Choosing the perfect travel partner(s) - why your best friend might not be the ideal candidate

2018-10-31 19:00 - Marisa Crous
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Personally, I have always preferred travelling solo. You can be impulsive, do what you want to do, whenever you feel like it. 

Though, there are some drawbacks, such as periodic loneliness. You see something beautiful and awe-inspiring, but there is no one with you to confirm that, yes, it is in fact there, and wonderful. And not just early onset dementia.

Travelling with people can be great, however you just need to know what and who you are letting yourself in for when choosing partners or agreeing to travel with others. 

READ: Discover SA's less-explored road-trip wonders of the Free State 

Are you a leader or a follower? Are you one who retreats after a day, needing some 'me time' or do you feel most alive when with others?

These are all questions to consider, as travelling could test your relationships, even with those closest to you.

Dealing with challenges like catching trains, planes, negotiating, conflicting interests, and deciding what to see in a big city when you only have 48 hours, can take its toll. 

Potential partners: Pros and cons

The best friend

I've never wanted to share a flat with my best friend. For the same reason that many couples break up after moving in together, I was sure overexposure would tear us apart. 

But a few years ago we decided to travel together to Mozambique for a week. It ended up being an incredible experience. Mainly because we had the same goals: eating prawns, drinking wine, and chilling on the beach. 

If you have the same goals as your bestie, as in what you plan to get out of a trip, I say go for it. But if your bestie loves museum-hopping and seeing historical sights while you are more interested in sitting in coffee shops reading and people-watching all day, then maybe you need to reconsider. Or come up with a compromise beforehand.

Maybe each of you can be in charge of planning a few days; that way you both win. 

The friend you only see in social situations

Some friends are not meant to be travelled with. You love them, adore them, but when you think about it, you have mostly been in each other's company during 'good times'.

You drink wine together, go to festivals together and go for dinner, but you haven't struggled together, planned and reacted on the fly to situations like "We have 10 minutes to make this train!" And it's 35°C, and you have a whole kilometer to run. Uphill.  

That stuff tests relationships like a mother. 

READ: What's it really like to go on one of those package deal holidays? 

The person you meet at the backpackers

Sometimes, travelling with people you don't know can be unexpectedly beautiful. Why? Firstly, you are both staying at a backpackers, so it's fair to say you can rough it. Which, when travelling, means the most. 

Secondly, not knowing each others irritating habits (yet) could make for an interesting journey of discovery. Getting to know someone from scratch as you experience new things could lead to a life-long friendship. 

The colleague

When travelling for work, you often won't have the luxury of choosing your travel partner(s). They might be direct colleagues or someone in the field attending the same event or conference as you. Either way, you'll end up together as you're both the South African representatives. 

If you're staying at the same hotel, be sure to have breakfast together every morning. This is a good time to suss each other out, your plans for the day, and whether you have the same idea of how to spend any free time you might have in this new city. 

If your travel philosophies don't align, go it alone. Or opt to do a few things together and spend the rest of your time wandering alone. 

The family member

I love travelling with my brother, especially as he can easily manoeuvre around almost every city, effortlessly. You are just along for the ride, which is sometimes kind of nice. And he knows all the best places. 

READ: Cheese, bougainvillea and slow living in the Great Karoo 

But travelling with family can also have its drawbacks. Tensions run high, we become irritable, and because they're your family, you show your true self at all times. Not always advantageous for all.

So here are your options: 

a) Agree to disagree. Particularly with a very domineering member of your family, who, perhaps, you didn't choose to travel with, but ended up together with as, say, you were invited on a big family reunion trip. Sacrifice and deaden the side of yourself that has an opinion, and go along with what they want for the sake of keeping the peace.

b) Come up with a plan beforehand. Even if you do get along with this family member, decide what you guys want to do when you get to a city or island, giving each other feedback on what you'd really like to see, do and experience vs. what you're not keen on. This way you both know what you're in for, and can proceed accordingly.

c) Bail. Just. Don't. Do. It. If you know there is no way it'll work for you, avoid it at all costs. 

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