How to Identify the Right Travel Companion
Sometimes your travel partner can make or break a trip
Put quite simply: some people travel better than others. Some people get stressed and overreact in taxing situations (which can happen a lot when you travel internationally in a foreign country) and some are more easy going. You probably want the more easy-going type to travel with, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t travel with someone who is type-A or high strung. Just being prepared and having an expectation of what you’re getting yourself into can make all the difference.
Some friendships may be put in jeopardy if you’re not careful of who you pick to travel with.
This last big international trip that I took with my girlfriend Michelle made me realize that it really does matter who you travel with, and sometimes you need to be a little selfish and do some self-reflecting before making the decision to embark on a big trip with someone you’ve never traveled with. In my case, traveling with Michelle made me realize that there are certain traits about a friend or a spouse or significant other that are necessary for a good trip. I completely lucked out traveling with Michelle—which was not a surprise to me at all since she’s just an all-around incredible person—but there were a lot of reasons that trip worked out so well and her constant positivity, easy-going nature and love of just doing everything really amounted to being a perfect travel companion.
Thankfully, my husband is also an easy traveler and a total trooper when we travel... I sometimes drag him around by the nose and he oftentimes does things he doesn’t want to do to make me happy (what a good husband, right?), though he usually ends up enjoying it in the end. But if you are dating someone or maybe you’ve never done any major traveling with your spouse or significant other, you may want to think long and hard about whether or not a trip will do good or bad things for your relationship.
Sometimes it can make you stronger. Sometimes it can ruin a relationship. Just be sure you are prepared going into it.
I've been lucky to have several great travel companions over the years. My longtime friend Lacey has the same case of wanderlust that I do, and has been known to agree to a trip at the drop of a hat, one time flying to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with only a couple days notice and staying for only one night. And our trip to Morocco together was one that I'll cherish for the rest of my life. We've known each other for more than two decades though, so we already know each other's quirks and traits. If you're embarking on a journey with someone whose idiosyncrasies you haven't had time to understand yet, that's when you might encounter some trouble.
And I also can't leave my business partner out. I'm lucky enough to have taken a lot of trips (both domestic and international) with my partner Earl, who is a lot like my husband in that he is pretty easy going and will go along with most of things I propose. We have the same interests (golf, food & wine, adventure, hiking, etc.) so that's one of the many reasons we're so compatible both in business and travel.
However, this post wouldn't be realistic if I said all of my travels have gone without any issues. I’ve also experienced some trips where things didn’t go as smoothly and I think perhaps it’s because of character traits, expectations and attitude that maybe they didn’t go so well. So with that said, here are some of the things I have learned over the years about choosing the right travel partner:
1. You must be compatible
This seems like an obvious one, but if you’re thinking about going on a big trip with someone, you should both have similar interests. Your likes and dislikes don’t have to be the same with regard to things like food choices or sleep schedules but you should at least have a desire to do the same things. If you’re super active and want to spend the trip walking around, hiking, doing yoga, or doing activities like scuba diving, sky diving, paragliding and skiing or snowboarding, then someone who just wants to lay on the beach all day or sit in the lodge is probably not going to be a good travel companion. And although I said food likes don’t matter, you don’t want to sign onto a traditional Moroccan meal in the middle of the Sahara desert if your partner is vegan. Pick excursions where you are both enjoying that activity and restaurant reservations where you can both eat the food. If you want a relaxing vacation where you lay on the beach and do spa days, and your friend wants to go out and party all night, that might not work out so well.
2. You must be on the same page
This might also seem like a no-brainer but often times people don’t think about it. You and your travel companion need to either have an understanding of what your intentions are going into it or have a discussion beforehand. Are you on the same page regarding the budget? Do you have the same viewpoints regarding finances (e.g., are you okay just splitting everything or does one person want to pay for everything and then add it up at the end for reimbursement)? Do you both want to stay at high end hotels and eat fine dining or do you want to travel on a budget. Maybe you want to do a bit of both but need balance. All of this is fine as long as you are both wanting the same thing.
There’s that well-known phrase that goes something like: “People are always normal until money is involved.” That could not be more true when it comes to travel. So be sure to discuss prices and costs of hotel reservations, excursions and dinners ahead of time unless you want to have to fight about it later. Traveling with someone who has similar means (whether it’s a lot or a little) can make this process a lot easier; it’s when there’s an imbalance that it may become difficult. Again, I completely lucked out traveling with Michelle because she was up for anything, and the budget for her didn’t matter. But that hasn’t always been the case with my travels, so trust me when I say that it can put a damper on a trip sometimes.
Talking specifically about spouses, you also have to be on the same page when it comes to trip costs and money. I have a friend who intentionally chose her honeymoon destination to an all-inclusive resort because she knew that if her husband had to even think once about money on their honeymoon that it would ruin their vacation. And they’ve since taken vacations where the amount of money spent was a constant fight. So if you’re in one of those relationships where your partner is not on the same page with you about money, perhaps consider traveling with a friend instead. Or be very thoughtful about the type of trip you take with your partner.
3. Be sure they are a positive person
This, among other things, is probably the primary reason that I found Michelle to be the best travel partner a girl could ask for. She was super excited about everything we did and I found that excitement to sometimes be my drive for the day. Seeing her so happy and so stoked on life made everything that much more fun. And don’t get me wrong: I was having just as much fun. But it was almost as though my high was quadrupled because of her high on life and how much fun we were having.
No matter what happened—even if we encountered a bump in the road—Michelle managed to stay upbeat and find the good in the situation. I found this to not only serve as a reminder to myself to try to not let the small things bother me, but it just plain made the travel in general so much easier. I found myself trying to be more positive, even if I wasn’t feeling great or if something wasn’t going our way. I have unfortunately traveled with people in the past who—probably because they have their own shit going on in their lives—were not as positive and ended up being total downers. I’ve even been that person before. And it really is a recipe for disaster if you’re traveling abroad—particularly if you are traveling with someone for the first time. So if you can try to stay positive, that too can even rub off on your travel partner and make for a better trip.
So with that said, I’m curious—what are some good and bad experiences you’ve had with a travel partner? Any tips or advice that you think I should add to this topic? I’d love to hear. Shoot me an email and I'll add them to the list.