What you need in a travel partner
Good travel companions are elusive but once you find them, you’ll want to hold on to them.
They’re a bit like underwear: they support you where necessary and help to keep everything together.
They might not necessarily be your close friends. I know some people who have travelled with their BFFs only to have major fallouts after getting into disagreements on the most trivial of matters.
Most of my trips have been solo ones, but once in a while, I travel with other people. If the company is right, group travel can be a wonderful experience. In fact, some of my most memorable trips have been with friends and family.
You can’t do much about your family but if you’re travelling with friends, the trick is to find the right kind of people to travel with. And by “right”, I mean the right person for you.
All a good travel companion needs to be is trustworthy, helpful and compatible with you. You don’t need to have known him or her for too long, although that might help.
If you are independent by nature and prefer to be by yourself, it makes sense to travel with an equally independent person. You would feel stifled travelling with someone who expects you to be by his or her side throughout the day.
On the other hand, if you prefer having a friend around you all the time, you’ll be better off travelling with someone who also likes company.
If you can’t avoid travelling with people with different interests, split up for the day.
I remember waking up early on a trip just to escape from a couple of friends. I had overheard them fervently discussing a shop-till-you-drop marathon the night before, so I decided to abandon them.
They were still asleep when I walked out so I left a note, complete with little hearts and kisses in an attempt to soften the blow, telling them that we could meet for dinner later.
We ended up having a great dinner and spent the evening sharing stories and telling each other what we did.
That would not have happened had either of us been forced to do something we didn’t want to.
Money is another factor. If you’re travelling on a budget, try to avoid going on trips with friends who travel lavishly. If you’re the odd one out, you’re going to feel frustrated if you have to spend more than you’re able to on accommodation and meals.
Likewise, unless you travel with an open mind and are willing to downscale, if you’re used to staying in luxury hotels, you probably won’t enjoy travelling with a group of budget travellers.
I once travelled overseas with a friend who bought so many souvenirs for herself — none of them were gifts — that she had the equivalent of only RM60 in her pocket halfway through our trip compared with the RM600 I still had.
We were both students at the time and didn’t have credit cards. I only found out about the money when she announced it at breakfast one day and casually mentioned that we had to go back. That was the first and last time I travelled with her.
On hindsight, I could have continued the rest of the journey alone but I was much younger then and never saw it as an option.
Nowadays, it is possible for someone to travel with a person they’ve just met. Many people have successfully found travel partners via social media networks and online travel forums.
When such an arrangement works, one’s circle of friends broadens dramatically. Many long-running friendships begin this way among travellers.
When the match doesn’t work, however, your trip could turn out to be a nightmare. For that reason alone, I have never travelled with a complete stranger. I prefer to know my fellow travellers first.
Over the years, I’ve learnt that a good travelmate listens to your ideas.
At the same time, he also speaks up when he’s unhappy about something, rather than agree grudgingly to your plans. When his frustration reaches boiling point and he finally explodes, that’s when it might be too late.
Above everything else, a good travel partner should be trustworthy, resourceful and willing to share tasks. The first quality is the most important to me. I need to be able to trust the person I’m travelling with.
When you find a travel companion like that, hold on to them and book them for your next trip.
*The original version of this piece appeared here.
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