According to Psychology Today, “you see a new side of a person as he leaves behind his routines and is pushed out of his comfort zone.”
You could discover that outside of a group setting, a friend is nervous when speaking to strangers, or a parent doesn’t like to take walks through unfamiliar neighborhoods, even though it is a city they know well. You could also find out that your girlfriend is a little grumpy, when she hasn’t had breakfast.
When traveling with someone, you’re privy to all their quirks; what they’re like when they’re tired, frustrated, irritated, hungry, confused. You get to see their sleep patterns, their hygiene habits, eating choices. It’s all laid out.
When traveling with friends, you might discover who is really spontaneous, and who needs routine to function. Who is set in their ways and who is openminded.
Hopefully, you have conversations about your individual travel styles prior to booking a trip together, but sometimes it doesn’t happen, and that is the beauty of travel. The unexpected. Sometimes you get lucky and find out you actually mesh well with a travel partner.
When I lived in Beijing, a friend and I decided to take a train to Shanghai, pretty much haphazardly. It was over an extended holiday weekend. We didn’t have plans to do anything but to have fun. We took the bullet train on a Thursday morning, if I remember correctly. We ate breakfast at the McDonald’s in the train station, and slept the near four hours it took us to get to Shanghai.
Once there, we stayed in a party hostel, met with other travelers who were also in the hostel; then he and I explored the city by ourselves, taking in Brazilian funk music at a local bar, but eventually meeting up with his boyfriend at the time, squeezing in sightseeing at The Bund and the Oriental Pearl Tower.
By chance, we met up with some other friends, who were also in Shanghai for the holiday. We all proceeded to go clubbing and overall had a great time. And we planned absolutely none of it.
Spontaneity worked for us. For others who are more rigid in their trip plans, that kind of randomness could have drove them crazy. So, that’s why it’s important to understand who you are as a traveler, and who you’re traveling with.
In the near six months my partner and I have been together (that’s us above), we have gone on three road trips together. We’re both openminded and free spirited so we have endless conversations about traveling; where we want to go, places we want to see — post pandemic, how will we get there, and where will we stay.
It’s important to be honest with yourself about how you like to travel. If youth hostels are not your thing, speak up.
If you prefer Airbnb’s over hotels, have a conversation with your travel companion.
If you are better suited for four-star accommodations, and you know that that will make you more comfortable on your trip, be open about it.
Thus, if you need coffee first thing in the morning, share that with the person or people you are traveling with. And ensure your hotel room or Airbnb or hostel has coffee available. Problem solved.
And another thing, as noted by Dr. Jamie L. Kurtz, from Psychology Today, if you have an issue with your travel partner— maybe it’s something they said or did, speak on it. Be sure to do it in a calm way, though. No one wants to be verbally attacked on a trip. So be clear and specific.
For example: Is your partner being too, too friendly with everyone? Too controlling? Close-minded? Doesn’t want to try any local food or take in any local culture? Say what’s on your mind and let them know how you feel. It will only make your trip better. Might even bring you closer to each other.
Traveling in another country has its own issues; try navigating a train station in Beijing during a weeklong holiday. Traveling in the U.S. is far simpler. Just use your words to share what’s on your mind, and make happy with your lovely travel companion(s).