As is the case with roommates, not all friends are suited for pairing up with on an adventure halfway across the world—or even to a nearby city. But the soulmate equivalent of a travel partner has the potential to elevate lifelong memories you create, whether you’re exploring The Louvre or raving on an island.
There’s a lot to consider before you commit to booking a flight to a far-off location with another person, though. Is your friendship strong enough to withstand the months before your trip? Are they the type to get blackout wasted and stay in bed hungover for an entire day (and you aren’t)? Are they a picky eater? What skills do they have: Can they drive, can they speak the local language? Are they independent, or do they need to be by your side for the entirety of your travels? What’s their budget? Do they just want to relax on the beach, or are they down to hike to ancient ruins?
As exciting as it can be to decide on a whim that you’re going backpacking with your friend for the first time, the answers to these questions are best figured out beforehand. So, we broke down the types of travel partners with the help of well-travelled people who have wanderlust.
The Person Who’s Never Travelled
We’ve all been this person before. For those who’ve been travelling since childhood, though, this may be a distant memory. If you’re lucky enough to have your passport thoroughly stamped up already, having a noob as a travel companion has the potential to create aggravation if you aren’t the type who gets pleasure out of introducing people to new things. But, have no fear, with more experience, they will quickly evolve into one of the archetypes below. Still, if you don’t have the patience, forgo this option until this person gets a couple trips under their belt.
They know what they want, are a natural-born leader, and will plan each day with a specific hit list of meticulously researched landmarks, restaurants, and museums.
“Planning gets me really excited about the trip coming up,” Anna Szczekutowicz, a 26-year-old Austin-based photographer, told VICE. Szczekutowicz said she enjoys making Excel spreadsheets, budgeting, and travelling in a group with two or three other people—especially because it can be more budget-friendly when you share the cost of accommodations.
“I make sure ahead of time I ask people what their top location they want to go to is and what they want to get out of their trip,” Szczekutowicz said.
To make it fair, she likes to ensure that each person is responsible for arranging certain aspects of the trip: booking the hotel, renting the car, or paying for gas money.
The Flexible Planner
They can steer the itinerary and have a strong personality, but they also have a bit of a go-with-the-flow mentality.
“I always make sure I have a hotel, it’s already paid for, and I have the confirmation numbers,” said Justin Demember, a 29-year-old in the United States Navy who enjoys travelling around the world.
This person has a hit list too, but they also like figuring it out as they go. “I ask people as I’m getting coffee where they’d recommend going, the taxi driver—I like to see what the country or state has to offer,” he said.
Demember has a friend who he typically travels with and said it’s beneficial to have similar travel styles. Their first trip together was to Dubai. “She is someone I’m not going to date or have sex with, but [the best travel partner] is someone you can picture yourself being in a relationship with,” he said. “You have to be able to argue and bounce right back to being friends. Compromise is the biggest thing.”
Knowing if the person you are going to travel with is a partier is very important. This could have serious implications for your trip. Even if you both party—figuring out what exactly partying means to each of you is critical.
“When I was 21, I went to Coachella and just blindly trusted the person I was going with… When we got there, I was like, ‘I am gonna go buy some alcohol, do you want some?’” Erica Commisso, a 25-year-old New York City-based journalist, said. “She was like ‘I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, and I don’t want to meet boys.”
Though Commisso’s planned travel partner wasn’t a good pair for her, she ended up meeting a group of fun people at hotel bar and later serendipitously linked up with them at the festival. “What I’ve found is you know if someone can keep up with you if they can when you go out [at home],” she said.
Szczekutowicz said that she is “sort of done with that phase” in her life in regards to partying. “When I go to different places, I don’t really care about going out and getting drunk… I usually like to make sure everyone I’m travelling with is on the same page,” she said.
This person is a bit docile and enjoys having someone else take the reins on planning. They’re likely down for whatever with the exception of a few things they want to do, like go snorkeling in a coral reef or zip-line. So even though the name of this archetype might sound a bit negative, it isn’t necessarily as long as the person they pair up with is cool with their travel style.
