Travel Buddies. My nick names for the friends and randoms I picked-up along my solo trip around the world. It was easier than ensuring everyone wanted their names in the daily newspaper of Bermuda, The Royal Gazette.
And it was also a term that could easily apply to people I met for lunch or someone I traveled with for a month. Often they would vary between these two extremes.
Who is it in the picture? Bond, Yes Thai Bond. Or at least that is what the jungle captain of Thailand fancied himself. He was fun. He led me and ten other travelers for three days through the jungles of Northern Thailand.
It was through this trek that I met two guys who I would take a four-day motorbike tour. Yes still in Thailand. They proved to be decent travel companions.
Which is why I wrote this recent column for The Royal Gazette. Travel buddies are hard to come by and even harder to keep. Travel is stressful. It can be more so than being at home. You need to find someone who can put up with you as much as you can put up with them.
Why it is important to choose your travel buddy carefully
By Robyn Skinner
|The author enjoys the view of all three pyramids in Egypt
Have you ever tried to live with a best friend? A grown-up sibling? A young sibling? Your parents after years of living abroad? You love them, right? (well we hope). It’s one thing to love someone. It’s another thing to survive situations that involve money, organisation and stress.
That means traveling. Yes, trips are not all roses. A bus ride that throws your head into the roof, two hours of sleep because someone downstairs decided to party the entire night and food that leaves you on the bathroom floor. Travel.
It can be a lot of fun, but it is also a heightened stress zone and if you pick the wrong travel companion, that will only increase. Whether it’s for a long weekend or a trip around the world, a travel companion can either add too or take away from your experience.
So an important part of travel is choosing someone. Here’s some tips:
One: Take a look at how you handle stress. I know I can’t handle anything when I get too hungry. I need to eat at regular intervals or everyone else will hear about it. I know I need a travel companion who cares about food as much as me. I also need someone who can keep a level head when I need to eat. What are your stresses?
Two: When I travel I want a little of everything: some history, a lot of the food, and some of the nightlife. What is your mixture? Are you a ruin-fiend? What about shopping? I hate shopping. If you’re a shopaholic we probably wouldn’t work as travel partners. When you figure out what you want from a vacation you need to ensure your travel buddy also knows. Then you can figure out a compromise.
Three: Maybe you went to nursery school with your friend. Maybe you borrow clothes and enjoy going out together. Maybe she’s the one you turn to when everything goes wrong. These are very different tasks from travel, so maybe she or he is just not the person to try to travel with.
Travel can require 24 hours together, sometimes in very close quarters. It requires finding a train station, in a different language, while ensuring your handbag doesn’t go missing. And what happens when you miss your train? Do you want your best friend who can sometimes be manic? Or someone who is level-headed? It also means if you start solo you will likely pick travel buddies on the same wavelength as you. Well.. ’cause otherwise they wouldn’t be in the hostel/Thailand/two-day slow boat to Laos.
Four: Money and budgeting. What do they say about money coming between friends? Well if you think figuring out the bill on a dinner out is tough, try sorting out every meal three times a day, the hostel and tickets for transport. It’s a headache. It’s a migraine when you’re on different budgets.
I love my friend Maria, but when she came to Buenos Aires she was on a week-long vacation. I had another two months of travel left. We had very different ideas of a hotel rooms. Luckily she’s generous and because she wanted luxury I got a free ride. But these are things that need to be discussed on any trip before you go. What is a hotel? (we’re talking hostel to five-star here. people have very different ideas). Where do you like to eat? Are food stands ok or do you need a sit-down restaurant? etc…
Which brings me to five: My favourite food. I am celiac. Anyone who travels with me has to be ready. But I also like spicy food. This caused a problem with one travel buddy who couldn’t handle a pad thai. His idea of food? A burger. Mine? A spicy curry. This might sound silly right now when you have to organise a dinner with friends once a week. But wait ’till it’s every day. You need to talk to your travel buddy and ask what they like to eat, whether they’re adventurous with their food and how you both see accommodating the choices.
Six: Food choices will obviously be influenced by the destination. Where do you both want to go? Does the idea of traveling through South East Asia sound good? Are you interested in staying in a resort or is visiting a ranch in Argentina more enticing? Both of you need to be honest about what kind of trip you want and where you want to go. This can require some research before having the discussion, but better now than separating in a Bolivian beer hall.
Seven: Length of stay: Even if you have a week to travel or five weeks, both of you may have a vision of how long you want to stay in a place. “No I want a week in Paris.” “Oh I was thinking of two days and then a visit to the Loire Valley.” Sort this out before you go. Talk about compromise and if you can’t….solo travel is great.
Eight: Is this a culture-crusade or an excuse for a party? While I was in Chaing Mai, Thailand, I shared a room with two Irish boys who spent their evenings drinking and their days sleeping. We barely made roommates let alone travel buddies. This will cause conflict and you both need to have a frank discussion about what you want to do. Are temples the only thing on your list? Well don’t go with someone who only has a passing interest.
Nine: Make sure you’re both ok with time spent on your own. Will the other person mind if you go home early from the bar and get up early for temple visits? Do you have to do everything together? Or will an entire day apart be ok? Some people will be up for this others will not. When I went biking with my travel buddy from California and another from Germany, California gave-up a quarter the way in. She didn’t mind that we continued which made life a lot easier for me.
Ten: What happens if something goes wrong? If you travel for long enough something will go wrong. Someone will get sick. The train tickets will go missing. Talk about possible challenges when traveling; i.e. a lot of ‘what ifs’. What happens if you get in a taxi that is sketchy? Do you have a warning signal that means you both jump out?
Good. That sorted. You are either travelling solo or with a companion. Either way…. you need to get off Bermuda.
Next week: The man in charge of this exact thing Aaron Adderley explains the day in a life as Manager at the L F Wade International Airport.