How to Travel With Friends (And Return Home as Friends)
Traveling has the power to create lifelong bonds between you and your travel companions.
It also has the potential to destroy friendships if they are not managed properly under the extreme stresses that traveling brings with it.
Tiredness, a lack of space from one another and an unwanted familiarity with each other’s bodily routines means small misunderstandings can escalate quickly and any problems will be greatly magnified and highlighted.
Here are some tips on how to travel with friends (and how to make sure you return home as friends):
Follow the Leader
When traveling in a group (regardless of the group’s size), it is natural for one person to take the lead role and be responsible for coordinating the group/what you’re doing.
Usually this ‘honor’ falls on the most organized person in the group, and although it can be nice taking the lead, always being ‘the leader’ can be tiring and mentally draining, so it’s a good idea if other people assume this role (and take on responsibility) every once in a while to give them a break.
Work Out Your Budgets
In my experience, the majority of disagreements will arise when two people’s budgets (or how much two people are willing to spend) differ.
I recall arriving in Bangkok in the pouring rain at 5am after a 16 hour bus journey and trying to find a hostel/hotel to stay in. After about 15 minutes of looking, we found one relatively cheap hotel to stay in, however one of my friends insisted we continued searching down the street for something cheaper. The other people we were traveling with weren’t happy about standing in the pouring rain and just wanted to go to bed.
I also remember when I was in Las Vegas, my friend and I were traveling to the other end of the strip. I wanted to take the bus, but my friend wanted to save a few dollars and walk for 40 minutes instead.
Small disagreements like this are bound to happen on any trip, but they can be minimized by having a discussion about everyone’s budgets and preferences beforehand.
Discuss Your Expectations
As well as discussing where you plan to travel to (i.e. which countries), you should also work out how you’re going to go about traveling. Will you be staying in hostels or hotels? Will you be eating at restaurants regularly, and if so, will you be splitting the bills or paying separately?
As well as this, you’ll need to discuss what each of you wants out of the trip. Do you want to spend most of your time in cities? Lying on the beach? Doing activities? Hiking through nature? Visiting museums? Partying in nightclubs? Exploring your spirituality?
The more questions of this nature you can answer before you leave the better, as it helps ensure you and your travel companions are all on the same page.
Spend Time Apart
Although the idea of traveling with other people is that you experience the world together, it is a good idea to spend time apart occasionally (even if just for a few hours).
After months of sharing the same room, their basic mannerisms and things they say may start to annoy you (without them even knowing it).
Luckily, traveling seems to naturally throw up these kinds of opportunities on a regular basis. Does your friend want to go swimming? Let them go without you and spend a couple of extra hours in bed. Do they want to visit an art museum that you aren’t really interested in? Take a walk around the city while they’re off looking at Rembrandt’s.
Then, when you all meet up later in the day (e.g. for dinner), you’ll realize that all those things that were beginning to annoy you were completely silly, and you’ll have a lot of interesting things to talk about.
Don’t Allow Problems to Escalate
It’s important to address any potential problems early on so that things don’t escalate into something much worse.
Oftentimes a person won’t even realize that they’re done anything wrong/created a problem, yet if you don’t say something your anger may build up and cause you to explode at a later date (making the situation ten times worse than it need be).
While traveling, one of my friends had more than his fair share of mash potato at dinner one night. One of the others guys he was traveling with didn’t take kindly to this, yet didn’t speak out about it. This annoyance bubbled inside him for the remaining three months of the trip and came out in small, crude ways. The original friend (i.e. the mash potato thief) was completely oblivious to his wrong doings, yet wasn’t sure why the second friend now seemed to resent him and why there was so much tension between them. A jokily said “Quit hogging all the mash potato!” would have resolved the situation instantly.
Relationships are a two-way street. Whenever you feel an argument or conflict boiling up, ask yourself whether you were as considerate as you could have been or whether you could have shown more patience in the situation.
After traveling for a while, you’ll be able to tell your travel companion’s mood and fatigue-level in an instant. If they’re tired and grumpy, it’s probably not a good time to bring up the fact that they were hogging the bathroom this morning.
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