Traveling with other people has its perks: conversation, laughter, safety and people to share in the experience. For a trip to be enjoyable managing these relationships are essential. However, unlike a lot of traditional advice out there that focuses on trying to find the right partner by pairing you up with someone of similar needs, this is adventure travel, so seeing some things from a different perspective are essential to new experiences. Instead of an article about how to find the right travel buddies, here are suggestions on making any situation work (hint, it all hinges around good communication).
Odd Couples and Two Peas in a Pod
Likely, a travel companion will be with you 24/7 for the duration of the trip. The dynamics of personal interactions are very rich and people get along for different reasons. For some, they need their polar opposite to survive and someone like them will result in two magnets repelling each other. However, it is generally a good idea to know what types of activities your partner is into before the trip, so if you know you like to do endless outdoor activities, a buddy who wants to lay on the beach all day should be something the consider.
Recommendation: communicate beforehand on some of the things that you like to do. If you have similar interests, this will be easy. If you have someone who is different, agreeing on the compromises beforehand will reduce the chances of someone pouting later on.
Spend-thrifts and Penny Pinchers
Money is the number one reason for divorce and that is no different here. Money is a very powerful factor and the differences in the way we view money can cause some tremendous friction (even relationship ending friction). Also, we all have different jobs, so what might not seem like a lot of money to one person, could be a week’s pay for another.
Recommendation: in the planning stages, set budget expectations from everything from lodging to transportation to activities. Also, a clear and frank conversation about who is responsible for paying for what should be clear. Many times, people aren’t being disrespectful; they are just acting in the way they are. A clear conversation up front can clear up those friction points so you can enjoy the trip.
Night Owls and Early Birds
Staying out late night after night could become tiresome to the chronic early riser. And the break of day can be harsh on the nocturnal traveler. Some like to sleep and others like to burn the candle at both-ends. Over-compromising in one direction can absolutely inflame a trip experience for someone.
Recommendation: this is much harder to plan out beforehand, but with our general theme of communication, it is important to let your travel companion know when you’re getting burned out. If you and your travel buddy have different circadian rhythms, maybe a few days out at night until the sun comes up need to be offset by a few dawn hiking excursions or breakfast on the side of the cliff in the morning. I’m willing to wager that you’ll be grateful for the new experience.
What to you want out of this trip? Will it be spontaneous or more structured? Do you require alone time to recharge? Does your travel companion need an Internet café to check emails daily whereas you shut your phone off for the entire trip? How does your friend handle unforeseen problems that arise.
Recommendation: (This is becoming a theme) In the trip-planning phase, have a conversation about how you envision it playing out. If you are a person that likes a little alone time, say so in the beginning, so your travel buddy doesn’t think you just walked off because you’re pissed off about something.
Regarding planners versus free-spirits, here is a good time to establish some roles for the trip beforehand. Make the planner the “operational director” of the trip: they can direct their energies towards managing the reservations and all the logistical aspects of the trips that generally drive free-spirits crazy. However, the free-spirit types are usually really good at finding fun things to do or meeting cool people along the way. The planner needs to understand their role is limited to operations and often finds liberation in releasing the reins–they just have to agree to it beforehand.
Clingers and Static-Free
This is much harder to manage, as this usually isn’t about a personality-type and more about experience and fears. An independent, seasoned traveler will find that less-seasoned travelers will be counting on them for security and safety.
Recommendation: a little leadership by the seasoned traveler is required here. Again, communicate about this beforehand; when you’re out meeting people it is expected that you want a little space and encourage them to do so, too. However, don’t turn your eye on them and if you sense they are feeling uncomfortable, try to put them in a better situation. Many times, just a little push outside of a person’s comfort zone is enough to get them to see that it isn’t raining outside of the safety of your umbrella.
Interpersonal dynamics multiply the more people you have to deal with. The more people that you have, the more compromising and accommodating you’ll have to be at the behest of the group. Two people will be able to travel much faster as decisions aren’t made by committee.
Recommendation: two people traveling together is ideal, but if you are traveling in a group, more planning and communication on the all the above is key. When you are on the trip, the biggest killer of group cohesion is people talking and venting behind each other’s back. In the beginning, you should establish that all conflict will be handled in the open. Be sensitive when calling someone out on something and, when the group decides something you’re not in favor of, let it go. Compromise will break your way later on down the line. If you feel like your always on the losing side, speak up! Get it out in the open.
Also, be VERY careful with the number “three”. There is a clear and absolute majority in any decision. Someone could easily feel left out if they feel that there is a stronger or more symbiotic relationship between two other team members. Be sensitive of the “weaker” link and be especially mindful if one person is consistently being “out-voted” by the other two.