want to be up at dawn every day talk about it! Make a plan for how to meet up later so neither of you is forced into doing something that makes you miserable. If there is something you really want to see in a city, don’t just hope that they will propose going there of their own accord. Talking about it sooner rather than later will mean you don’t waste valuable awesome time being pissed off.
Paying in rounds or other cost sharing ideas
This is something Sarah and I have done with great success. Rather than always trying to split the bill, we pay in rounds. So for example, if I get breakfast, then she gets lunch. We keep a rough calculation of what is owed one another and then pay it back in covering expenses. If I pay her $15 entrance fee, she’ll buy me $15 worth of drinks at the pub that evening. Get the idea? That way we cover all costs and there’s a balance. This of course means you can’t be a dick and go all out when it’s your buddy’s round. If Sarah or I want to splurge on anything specific either we take the round (whether it should be ours or not) or that will be the time we pay separately. Sarah has a deep love of premium tequila, so though she may pay me back in drinks she rarely asks me to cover her drinks. The point is to keep the expenses fair, not get a freebie.
Hopefully this helps you get through. It will take patience–especially if you’re traveling with more than one person–but it will be totally worth it to share an amazing travel experience with your bestie.