Anatomy of a Great Travel Partner
I used to be one of those people who kind of preferred traveling alone. Planning a trip with other people would give me so much anxiety, let alone being on the trip! We have all been in a situation where differing personalities and the stress of traveling initiates unpleasant feelings between you and your companion(s). But it turns out there is a formula for being good travel partner that I have noticed in more recent years.
My partner and I took our first trip together about 6 months into dating. I was nervous, we both were. That trip was a bit of a test for our young relationship and I knew that the necessary coordination and potential stress of a vacation could be very telling about our future together. The trip turned out to be incredibly relaxing and convinced us both of our compatibility. I was surprised at how we actually made the entire process easier for each other than it would have had been had we been solo. But after all it should be easier together if you're properly sharing the work and the fun!
Since then we have traveled many countries together and our travel rhythm only becomes more and more fine tuned. I realize now that it just takes the right balance of attitudes and a bit of structure that makes a perfect travel pairing. Here are some of the keys I find make for an excellent travel relationship!
We all know the saying "opposites attract", but when in a foreign place (or any unknown or stressful situation for that matter!) those differences can sometimes cause a bit of friction. When picking a travel partner it's important you both can embrace each others differences and play to each others strengths. My sister and I are perfect examples, we have many opposite personality traits. Most notably she is spontaneous while I like a solid plan. On our sister trip to Costa Rica I made sure we got everywhere we needed to on time and she made sure I kept my eyes open and taking in the experience!
Communicating & Owning a Role
Communication is key. Once you are able to acknowledge your differences and strengths and communicate them you can then pick a role and stick with it. I have found it's when one person has more of the burden to keep manage the trip that conflicts flare up. But if the less fun parts of the trip are shared and each person owns their role then everyone can have fun.
I generally handle big picture pre-trip planning (e.g. how to get from place to place, check-in times, sights to see, budgets, etc), while my partner takes the lead on the day-to-day grind (pulling out cash, navigating streets, and any other spontaneous unplanned events). That's because I am good with details and plotting out logistics while he is great at thinking on his feet and under pressure (much like my sister!). By knowing I have a set role I am responsible it allows me to not stress in the moment and same for him. We balance each other out while not stepping on each others toes forming a well oiled machine of a travel team. And because we divvy up the responsibilities and know how to communicate it actually frees up and allows for flexibility if one of us needs support when the plan goes awry (as it always does on an adventure!).
I find it takes more compassion for your fellow traveler than you'd expect to avoid conflicts when on the road. This summer my partner exemplified that in the most profound way to me when my acrophobia reappeared and made me nearly hysterical while on a cenote diving trip. Instead of him becoming frustrated with me (which would have been a totally legitimate response), he was patient and kind which allowed me to find my courage and move past this fear with him by my side. Maybe your compassion comes up in smaller ways, like being more understanding when the other is slow to rise in the morning or one of you gets hangry all of a sudden. I find it is hard to find a downside to mustering just a bit more compassion in any situation.
Having Trust & Being Trustworthy
The most important trait for travel buddies it to trust one another. If you have trust that the other person to take on responsibilities you are on the right track to having a fantastic trip. It's an added bonus if you trust each others decisions. For example, when visiting Rome last year I was skeptical of going very far out of the city center to visit a single museum with no other attractions we were interested to see nearby... it didn't seem like an efficient use of time. But my partner was intent on going so I trusted his judgement and his taste and ended up LOVING the museum and experience as a whole. That museum, the MAXXI, is one of my favorites to this day!
acceptance + communication + compassion + trust =
a wonderful travel companionship!
And here you have it, a formula for a great travel partnership!
What do you think about traveling with others? Are you a solo traveler or do you like have a good partner? What other ingredients do you think make a good pairing? Let me know in the comments below!