Solo travel offers the rare opportunity to see and experience the world entirely on your own terms — but it sure can get lonely. Group travel, meanwhile, brings old friends living in far flung places together for a special week of bonding (or partying) — but 10 competing ideas of where to eat each night does get exhausting. Let’s face it: Two people taking on the world together is often a magic number (think strolling the Seine in Paris, beaching in Rio or cruising Sydney Harbor with a best friend or sig other), but the potential hazards are numerous. It’s important to find a travel companion with their head and heart — among other body parts — in the right place. With that in mind, we looked at the anatomy of what makes for a perfect travel companion including five qualities to seek out — and one to avoid at all costs.
5 Key Traits of a Perfect Travel Companion
A Good Frame of MIND
Years ago, I had a nightmare experience visiting Fort Lauderdale with a friend who was tethered to his posse back home. So much so that he spent the entirety of our trip on his phone whining and complaining to them even though we were in a warm and sunny paradise. Travel is about leaving behind the world you know and surrendering to the unfamiliar and for whatever reason, this friend just couldn’t surrender to the right frame of mind to try something new. Choose a travel companion who is completely willing and able to step outside his or her comfort zone.
A Funny BONE
A couple years ago, a close friend and I decided to drive the entirety of Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles in a canary yellow Ford Mustang convertible. We both knew going into it that the 8-day, 2,200-mile trek would mean we’d be spending countless hours just inches from each other and worried we’d get on each other’s nerves. Instead, we spent the entire week laughing ourselves senseless thanks to the fact that we love to humor one another. With travel comes new wonders and potential misadventures — a sense of humor is crucial.
A HEART of Gold
If you’re doing the planning, it means you will also bear responsibility for room, flight and activity choices. So avoid traveling with someone who gets upset when the hotel pool isn’t heated to their liking. Case in point: Last summer a friend and I day tripped out to California’s Antelope Valley to visit an animal sanctuary. I didn’t call ahead and it was closed when we got there, but my forgiving friend shrugged it off and her lust for adventure led us to the “Musical Road,” a stretch of pavement that plays the William Tell Overture when driven at 50 mph!
A Sight for Sore EYES
Traveling with a companion puts us in close proximity with them almost 24/7. One way around this is to schedule individual time, especially where tastes differ. In other words, it’s okay to visit the MET alone while your pal spends the afternoon shopping 5th Avenue. In 2008, for example, a friend and I road-tripped to the charming town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I was on assignment; he was tagging along. We parted ways one afternoon so I could sightsee while he lounged, but we were thrilled to see each other that night and swap solo stories over dinner.
BLOOD, SWEAT and TEARS
The farther you go from home, the more exciting — and complex — a trip gets. An African safari? A Machu Picchu hike? A drive around Iceland’s Ring Road? These are all once-in-a-lifetime adventures, but also ones that require a ton of arduous planning around airfare, lodging and activity costs, scheduling multiple flights, booking tours, arranging for ground transport and acquiring passports, visas and other paperwork. If your companion is unwilling to handle her share of the workload, do yourself a favor and book an all-inclusive beach vacation instead.
1 Danger Sign …
Americans traveling abroad often forget we’re ambassadors of our country. We’ve all watched in horror as fellow Americans made fools of themselves, and by extension all of us, in foreign countries. Ever notice how Canadians make sure their country’s flag is prominently displayed on their backpacks? They do this for a reason. It might be fine to let your obnoxious friend shoot his mouth off in private, but if this same dude is prone to racial, ethnic and religious insensitivities, leave him at home in Sheboygan while you visit Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall.
Think you have the traits of the perfect travel companion? Let our Roaming Gnome know, he’s currently on the hunt for his next travel partner to accompany him on the trip of a lifetime!
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