I absolutely respect people who can travel alone; I’m just not one of them.
Sure I’ve had a couple of trips where I’ve jumped on a plane with no one to hold my hand, but I’ve always met a tour group or some friends who have opened up their houses for me at the other end.
For me, I like to have someone to share the memories with and give me a hug when I see something I don’t like. Now this could be anyone – a friend, a family member, your other half or simply someone you got chatting to in the queue to board, but I’m lucky enough to have found my travel buddy in WouldBeTraveller Husband, or Tim as I should really call him. We’ve been on tens of trips together (I wish I could say hundreds) and I now can’t imagine going away with anyone else.
But it’s not always easy to find the right person to travel with. I’ve met countless people who say “we don’t travel well together” about their best friend, or “I could never go abroad with him!” about their brother, so what should you be looking out for in your travel companion?
It’s good to have similar interests meaning that you absolutely don’t have to traipse after them around an art gallery when you’re far more interested in what it looks like from the outside and then want to go for a beer. Instead, Tim and I both know we’re going to enjoy an open top bus tour to get our bearings in a new city and plan the rest of our trip based on what we liked the look of. And we follow quite a typical pattern on these – Tim listens intently to the facts from the audio guide while I switch it to Spanish mode and realise I haven’t learnt anything at all as I’m desperately trying to pick out facts I understand. The truth is, we enjoy the same things in very different ways, and that’s a great aspect of travel companionship.
Conversely, we also have dissimilar interests. Descending into the depths of a cathedral in Vienna to mingle with the dead did not sound like my idea of a great day out, but Tim has always been intrigued by catacombs so I was willing to try. And do you know what? I really enjoyed it! There were some parts I couldn’t look at (the window through to the strewn about skeletal remains of the Black Plague was particularly harrowing), but walking through the tunnels guided by a man who reminded me far too much of the shopkeeper in Frozen was fascinating. Had Tim and I not had dissimilar interests, I may never have been there so I was grateful for the opportunity to try something new.
Patience is a virtue, and this is no more true than when travelling. Of course, unexpected delays can happen, and they’re not always your fault, but what about the delays that are? I’m not ashamed to say it (though I probably should be) but I have an incredibly weak bladder, which means that a lot of our day can be spent trying to locate a toilet. Tim, bless him, never complains. At the same time, I have a set selection of souvenirs I like to pick up from each destination. As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s pretty difficult trying to find a Christmas decoration in Morocco in the middle of September, but Tim has the patience to let me try.
Being caring is probably the thing I am most grateful for in a travel buddy. I still get nervous when I fly, and Tim can sense that a mile off, reaching out to grab my hand and kiss my forehead before I even realise I’m scared. Similarly, when a trip to an elephant
orphanage tourist attraction in Sri Lanka left me in tears, Tim was ready with a hug and the promise that we would get to see them in the wild one day, where they belong. And he kept his promise.
Despite the excitement of seeing new places and the escape from every day life, travelling can be hard and stressful. As I’ve mentioned, delays are all too common and you might be left stranded for days. Who would you want by your side in these situations? Someone you occasionally enjoy a beer down the pub with (your fair weather friend) or someone you’ve faced challenges with before and got through them together? Even after long delays at Copenhagen airport when all we wanted to do was sleep, Tim ands I bonded over a bag of maltesers thrown to us by the apologetic easyJet staff. If I was with anyone else, I think I’d have lost my rag.
Perhaps the most important trait of a good travel buddy is open-mindedness. I’ve come across far too many people who travel to Marbella to top up their tan and drink piña coladas. Every year. They only eat pizza in the all you can eat restaurant and turn their noses up when offered anything slightly ‘foreign’. The fact they’re eating pizza doesn’t seem to have sunk in… I love that they’re enjoying themselves enough to go back each year, but I would prefer to travel with someone who is willing to try that bizarre looking egg bowl from a local restaurant or take part in a tribal fire dance in a village hall, because that’s the beauty of travel. You can try new things and witness how other cultures enjoy life. There’s more to travel than the poolside.
It’s all of these things that makes me sure I’ve found the ideal travel companion and I hope you can find your very own one day too. (Unless you’re good travelling solo, and if you are, don’t let me stop you!)
What other traits do you look for in the person you travel with? Do you think you’re a good travel buddy?