For those of us who aren’t yet ready to skip around the world solo, there is no decision more important than choosing your travel buddy. I got to travel around the United Kingdom and Ireland with a good friend of mine in March. We were amazed at how compatible we were. I was blessed to have had such a positive experience on my first go, as I have heard horror stories of people who learned these lessons the hard way.
Traveling the world is an adventure and it is hard. You can’t just throw any two people together and expect things to be hunky-dory. Just because somebody is your favorite person to go to Starbucks with does not mean that they will be the best person you could take to hike in Peru. People are different – nothing brings that out more than tight quarters, getting lost in a place where you don’t speak the language, and other such inevitable travel mishaps.
Here are a few principles I think are SUPER important when preparing to travel with a friend:
1. Choose A Friend With Similar Interests
I heard a story about a girl who went to London with one of her best friends. She loved the outdoors and wanted to traipse about in parks and see the city. Unfortunately, her travel buddy had come with the expectation of spending all their time in world-class museums. So the girl ended up spending the majority of her dream trip to London rolling her eyes at the rosetta stone and other artifacts that meant nothing to her.
Make sure that you and your travel buddy are on the same page about what types of activities you want to do before you get to your destination. My friend and I made a short list (1-2 items) of things we had to do in each city and then a longer list (3-4 items) of things we’d like to do if we had time and were in the area. That way we both got to do our most important things.
My friend and I had multiple skype sessions beforehand to figure everything out. We talked about everything from hotel bookings to expectations about how late we would stay out and alcohol consumption. The more you can plan before-hand, the better. Plus, skyping about our trip was really fun and helped us to get even more excited about all the adventures we were going to experience together.
3. Learn Each Other’s Strengths and Weaknesses
We laughed about our differences and teased each other, but when push came to shove, we understood our strengths and weaknesses and could work with and around them.
My buddy was great at remembering details like “Susanna, please don’t leave your purse in that coffee shop.” I have a decent sense of direction and did most of the map reading. She was much better at navigating public transportation.
4. Give Each Other Space
We spent a lot of time together, so I think it was really important that whenever we got back to our room after a long day of touring we realized it was okay to veg out on our devices or pull out a book and be completely anti-social for the rest of the evening.
5. Know Their Limits
Some people are just lil energizer bunnies. They could skip through a big city all day long from one attraction to another with no breaks. That is not most people. Between each tour or leg of sight-seeing, we would talk to each other and give each other the chance to ask for a break. Whenever either of us needed a break, the other would happily oblige without complaints.
6. Learn Each Others Hot Spots And Do NOT Push Them
Everyone has pet peeves and things they feel strongly about. Learn those things and then try your best not to press the wrong buttons. For example, if you and your travel buddy have different political views you may want to avoid talking politics all together. Even if (under normal circumstances) you enjoy a good debate, realize that when you are stuck with someone for a prolonged period of time it is more important to maintain your relationship than to get all your points in.
7. Set Expectations And Then Be Flexible
It is important that you understand your travel partner and have honest expectations about how your time will go. You have to accept the fact that if you are traveling with your mom or grandma, you may not be able to do the whirlwind trip and 10hr days of sight-seeing that you planned. Or if you are with your best friend who abhors musicals, you may have to save seeing your favorite show on broadway for your next trip. Just be flexible in general. Traveling USUALLY doesn’t go as planned. However, the best adventures tend to be the ones you didn’t book two months in advance.
When things don’t go your way, just remember that you are here to make memories. Ultimately, whether or not you get to see the Tower of London is less important than all the moments you share with your friends and family.