It’s said that you never really know someone until you’ve been on holiday with them. That’s probably true, as vacation time can bring out all sorts of things within us, whether good, bad or simply unexpected. So I’ve taken a long hard look at life on the road, and here are my suggestions on how to be a better travel buddy.
“You got your problems, I got mine.” So says the song, and on the road in unfamiliar circumstances, all kinds of travel behaviour can emerge. Now it’s difficult to change your travel companions while you’re on the road, but you can make choosing them beforehand easier. You can certainly bring your best self on the road, making you the travel buddy everybody wants to be with. Here are some of the things to think about when choosing or being a good travel companion.
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Choosing A Travel Companion
While we all have our own little idiosyncracies, there are a number of very big positives you can look out for in a potential travel companion. Here are some of my suggestions for finding good qualities in your travel buddies before heading out to unfamiliar turf.
By that I mean, when you get lost on a hike, or find you’re missing a bag somewhere along the line, they’ll play their part in sorting it out. Life on the road isn’t always easy, and when burdens get heavy, it’s hard to carry your travel companion too. Look for an ability to cope with the unexpected, and an ability to find sunshine – or at least some perspective – in difficult times.
They’re Looking For A Similar Trip
You don’t have to be joined at the hip, and later I’ll suggest that you should go it alone sometimes, but having the same ideas makes for a better trip. If one of you wants only to lie by the pool, working your way through the cocktail menu, while the other wants to be hiking every day, it’s clear this is not going to end well. You may be brilliant mates at home, but be honest about what you really like on the road, and it’ll save a lot of angst later.
You have Similar Attitudes To Money
Whether this is a backpacking special, or a visit to the couture houses of Paris, it’s helpful if the person you are traveling with has a similar view of funds. You need to feel confident they won’t leave you with a massive bar tab, or else argue about tasting street food instead of gourmet dining every night. Of course, a holiday that covers both extremes is excellent if that’s what you want. But have that discussion beforehand.
They respect Your Views (And Your Stuff)
My way or the highway is never a good prospect for a travel companion. You should both be able to compromise, and make sure that your vacation decisions make you both happy. Also small things like nicking your toothpaste and your sunscreen can build up over a holiday, making for an unnecessarily tense experience. Your mate who is always borrowing? Possibly not the ideal companion for the road.
Travel is a beautiful smorgasbord of new experiences. If you travel with someone who is firmly focused on the familiar – food, experiences – then you could miss out on some unique opportunities. Your companion doesn’t have to be the biggest adventurer. But someone open to new ideas can help you to have your best time.
So How Do You Become The Best Travel Buddy?
The better we know ourselves, the better our potential to be a good travel buddy. And if you’re a great person to be with on the road, you’ll attract other interesting travelers. Here are my suggestions for how to be the best travel buddy.
Play To Your Strengths
If you’re a great map reader and navigator, the best at fumbling your way through a conversation in a new language, or simply the one with the most charm in a challenging situation, don’t hesitate to step up.
Head Out On Your Own Sometimes
Even the best of friendships can get stale 24/7. So give your companions a breather and take yourself off for a while. Encourage them to do the same. It gives everyone a chance to do the things they love that others don’t, and it gives you some space. Plus you’ve got new things to bring to the table, especially on long trips when you’re starting to have the same conversations repeatedly.
Adjust To Other People’s Travel Habits
I’m a systematic and tidy packer, needing a while to get ready to move on. My usual travel companion is accustomed to bunging it all in a bag just before departure. Neither is right or wrong. We do what we call a room sweep at the end to make sure nothing’s been left behind. And we chill about our very different styles.
Have An Opinion
When you’re trying to work out what to do each day, it can be frustrating to be with someone who has no opinions at all. We all have preferences, so don’t be afraid to bring yours to the table and share the responsibility of finding things to do. It also makes it easier for others to accept when you really don’t mind what is planned for the next day.
But Roll With It
Delays happen. Venues are closed. The place that was peaceful at sunrise is packed by ten. Channel your inner sunshine and make the best of it, or pool your resources to make a decision on how to move on. And remember you can laugh at it later. If you want to laugh in horror or empathy at my more interesting moments on the road, I’ve shared my epic travel fails here.
Be real With One Another
Feeling blue for no reason? Something stressing you out? It’s worth being honest when you’re unhappy, even if you don’t know why. A good travel companion becomes great when they listen, adjust and give you a hug if you need one. Soldiering on isn’t always the best idea. Get it out in the open, and move on.
Stretch Your Horizons
There are many, many things I would never have tried without travel companions urging me on. Whether it’s a big hike, a small and strange club or an adventure of your choosing, it’s good to have people with you who give you confidence to achieve something new. Great companions will stretch your horizons without encouraging you to do anything you may later regret.
Share Your Enjoyment
There are so many reasons we all travel: enjoyment, learning, experiences. So don’t hold back on sharing that good stuff. You want to be the person who celebrates all those brilliant things you’re experiencing on the road. Enthusiasm is contagious. Those moments where the world trundles happily in its orbit are your future treasures. Cherish them while you’re on the road.
Be The Best Travel Buddy
Dr Barton Goldsmith sets out the 10 ways to be a best friend here; they include being reliable, being supportive, being thoughtful and having your back. All apply equally to travel.
In my years on the road, I’ve had time to think about the best travel buddies I’ve found. I shared what I learned in 50 travel hacks from 50 years on the road. The more time I spend traveling, the more I appreciate how much your companions add to the trip. So bring your best self to the road, and choose your buddies with care for the very best adventures.
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