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Travel Partner Drama? Tips to Ease the Tension

Tourists holding map

[Anna Bizoń]/[iStock]/Thinkstock

There we were, stuck in Africa, glowering at each other over a plate of pineapple and two glasses of passion fruit juice. Despite a solid friendship, our trip together was not going well. After months of eager anticipation, I experienced my first sense of unease when we arrived at the airport and he nonchalantly told me he likes to wait till the last possible second to board the plane. I’m usually the first person in line to board. From there, it was one thing after another. I’m punctual, into slow travel, prefer to budget, and don’t care for tourist attractions. He likes to hop from place to place, frequently wanders off, enjoys luxury, and doesn’t really like to plan. Traveling in and of itself can be stressful and finding out midway through that you and your traveling companion aren’t exactly compatible doesn’t do a lot to ease the stress. However, it doesn’t have to ruin your trip. Try these options to help diffuse the situation and salvage a great experience.

Add New Traveling Companions
One of the most incredible experiences about traveling is the people you meet along the way. While this is one of my favorite parts about traveling alone, you definitely don’t need to be alone to join forces with other lone travelers or small groups. Expanding your travel group can create new social dynamics that ease the tension between you and your traveling partner. It can also provide leverage in negotiating with any unreasonable demands made by said traveling partner (I don’t care how exciting it might be, riding on the back of a motorbike with your Venturesafe 32L through Kampala rush hour traffic is not a great idea.  People just want your bag that much more).

Alone Time
Just because you’re traveling together doesn’t mean you need to spend every waking (or sleeping) moment together. On plane, train, or bus trips try sitting apart. Putting on your headphones and zoning out for a few hours can work wonders. Take separate day trips or book separate hotel rooms from time to time. If you want to visit the Red Cross museum while she’d rather check out the Swatch exhibit, then feel free to do your own thing. Sometimes a quick break can do wonders on a long trip.

Ok, so maybe you are the queen of budget hotels and would willingly share a room with ten other strangers while tossing and turning on a squeaky bed underneath a scratchy wool blanket whose cleanliness is in serious question. That’s fine, except if it were up to your traveling partner, you’d be staying at the Sheraton. Both of you are going to have to take a step toward the middle. Identify both of your key demands (cleanliness and security vs. cheap and off the beaten path) and find somewhere that accommodates both of your concerns. It might require a little more research, but is definitely doable. If you really can’t find a compromise then it might be time to part ways for the night and meet up in the morning for breakfast.

Having a phone while traveling can widen your options and ease tension. If your travel partner has a habit of wandering off and getting lost, you can just call instead of getting more and more frustrated trying to find them. If you want to split ways for the day, you have the freedom to do so without trying to organize an elaborate meet-up plan. It’s smart practice to have a phone while traveling anyway, but it can also help to bridge the gap between two wildly different traveling styles.

Part Ways
Sometimes it just doesn’t work out and that’s okay. If you’ve tried all your options, hashed it out without compromise, and still can’t make it work, consider just saying “Have a nice week and I’ll meet you at the airport.” If your budget allows, flying solo can be a far more attractive option than forcing a trip with someone who may be a great friend at home, but leaves a lot to be desired as a traveling partner.

By Nikki Hodgson


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