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Many years ago as we embarked on a backpacking adventure, my travel companion’s exact words were, "It’s just like a marriage.”
She had successfully negotiated through previous long journeys with other friends, so I took her advice to heart (as this was a new experience for me).
There are a few foundational practices, essential to staying friends while being attached at the hip for a month or multiple months of travel with someone.
Get clear on what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. Rely on each other’s strengths. If navigating new ground isn't your strength then don’t insist on being the one to find the hotel at 11PM in a city of a few million people. Use your gifts to help make the trip better, and let your travel partner do the same.
Step out of your comfort zone, yet be clear about your boundaries. If you absolutely do not want to go bungee-jumping, don’t. If it’s someone else’s dream, offer to cheer them on. If you really want to try roasted beetles, go for it! If your friend refuses, respect that and move on. There are plenty more adventures ahead to enjoy together.
Find small certainties within the chaos. Arriving somewhere new, navigating an unfamiliar language, figuring out transportation systems, may leave you feeling uncertain and overwhelmed. The ritual that kept my travel buddy grounded was a quiet morning java. When I was hungry finding an eatery became our priority. Long term travels can make you vulnerable to impatience and fatigue. Take an honest look at yourself and identify one or two simple rituals that help you keep grounded.
It’s okay to spend time apart - an afternoon exploring on your own, talking to new people, doing different things. A little pre-planned, cordial time apart might be the exact thing that helps you be at your best together.
Laughter has saved many a relationship. Take yourself less seriously and recognize when your travel partner is trying to lighten the mood. Don’t be afraid to let go and be goofy together. Especially when something goes sideways- that’s when you're likely to realize how ridiculous it is, and the result can be tears-rolling-down-your-cheeks funny. Go with it.
My travel buddy’s words “It’s just like a marriage” were spot on. We were respectful of each other’s idiosyncrasies. We made darn sure morning coffee and was a priority, and we stayed extra days in Monte Carlo so I could see Alexander Godunov perform. We asked for directions all of the time as neither of us were exceptional map readers. We were a brilliant Team on an adventure filled with laughter. To this day we remain friends . . . and are both avid travellers.
If someone you know is heading out on a l-o-n-g trip together, please share my friend Janine’s words of wisdom . . . “It’s just like a marriage.”
By Diane Manson
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