TRAVELLING COMPANIONS: THE TRAVEL TEST
The hypothesis is simple: If I travel to a foreign country with new travelling companions, will I still be talking to them on the return flight or will I be hoping they caught a rare case of elephantiasis so some other body part will swell to match their fat stupid head?
Packing your bags and heading to a foreign land can be an exciting and intimidating experience for most people and wanting to share that experience makes perfect sense. While travelling alone will teach you so many things about yourself, having someone with you can make the good times great and the bad times bearable, often even laughable.
…until something happens. It may be something small that grinds away at you, or it might be something more significant that you had been ignoring or ignorant to. Either way, the result is the same; being far away from the home you would normally storm off to, calling your ex-friend a stupid asshole while slamming the door on the way out.
I am sure most of us have at some point, in the midst of a meaningful conversation, deep into the second bottle of red, concluded the world will ignore our advice and thus is completely, and inevitably, fucked. Then in a moment of brilliance, have made vague yet very sincere promises to join forces, leave it all behind and go some place else. This might be the kick in the ass you needed to do something about that trip you always wanted…or maybe not.
Here are some things I would recommend considering before booking your flights.
ARE YOU TRAVELLING FOR THE SAME REASONS?
I do a bit of everything. Some adventure, some history, some food, some wandering aimlessly and some partying until the the small hours then painfully ignoring my hangover while wandering around ruined temples. Pun intended.
If you want to lie on the beach with a beautiful local bringing endless cocktails while you attempt to flirt in a language you barely grasp basics of, while your companion wants to climb a volcano for sunrise before kayaking to a neighbouring island to snorkel with reef sharks, then it may be best to find that out before you go or else every day one of you will either be very bored or very scared depending on which activity wins.
WILL YOU TRAVEL THE SAME WAY?
Travelling means different things to different people. Some will throw 2 t-shirts and 3 pairs of undies in a backpack and find the cheapest place possible, regardless of how many cockroaches they have to share the room with. Others want to stay within stumbling distance from the bars and will drink until they can ignore the drunken shouting outside, when they’re not the ones doing the shouting. Some demand luxury; they are going on holiday and they will live like royalty if only while they are away. Fine dining, nice beds, massages and day spas.
Personally I like staying in places that seem to epitomise the place I am visiting. Small studios in Paris that make me think of artists and writers. Jungle huts in Thailand that get me close to the natural beauty of the trees and beaches. Or beach bungalows in the Pacific Islands, stepping out the door onto sand at the edge of a lagoon.
A huge part of travelling is trying some of the weird and wonderful things people have tried to eat and hasn’t killed them. If you are an adventurous eater, you may not want to be stuck with someone who refuses to stray from eggs on toast and pizza. Walking around a foreign town, trying to find something that resembles a dish from home can be both frustrating and waste of exploring time. Likewise, if you haven’t warmed to the idea of eating a meal you cannot identify even when someone tells you the name, then you might not want someone telling you to “just try it” every time you sit at a table. It could be bloody insect guts and dogs testicles for all you know.
ARE THEY OPEN TO MEETING NEW PEOPLE?
Part of travelling is meeting lots of new people. Even if, like myself, you are a bit slow when it comes to introducing yourself to fellow wanderers or curious locals, you will still have the opportunity to meet people along the way. If that is what you are into, have a think about anyone you travel with. Find someone who complements you.
Of course if the person is very good at meeting new people and wants to bring them back to your shared room every night, then maybe best to know that right from the start. My advice, avoid having to pretend you are asleep through obnoxiously loud roommate sex, if at all possible.
DO THEY ALREADY ANNOY YOU?
If you are travelling in a group and there is one idiot, then you can probably deal with it. But if you are going one on one, then have a think about whether you can handle it. Sometimes we have great friends when there is a lot of space, but spend too much time together and you kinda want to hit them in the face with a shovel. Some countries frown on that kind of thing. Most countries.
If you are on the fence, then go for it. Worst case, they’re terrible to travel with and the following will apply…
WHEN THE INEVITABLE HAPPENS
Despite how well you get along, if you spend enough time with the same person, you are probably going to have a disagreement over something. Regardless of what it is, the important part is how you deal with it. Be mature. Be safe. Make sure they are safe. You can be angry, but still look after each other. Children have tantrums and try to stop other people having fun. Adults deal with it and move on. Have some time out. Agree to have a night off from each other. Do not be afraid to have your own space.