Traveling with a buddy or significant other can be a Dickensian pursuit: the best of times, the worst of times (sometimes simultaneously). The fact of the matter is that constant exposure to anyone, even someone you care for dearly, can become supremely annoying surprisingly quickly.
You’ll likely be eating the majority of your meals together, possibly sharing the same room or even a bed each night, seeking out entertainment and activities together. It gets to be a 24/7 pairing quicker than you’d imagine.
Accordingly, you’ll have a front row seat for your buddy’s living habits, anxieties, expectations, energy levels, everything – and your buddy has the same level of access to your idiosyncrasies as well. It’s an intensely personal interchange (yes, even for couples that’ve been married for years).
Keeping the peace and enjoying one another can require effort, especially on longer shared trips. Consider these ten things to develop and maintain a positive relationship with your travel buddy:
1. Discuss expectations and align your travel style, budget and schedule.
Before traveling with someone new, it’s a good idea to speak on the topic of your expectations for your trip together, no matter how long or short it may be.
If you’re a cold shower/street food/local bus budget traveler, you’ll need to discuss your style and budget with your boutique hotel/Michelin Guide restaurant/car service travel buddy and consider what it may mean to pair off together for a trip.
Also, agree upon a type of itinerary that fits you both as well. If you move fast (1-2 nights in each place, overnight buses and trains, booking travel same day) and your partner likes to settle in (3+ nights in each town, plan each step), schedule will need to be discussed in order to find a rhythm.
2. Plan to spend time apart.
The number one thing that will drive a wedge between two travelers is if they spend every single moment of every day together. My stories may start to sound stale, your dietary restrictions may begin to grate on my nerves, etc. Split off for a few hours or even a full day and come back with some new energy. You don’t need to spend every waking minute together – in fact, it’s often just the opposite.
You have a clean pair of socks, and I’ve just announced that I’m down to crunchy repeats from last week. Help me out!
You know there’s only 10 minutes worth of warm water at the guest house. Let your buddy shower first, and don’t make yourself into a martyr when you wind up with the tail end of the hot.
I brought a jacket onto the overnight bus, and they’re cranking the AC (often for no reason). You didn’t manage to get warm clothes out of your pack before it got tossed into the hold. Time to turn my jacket into a blanket for two.
Oh, and give me a bite of that, it looks delicious!
4. Don’t keep score.
Splitting checks at restaurants and lodgings with your travel buddy will never get down to a zero sum game, but who cares. Try to be honest and forthright about the balance of cash spent, but don’t waste too much time on accounting. You pick up lunch, I’ll buy the bus tickets. This is far easier and faster than trying to produce exact change at every transaction, especially in countries where breaking the equivalent of a US $10 bill is of equivalent difficulty to splitting the atom.
5. Be flexible.
Choices will have to be made along your route, and you won’t always get exactly what you want (same goes for your buddy). Try to look for the best in any given situation and be ready to shrug things off if they’re not ideal, and remember that sometimes inconveniences and reactionary planning leads to good things. Your route and schedule is just a rough outline and should always be considered as such.
6. Followers: don’t complain. Leaders: be sensitive to others’ needs.
If you are a person that would rather follow than lead, know that if you choose not to participate in the decision making and route planning process, you don’t have a right to complain when you don’t get what you want. On balance, if you’re a domineering travel leader and planner, be sensitive to what may be your buddy’s comparatively understated needs.
7. Check in with one another throughout the trip.
And are my habits annoying you, or are the choices I make of restaurant/lodgings bothersome? Maybe we should talk about it and iron things out. I like to think that if I approach my buddy in the spirit of truth, we can work through whatever needs discussion. It’s a lot better than letting wounds fester.
8. Travel at the pace of your collective health.
If your buddy is complaining of injuries, is falling ill or is exhausted from long travel days, you might need to take care of them or slow down a bit. Don’t push it out of fear-of-missing-out. Health comes first.
9. Know that each new stop can mean a new perspective.
There’s no reason you can’t start a bit fresh with one another in each new place you visit. Let the slate wipe itself clean (as best you can) when you pack the bag and move from A to B. This works better than you’d imagine, and it’s fairly automatic.
10. It’s not a war crime to part ways for days at a time, or longer.
I’ve seen travel buddies split ways for multiple days or even weeks at a time on trips, only to reunite later at a set date at another destination. If you’re so exasperated that you’re about to strangle your buddy (or them you), consider this slightly more drastic option. It’s better than pretending like nothing is wrong and potentially damaging a friendship. If you plan to propose days (or longer) apart, make sure to approach your buddy with sensitivity to their feelings – this might not have been something they were planning for.
Remember, the goal of traveling with a buddy isn’t “to put up with one another at all costs” – it’s to enjoy yourselves and to share experiences in a positive way. Act accordingly!