Sitting at the airport in Puerto Maldonado, I looked up and saw five 20 something girls, sitting in a circle, reading books, checking their phones, or journaling. They all seemed extremely content, so I have to admit, I kept watching them. Each had backpacks. And not the cute kind. So they were definitely backpacking through Peru, and each also had hiking boots. Hiking the Inca Trail? Visiting one of the Amazon biology stations? Did they know each other before they got their horrendous capris and high socks tan lines, or were they brought together by a shared experience?
They certainly seemed like they were good friends. One bought a small gift for each when she went to buy a water. Two clearly had no problems sitting draped over each other on the airport floor. But that really made me think, what 20 year old has four amazing friends that are willing to go so out of their comfort zone, train for some extreme hiking, and spend a decent chunk of money to be unshowered and together?
It sounds like a blast to me, but relationships like that are hard to come by. And they’re even harder when you factor in all the things that make traveling hard. Time pressures, skipped meals, jet lag, and just general lack of sleep. What had these girls still feeling happy to be together? My answer: They were good travel buddies.
I have been blessed by having very few bad travel buddies. There was a notable experience during my senior trip in high school, and a few smaller disgruntled sighs, eye rolls, and passive aggressive spats after that, but overall my experience has been hugely positive. I think it comes down to a really simple list of qualities that I look for when traveling with someone.
Things To Look For In A Great Travel Buddy
1. Complimentary Skills
It’s best if your skills compliment each other. I have zero understanding of any other languages, but a couple of my travel buddies are fluent, or at least passable in other languages. Some of my travel buddies are really thorough planners, where as I prefer to just go along with the ride. But some of my travel buddies cannot navigate a city if it killed them, I on the other hand can figure out how to get just about anywhere. If neither of you can figure out a foreign currency, you could be in for a rough trip. Ideally you should have a fairly full skill set between your travel buddy and you.
2. Balanced Routines
Another, often precarious, balancing act is when it comes to getting ready. I am a shower in the morning girl 100%. Two of my travel pals are shower at night girls. It’s great because we’re never fighting over the shower when we have an early morning ahead of us. One wants to sleep early, the other sleep late. Neither of us has to sacrifice staying up later, or getting up earlier to shower. It sounds simple, but it can really keep the peace on a long trip.
3. Ability to Pick Each Other Up
With so many activities being often even mildly strenuous, they start early and end late, and you’re filling your days with as many activities as you can, you need someone who can take turns being the optimistic one. Sometimes you’re stuck on a four hour adventure into the jungle, and one of you has had enough. This is the time where the other, no matter how they’re feeling, has to suck it up and tell your buddy, “we’re almost home, it’ll get better when we get there, and we can talk about how we hate everyone here once we close the hotel room door.” The best buddies do the same for you. There’s no use getting frustrated with each other, you don’t have room for that in a hotel room.
Your travel buddy has to be someone who you trust, and who you trust to take care of you. When you’re flying a lot, trying new foods, and putting your body under a lot of stress, your body is bound to fight back at some point. Sometimes this means really gross bathroom trips, sometimes this means demanding that a tour guide find water NOW, and sometimes it means making the hard choice between staying in the hotel with her for a day, or letting her stay alone. The other aspect of trust comes in here. If your buddy is telling you, “I’m okay, I just need to rest, go on ahead, I’ll stay here,” you need to know that they’re telling you the truth. When you’re in a foreign land, you only have each other. You have to be honest about the things you really need.
5. Similar Definitions of Fun
The last is really important as well. Your travel buddy should be someone who you can have fun with. Whatever your definition of fun, it needs to be able to happen. So if that’s listening to music on a sandy beach, hitting up every club within a five mile radius of you, or taking silly selfies in front of every landmark you can find, you two should have some similar interests. And you have to be able to let loose in front of them. If you can’t, what’s the point of being on vacation?
At the end of the day though, a good travel buddy is simply someone you enjoy being with. Some you’ll meet at the end of the world, and others you’ll know from childhood. Some will be your ride or die who has gotten you through every problem in your life, and others you may only see for special events. The good ones are really special though, definitely hold on to them.
Do you have a good travel buddy? Share this with them, and use it to encourage them to commit to a new trip with you.