When travelling it is important to choose your companions wisely to make the most of your experience. Certain travel companions can make even the worst experiences enjoyable and fun, whereas an unsuitable companion could make your entire trip a nightmare. It is not so much about “good” travel companions or “bad” ones, but instead finding peope who have a similar mindset to you. It is important to travel with people who have the same intentions from the trip as you do, whether it be travelling on a tight budget or catching the touristy sites.
Here are five examples of different travel companions you may have to choose from on your next trip.
When travelling around the world, it is inevitable you will run across other travellers or backpackers who seem to want nothing more than spending every night in a bar. Their entire trip consists of consuming countless amounts of alcohol and leering at anything that walks. By day they venture outside, in dark sunglasses, to take photos of themselves in front of tourist sites, which are immediately uploaded to Facebook as their new “DP.” They will then talk incessantly about all the countries they have “done” (what does it even mean to have “done” a country?). If this is how you would like to travel then that’s fine, more power to you. But if it is not, then it is probably wise to make sure you are not travelling with someone who is. I was living in San Francisco for a while when one of my best friends came and visited me on his way to Europe. This was fine, only he brought with him a friend who wanted nothing more from his trip than to see the sites, take as many drugs as possible, and sleep with as many women as he could. After three weeks of misogynistic comments, whirlwind expeditions to tourist icons, and 21 days of straight drinking, it was too much, and I had to move on before we killed each other. The moral of the story is make sure you all agree on what sort of experience you would like to have beforehand to make to avoid later disagreements.
Though it may not seem like a huge issue beforehand, money can end up becoming a huge issue as you travel, especially if one of you has a lot more than the other. The problems which arise can manifest themselves in many different ways. Firstly, if one of you has significantly more money and therefore more relaxed about spending it, the other party can, in trying to keep up, spend all their money way too fast and go broke early into the trip. However, intense budgeting by one party and not the other can also lead to conundrums. Whereas one person may think nothing of paying $50 to go to a museum or go to a fancy restaurant, for the other person that could be three days budget, thus causing tension and a divergence in what both parties want to do. If one does go broke, the other person can always support them, but in all honesty it is not an ideal situation and will probably lead to further problems in the future. It again comes down to knowing what you both expect from the trip before you set off. If one of you wants to backpack and travel to a tight budget and the other wants to have a more luxurious time abroad, then it probably isn’t going to be an ideal combination. I would definitely recommend travelling with people who have similar finances.
Best Friend/Good Friend
Travelling with your best friend can either be the best thing you ever do or the worst. The bonus of venturing off with your friend is that you are already intimately acquainted with each other and probably have similar ideas concerning what you want to get out of your trip (you’re best friends, right?). There is no greater feeling than sharing the fantastic experiences you are having with someone you know well and are close to. A friend can make bad times bearable with humour and sympathy that strangers aren’t eligible or able to give. Whether you’re stuck in an Indian hotel bed,vomiting after eating some bad yoghurt or crying after having your wallet and camera stolen in Peru, you will definitely appreciate having you friend with you. But travelling with a close friend can either make or break a friendship. Those “quirky” parts of your personality can, after weeks or months together, become sources of intense, irrational frustration. The important thing to do if you are consistently at each other’s throats is to take a few days off and spend some time with other people for a while. After some time apart you will probably be looking forward to seeing each other again and even have some new stories to share with each other. I have friends who went on a RTW trip together and came back even closer than when they left, and some friends who after hiking across Spain have barely spoken to each other again. Travelling with a close friend is a gamble, but if you can pull it off it is well worth it – especially for your first trip away when they can make the chaos around you seem a little less daunting as you tackle it together.
Travelling with a partner is similar to travelling with a closer friend, only more intense. As a couple you will share the most beautiful and awe inspiring aspects of travelling as well as the most challenging and difficult ones. It is how you react to the situations that dictate how your experience will be – and probably will be a good indicator as to your long term compatibility as a couple. I remember being wrongfully arrested in Nepal. Together my girlfriend and I worked frantically as a team to see the chief of police and do whatever we could to get out of prison. It was a bonding experience like none other and really makes you appreciate each other as you work toward your freedom. Likewise, when you are sick, it is exceptionally pleasant to have someone there to hold your hand and tell you it will all be okay. The downside of travelling as a couple is that you can at times become such an insular little group that you miss out on meeting many new people that you would otherwise meet when travelling alone. However, this doesn’t have to be the case as long as you are both willing to occasionally spend time apart and make an effort to interact with others. I personally have had some of my best adventures with a girlfriend, from driving a van around Northern Australia to hiking in the Himalayas. As long as you are both compatible before the trip and retain the ability to be flexible and communicate freely, travelling with a partner can be an amazing and rewarding experience – and one you will talk about for years to come.
I personally think there is no greater way to travel than alone. There seems to be a common misconception that travelling alone is lonely. Nothing could be further from the truth. Being a solo traveller is the most empowering endeavour you can ever embark upon. It thrusts you out into the unknown and with no one else to rely on but yourself. You are forced to navigate your way around completely foreign landscapes, be it in the wilds of Africa or the huge concrete jungle of Los Angeles. You have to find a way to make friends, get to know a location, as well as live to a budget, all the while battling jet lag, bank woes (they are inescapable), and anything else that may be thrown at you. Though it may appear daunting at first, you are soon so immersed in the sheer beauty of life on the road that you wonder how you ever managed to lead such a closeted life back home. Being a solo traveller, you will inadvertently meet incredible people along the way to share experiences with. And even though you may head off in separate directions, you will often meet up again in a completely unexpected place or time. There is nothing I could recommend more than being a solo traveller. Be it on a RTW or even just a brief foray around your own country, you will come home with a confidence, surety, and mindset that can only be earned by embarking on a trip alone. It may sound cliche, but you will learn as much about yourself as you will about the places you visit.
There are so many different ways to travel, and in the end it is your adventure and is completely up to you to make the most of it.
Photo credits: Barnacles Hostels, all others courtesy of the author and may not be used without permission.