What to look for in a travel buddy

Last updated 12:08 22/08/2012

Destination is obviously a determining factor in the success of a holiday, but I'm going to throw it out there and say who you go with is on par with where you go.

Travel companions have the power to make or break a trip, and it can be difficult to know who will perform best under pressure.

I've heard of couples splitting up while travelling, families who have sworn off extended trips away after less than relaxing holidays, and groups who headed overseas as close friends and finished as less close friends/backstabbing, all-hating, "I can't even look at her, I don't want to talk to her ever again" acquaintances.

Nathan and I are shuffling around Europe on Busabout, so we're back in close quarters with other travellers and it's interesting to see how different OE formations work. Along with other couples and singletons, there are quite a few groups of friends, and they seem to provide the most drama.

One group of Australian girls in particular caught my attention on a trip to Amsterdam. I couldn't help but overhear (not eavesdrop on) a conversation that suggested they were on the path to citing irreconcilable differences with another member of the party. We're talking massive bitching here.

I can't really judge this group, I don't know whether or not the girl was actually trying to get into this guy they were talking about (I was overhearing really well at that point), but I'm sure it's common for one person in a travel group not to gel quite so well. 

I have no personal point of reference for long-term travel with friends, but from what I've seen it seems to be like flatting: people get irritated, and things get heated when you're with each other every day. Chances are you also discover traits about your friend that hadn't been quite so emphasised before. Has anyone been part of or seen friendships fail during travels?

As far as my travelling companion goes, I feel as though I've struck gold with Nathan. Despite a few minor dramas and Nathan's hobby taking nasty photos of me while I'm asleep, neither of us has jumped a plane back to New Zealand, local law enforcement has not had to break up any of our fights, and generally we're still laughing and enjoying each other's company.

On top of that, I've discovered that Nathan has hidden navigational talents. The notepad on his phone is full of "change to line 7 at Stalingrad", "Drive straight for 500m, take exit 63a" etc. I feel as though I should get him to sign him up for orienteering or something.

For me, often locationally challenged, map-reading is a top skill to bring to a travelling partnership.

Among the other things I'd look for at a travel buddy auction are:

- Impressive cooking skills

- Gift of the gab (say, when trying to talk your way out of a ticket on the Paris Metro)

- Non-snorers

- The ability to stay calm in stressful situations

- A large bank balance and a generous spirit (anyone who disagrees is lying)

What other qualities should people look for in a potential travelling companion?

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16 comments
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SR   #1   12:18 pm Aug 22 2012

Can't believe you didn't mention a sense of humor.

Fiona   #2   12:23 pm Aug 22 2012

I went travelling for two weeks around France, Italy and Croatia with a female friend and two guys we knew. We only agreed for the guys to come to share costs. They were an absolute nightmare. One brought three bags and spent the entire time being a know-it-all but never did anything he promised to. The other had no idea and just wanted us to do all the work so he could follow us around. However my friend was a fantastic travel partner - she had the really important ability to know when either of us needed space, so sometimes we did things together, sometimes alone.

gazza   #3   12:23 pm Aug 22 2012

the highest two on my list are:

1) Not a serial killer 2) Not a drug mule

KJ   #4   12:59 pm Aug 22 2012

I really enjoy your blog Amelia! Luckily my bf is very well travelled so he knows a lot about it and enjoys organising and taking me places. He's a relaxed, let's see what happens on the day and do what we feel like type traveller. Very easy going and polite to others. Makes for a great travel companion!

fairybread   #5   01:37 pm Aug 22 2012

@ #1 SR, yep, sense of humour and a laid-back attitude is definitely up there. Given that so often things can go wrong when you travel, having someone who is relaxed rather than stressed about missing trains, etc, is essential. I think just being understanding of each other is the most important thing. Even if one of you is a "take it as it comes' traveller and the other is a planner, as long as you can trust the other person, you can bring out the best in each other. The relaxed one can be relieved when the planner turns out to save them heaps of money and pack a lot into a day, while the planner can enjoy taking a chill-pill and relaxing without worrying.

JCC   #6   01:44 pm Aug 22 2012

Above all, you must be the same type of traveller: either you both love just cruising, leaving things up to chance, making no plans, or you both must love to be organised, with a clear idea of things to do, places to go and how to get there. One of each is bad news for everyone.

Travelling in a group only works if everyone is prepared to compromise, or do things separately. Trying to get a consensus on what to do or where to eat can be a nightmare, and people can get resentful pretty quickly if they feel like their wants/needs/ideas are always being ignored.

mt   #7   02:22 pm Aug 22 2012

Definitely someone with the same approach to time-keeping and organisation as you. I remember a colleague going on holiday for the first time with a new boyfriend. She wanted to arrive at the airport four hours before the flight, whereas he was a one-hour-before person. That relationship did not last.

Another couple of friends who travelled together had a great tip - they took turn about to have a day as their 'birthday' where each of them could choose the activities for the day and was generally made a fuss of.

Deb   #8   03:40 pm Aug 22 2012

Awesome blog entry, I agree with your list, and would add to the one about the gift of the gab is when to shut up. Sometimes you are both tired, hungry and have a lot way to travel before you can sleep or eat, and knowing when to shut up and carry on before you say something you don't mean is vital! This happened to me on the way home with my then boyfriend (now hubby), we couldn't change the situation and both shut up... After that I knew we were in it for the long haul (life wise that is). Can't wait to travel and see more of the world with him.

Brent   #9   04:48 pm Aug 22 2012

Travel buddy should be laid back, able to accept anything weird, potentially getting excitedly interested about it, but not absolutely freaking out because its different to what they think.

Travel buddy should be up for trying new things, all. the. time.

Travel buddy should be open/honest about what they want. Hate situations where "Well what do you want to do?", when answered turns into "No no, I don't like that. What else?". This type of person is incredibly annoying.

Travel buddy should not be evil, have a pleasant disposition, lack arrogance but make intelligent choices. They should be open to changing their plans, all. the. time.

Travel buddy should have strong stomach and be fit enough to do things like carry a backpack for 5km or hike up a mountain. Travel buddy should be incredibly good looking, which smooths many travel situations rather well yet sometimes causes problems with other travellers particularly in bars.

Preferably travel buddy knows at least 1 other language.

Sandra   #10   05:11 pm Aug 22 2012

Having a tight budget definitely adds stress, especially when going through an Eastern European winter :S One missed connection can mean no money for food at the other end, which most people would find a bit of a worry. I think good fore-planning and money saving is the best way to avoid travel related stress. That, and the ability to 'make friends' after a tiff :)


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