95% of my travels are solo. I’ve backpacked through parts of Central America alone, I did a road trip from Pennsylvania to Tennessee and back solo and I currently live in Costa Rica solo. I love solo travel because I can do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I love the independence and freedom solo travel offers.
However, some of my best travel memories – of walking along the windy beach on Chincoteague Island trying to find the infamous ponies, of catching the most beautiful sunset possible over San Juan del Sur, among others – are from the few trips I took with friends.
I’m lucky because my friends and I never fight. (Hopefully I’m not jinxing myself by writing that!) I have been best friends with my one friend for over 5 years and we met in Panama so we are both well aware of our travel styles and my other friend and I are essentially the same person, just a different gender.
Traveling with either one of them is usually easy. We know each other well enough to know when to back off, we typically want the same things out of a trip, and our travel styles compliment each other.
However, it’s all but guaranteed that there will be some sort of tension on a long trip, regardless of how much you like each other. You get tired or you get hungry (or both) and words come out in a tone you didn’t really mean or a missed bus puts you (both) in a bad mood.
When you’re traveling with a friend for the first time or about to embark on a long trip with a good friend, here are some suggestions for keeping the trip as stress and drama free as possible:
Be clear on expectations of the trip. What, exactly, do you want to get out of this trip? Do you want to see every possible site in the city or casually explore? Where do you want to go?
Be clear on travel style. Everyone has a different travel style. I would rather appreciate a few things than be rushed to see everything and I am much more of a night person than a day person. I’m low maintenance when I’m on the road. My friends are different. One wants to see everything in a day and the other wakes up at 6am each morning.
Find compromise. Before you even head out on the trip, start thinking about a compromise between expectations and styles. Can you spend one day casually exploring and the next racing from site to site? Can one relax while the other spends two hours getting ready to go out? Or maybe one of you stays in and goes to sleep early while the other parties until the morning.
Decide on a signal. Whether this is a code word or a gesture, figure out a way to alert each other to lay off. Sometimes you just need to step away and take a deep breath. This also works great to have a signal if one becomes uncomfortable in a public situation.
Plan time away from each other. If it’s just a weekend trip, no worries. But if you’re about to embark on a longer trip, having a sense of personal space is important. This could mean separate hotel rooms for a night, going out for coffee alone, or just taking some time to journal each morning poolside. It could also mean going off on your own to explore for a few hours, especially if you both have different ideas of what is considered fun.
Above all, remember to relax and have fun. The memories you make traveling with friends will last a lifetime and you’d be amazed at how much you learn about someone – even someone you think you already know – by traveling with them.
Have you ever traveled with a friend before? Tell me about your favorite memory in a comment below!