The Perfect Travel Partner

MARCH 18, 2015


As a graduating law student, I am looking forward to taking my “Bar Trip”- a trip many law students take in the period between the bar exam and starting practice. I dread, however, the inevitable question that comes up when telling people about my plans: “Who are you traveling with?” Sometimes, this question comes in the form of a suggestion, as if the person were trying to really ask “Can I come too?” Other times it comes across as more of a concern for my safety: “You know your dad isn’t Liam Neeson, right?”

The truth is, though there are many people whom I enjoy spending time with socially, the number of people I believe would be good travel partners is limited. Lest I sound selfish, while it is true that the wrong travel partner can spoil a trip, what is more important is that a ruined trip can lead to a ruined relationship. With that in mind, here is a list of common travel companions and things to consider when deciding whom to travel with.

Friends:  There are a lot of reasons to miss the college days, but one I never took into account was how easy it was to plan travel as an undergrad. In college, my friends were all on the same schedule and on similar budgets. As we entered into the real world, lifestyles began to change and along with it, travel styles. There are the most obvious differences such as differences in budgets, but you can’t overlook other lifestyle changes as well. Does your friend have a high-stress job in a big city? She might want to spend her two weeks of vacation in a luxurious resort. Maybe the buddy that was always down for any trip now has to divide her time between visits home for the holidays and the four weddings she is attending this year. While “viva la différence” is generally a great motto to have when it comes to friends, be aware that when it comes to travel, differences in lifestyles can lead to resentment when neither party gets the vacation they wanted.

Parents: I get along great with my parents, and when I travel with them, I know I will eat well and sleep somewhere that doesn’t involve a bunk bed in a room full of strangers or a high risk of fleas. The downside is that at this phase of their lives your parents, quite understandably, might prioritize comfort over adventure. Thus, if you’re dying to backpack around the Andes for two months or party in Ibiza, and your Dad has been complaining about his back as of late, you’re likely not going to see eye to eye on the kind of trip you want to take. That being said, in my experience parents are much more willing to indulge your own personal interests. It can be hard to convince a friend to splurge on cooking classes or a hot air balloon ride, but often those are just the kind of experiences that parents are willing to go for.

Siblings: The good news about your siblings is that they’re pretty much obligated to keep you in their life no matter how annoying you may be. The bad news is that you’re pretty much obligated to keep them in your life no matter how annoying they may be. Seriously, the mantra “blood is thicker than water” works to the traveler’s advantage here. Even if you do have a big fight during your trip, siblings are more likely to just put everything out in the open and work through it. The last thing you want when traveling is resentment building up (ok, the last thing you want when traveling is a parasite from unwashed fruit, but pent up resentment is a close second). Siblings are much more likely to be straightforward with each other, even if it means a few hours of argument. If you can get over the hurdle of not having mom to referee each and every dispute, traveling with a sibling can be an amazing bonding experience, especially if you’re at a phase in your life where you only get to see them in a family setting during the holidays.

Significant Others: I’ve heard of studies that say that traveling together is an even better indicator as to whether a relationship will survive than cohabitating. Traveling is a great way to see how your significant other does in a new environment. Are they someone who needs to micromanage everything? How does that person react when confronted with lost luggage or a stolen wallet? Traveling together can be enlightening as to the state of your relationship, but be prepared to see a side of your significant other that you haven’t seen before. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised, or you may find yourself newly single. Either way, approach a trip together, especially if it’s your first, with an open mind.

Yourself: People are often surprised to hear that I love traveling by myself because most people are either scared to go somewhere unknown by themselves or are worried they will get lonely. In response to the first concern, traveling by yourself requires a bit more planning and diligence, especially as a solo female. Obviously it requires a lot of common sense safety precautions such as being extra careful when it comes to drinking, avoiding walking alone at night, or even picking your destination. It’s important to do your research beforehand to make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk. If you’re willing to put in the extra effort in planning, however, traveling alone can be a transformative experience. Being by yourself forces you to meet new people along the way, meanwhile giving you the flexibility to travel exactly on your own terms. Like traveling with a significant other, traveling alone teaches us things about ourselves we couldn’t discover in the routine of our day-to-day life.

Photo by Emily Long

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