Solo Traveler: Traveling With Friends

Solo Traveler: Traveling With Friends

My mother has a friend who has traveled the world alone for the last 40years. When mom hinted she’d love to go on a trip, her friend diplomatically answered, “I wouldn’t want to jeopardize our friendship.”

Traveling with other people can certainly change a relationship. I have known of a few couples who started out as friends on a trip and ended up getting married later on. It’s also not unusual for an extended trip to seriously strain a marriage.

From personal experience, I can attest to being surprised at how a person I knew before traveling becomes a different person on the trip. We all react differently to stress. How do we react to a delayed plane, broken luggage, being lost, or having something stolen? Some people become incapacitated, some fret and whine, while others cuss and yell at anyone standing nearby.

In addition, a person’s communication style becomes very obvious when traveling. Some people want to talk all the time (which drives me crazy) while others may not talk much after a while, making me wonder if we’re still getting along. A study was done years ago that shows men typically talk about 30-40 percent less than women. I try to remember that if I travel with men!

There are many reasons to travel alone. The nicest aspect is that I get to make all the decisions. On the other hand, traveling with other people is a lot of fun. I just need to keep in mind that traveling with a companion is a growth experience.

The most important thing I can do is to recognize I am not responsible for someone else’s problem. I can be supportive and helpful, but finding their lost passport or underwear, missing ATM card, cell phone, or hotel key is their problem to solve, not mine. The other key to getting along is to keep my mouth shut. My friends don’t need or want to hear how they ought to be organized differently, or what they should or should not have brought. They don’t appreciate my big impatient sighs as they desperately search for missing tickets to the train that will leave in half an hour.

I also need to realize that the frustration I feel when faced with their very different personality traits is actually my problem. It’s not something they are doing to me on purpose. If the truth were known, I probably irritate them more!

Some things can be reviewed up front that will help alleviate the strain later on:

  • Discuss how you view money. For people who travel on vacation once a year, spending a lot of money is just part of the plan. For others (like me) who travel often and as more of a lifestyle, traveling with a big spender can lead to all kinds of conflicts.  
  • Discuss sleep. What do people do to relax and go to sleep? If you’re sharing a room sleep patterns could become a major issue. What time do you go to sleep and what time do you wake up? What should the early riser do if the sleepy head wants to keep snoozing? Does anyone snore? Did anyone think to bring ear plugs?
  • Eating patterns can be an issue if one person wakes up starving and another doesn’t even eat breakfast. Sometimes it’s difficult to find food for a picky or allergic eater, and it might be necessary to explore each others’ expectations of eating in restaurants or on the streets.
  • It’s important to be able to discuss difficult issues with patience and good listening skills. We all have to recognize that problems arise and only get worse if they aren’t resolved. Keeping quiet about a problem is almost as bad as constantly griping about it.
  • Keep a sense of humor. Every travel difficulty passes, eventually. Keeping a sense of humor will transform those difficulties into an amusing story when the trip is over.

When the trip is in full swing, remember to take a few breaks from one another. Few people in the world live and work together 24 hours a day, every day of the year. We all need a little alone time to recharge our batteries so we can continue to be good companions.

Editor’s note: Sherry Hardage lives in Los Alamos and has been traveling solo in the Americas, Europe, and Asia since she retired from Honeywell in 2009. She is a photographer, writer, and guide who organizes tours of Chiapas, Mexico through her website:

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