Traveling with a Friend: How to Get Along

Even if you’re best friends, you and your travel partner are bound to hit a few road bumps in your relationship when you’re traveling. Travel is only glamorous in retrospect, and when you’re miles outside your comfort zone, situations can get pretty heated, pretty fast. You can bet a million dollars that your trip won’t go exactly as planned, and you’ll be forced to make decisions on the fly-decisions you both can agree on as a team.

People always ask me how travel partners can work out money, time and itinerary concerns under pressure situations (and not kill each other) so I chatted with Marion Lindblad-Goldberg, Ph.D. professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School to find out…Here’s what the Doc had to say.

PH: What are three rules you should always establish with a travel partner before you set off on the road?

MLG: Rule #1: Plan ahead. Verbalize your personal goals and expectations about the trip and establish clear travel-roles with your partner (for example, who will be the map navigator expert, who will be the expert on restaurants, and so on).
Rule #2: Agree to disagree-you won’t always come to an agreement, so in those situations, stay calm and realize you can’t change how the other person feels. Instead, try to be flexible.
Rule #3: Anticipate the unexpected and view these events as part of the great travel adventure; it’s not the destination, it’s the journey along the way.

PH: How can you settle disputes, or “agree to disagree” with your travel partner when you’re in a foreign country?

MLG: Each partner should state their concern using an “I” statement (for example, “I think we should stay in this hostel because, even though it’s further from the train station, it’s a lot cheaper.” Then each partner should feedback to the other what that person has said. Mutually develop non-judgmental problem solutions (for example, “Ok, this city, we can stay in this hostel but can I choose the next hostel we stay at?”) Do not bring a 3rd party into the discussion either overtly or covertly (for example, my boyfriend would kill me if he found out I spent 40 euro a night on a hostel).

PH: What are helpful tips to being a low-maintenance travel partner?

MLG: Be organized with regard to available monies, clothing and parcels. Respect the need for individual space vs. shared space (for example, it’s alright to go your own separate ways for a few hours, just make sure you have a well established time and place to meet up, and an emergency backup plan).

PH: What are guidelines to finding a travel partner most suited to your personality? What traits should you look for? Do opposites always attract or is it better to travel with someone a lot like you?

MLG: It’s been said that we connect through similarity and grow through difference. But, given the time frame of the travel trip, it’s best to select a partner based on similarity. The qualities to look for in a potential travel partner are: flexibility, humor, matching activity style (sedentary vs. physically active).

PH: One more piece of advice you have for getting along with travel partners or maintaining that friendship before, during and after your trip?

MLG: Enact the adage: “to ere is human, to forgive is divine”.

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