When you propose to go travelling a tonne of people will volunteer their time to travel with you for the whole or part of the journey. After the weeks pass by and your dream begins to look like a certainty you’ll probably find most of your would-be companions have dispersed. The first thing to know is that you actually don’t really need a companion at all when travelling as there is nothing more satisfying than going where you want when you want. In addition, as soon as you land in your hostel you will unite with all the other travellers who were committed to their dream and abandoned by their friends at the last minute. These people will make some of your best future friends and the experiences you share will forever connect you no matter where you live during your “real lives”.
That being said if you do have a friend or two in mind who are committed to the dream as much as you, there are a few qualities you will need along the way. Great companions are made of many qualities but the best might be:
- Common sense – pretty obvious really but you need someone who is going to put their ego aside and use their brain to work out best routes, and logistics and realise that in other countries you need to play by their rules. If your friend has no common sense and gets themselves into dramas in your home country they are probably a write-off for travel. You don’t need any added drama to some of the random stuff you’ll come across on a daily basis.
- Adaptability – things go wrong more often than you expect when travelling and being adaptable is essential. It’s all well and good having a stead-fast plan but when your flights are randomly cancelled and you miss all your connecting flights, you arrive in a country and there are problems with your visa, adaptability will be your best friend. If your travel companion goes on lockdown and wants to return home that’ll be even less fun!
- Fear – this seems strange but there will be many times in travelling when you might be and maybe should be scared! Like back home there will be streets you know you should avoid, well when in another country there may be entire inhospitable towns you should avoid and your fear instinct will kick in and get you out of trouble. If your friend is someone blissfully unaware, someone, who starts rolling out their towel to sunbathe in a heavily Muslim community or gets snap happy with their brand new iPhone in dark gang-ridden streets and leaves you to worry, leave them at home.
- Vulnerability – similar to fear it is very good to travel with someone who can be vulnerable. Sometimes travel can leave you a bit stressed, homesick or overwhelmed and it is OK to be openly vulnerable with your friends. Nothing is more isolating than travelling and feeling a bit vulnerable when you are with people who just think it’s all the best thing ever and amazing. Truth is they are probably as vulnerable as you but don’t want to show it.
- Humour – the best thing about travelling with a friend is that you probably know each other well and can have a laugh. Travelling throws up some of the most random experiences you’ll ever see and to be able to laugh sometimes hysterically is the best thing ever. You’ll be amazed at how many years after you will still be able to crack up to the events you witnessed while travelling together.
- A strong stomach – the food options, particularly across Asia can leave something to be desired. From fried scorpions to black eggs, dog blood to intestines and chicken feet you’ll sometimes never want to eat again! Travelling with someone who cannot take seeing these food options without reaching for a bucket will see you spending 90% of your time watching them visit the bathroom. It’s what people eat in the countries you visit, and you don’t have to eat it yourself. Sometimes you may eat something you are unsure of but you need to be able to disconnect your brain and not ask too many questions. Your friends need to do the same.
- Opposite skills to you – everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and if you and your potential travel partner are too similarly matched it can create imbalances in the dynamic of your friendship. It is recommended to share responsibility for travel equally to avoid decision fatigue and if you are better at logistics than your friend then make this your skill and divide up the planning to play to your strengths. If you book all flights and accommodation your friend who is less logical perhaps can focus on booking tours and scouting possible attractions and the best places to go. Then you both have surprises and don’t all have to constantly make decisions.
Whether you go it alone or take a companion, have fun. There is no end of people along your journey willing to get involved, come on tours with you and even tag along for a bit. Strangers are just people you haven’t met yet.