Having too many strong leaders, especially if you’re travelling in a group, can actually be an issue.
“I find it harder if someone else is a big planner and our plans might not align,” Szczekutowicz said. She explained that if you have a group of four, having two people who are planners is likely the max—so people like this can be great to travel with.
“It might sound selfish, but if they don’t have their own ideas, I’m fine with that,” Demember said.
Go With the Flow
With the exception of making sure they have a place to stay their first night in a new location and booking their flights, this type of traveller likes the excitement of dropping themselves in a new environment and seeing what happens.
“I don’t like to have a set plan about what I’m doing or where I’m going. I’m very much a go-with-the-flow type of person… the ‘I’m just here for a good time’ mentality,” Commisso explained. She went on a trip to Costa Rica with a friend in May. She said one of the best parts about the travel partner she chose for that trip was that she was flexible like her.
“If I’d wake up before her, I’d just walk on the beach,” Commisso told VICE. “One night she didn’t feel well and stayed in, while I went out.” Also important, she said, is how sociable her friend is since she enjoys meeting new people while travelling.
Commisso said her and her friend ended up having to stay the night in Jáco, a beach town on the east coast, because they weren’t able to get a bus that day to their original desired location. “We ended up having such a good time in Jáco that we stayed an extra night. Not knowing where we are going next could have put a lot of strain on a lot of people,” she said.
Extreme Go With the Flow
They sometimes book flights last-minute, don’t know where they’re staying when they land, and have little patience for those who can’t keep up with their spontaneity.
“I’m a pure agent of chaos in the wind: I could end up sleeping on a beach just by choice or maybe because all of the hostels were full that night,” Josh Clark, 30, told VICE. “I’ve hitchhiked before… I’ve asked people where they are going and might crash at their house.”
Clark, who enjoys travelling around the world to go to obscure raves—like a once-in-a-lifetime party that happened on Easter Island during a solar eclipse, or a festival in an Icelandic glacier—said he’s had a lot of experience at this point. But, earlier on in his travelling days, it got hairy once.
While on a trip to Israel, Clark hitchhiked to the Dead Sea and then decided to walk to Jericho.
“When I was walking there, people were really giving me hard stares,” Clark said. “Some security guards with guns just called me over and yelled at me in Arabic and were pushing me, searching my backpack, throwing all my stuff everywhere. At one point, one of the guys shoved an AK in my face.”
Clark was able to escape the situation unscathed. But, he said that, given his style, he enjoys travelling alone. He recently went on a trip to Thailand with coworkers, and when he discovered they were "stress-ball" planner types, he asked they leave him out of some of their plans. “I ditched them a couple days later to go to the rave island,” he said.
This person’s Instagram is popping and likely to cause envy to anyone who sees it. But, if you’re not into photography, modelling, nor flexing your travels social media, you might not want to pair up with a person like this.
On a trip to Iceland, Szczekutowicz said she went with two other photographers and a model friend. “They were OK with staying [at a location] for a few hours, exploring, and taking photos,” she said.
The One Who Just Wants to Relax
Their idea of a good time is drinking strawberry daiquiris on the beach, sleeping in until noon, and gorging on tacos. Their ideal trip would be more accurately identified as a vacation rather than travelling. A single tropical location is probably going to make this person happy, and you may have issues getting them to dedicate energy to sightseeing—and especially to walking a lot.
Commisso said she once went on a trip with two friends to a city, and one of them was unexpectedly not very down for walking a lot, so it put a strain on their plans.
Demember said he wouldn’t want a travel partner who couldn’t keep up with him. “I’d be like, ‘Look, we’re in insert country here, we don’t have time to fuck around’—if you’ve got to walk, you’ve got to walk… I’m not going to cut down on my plans just because somebody doesn’t want to go the extra mile.”
Take it from someone who spent the better part of a week fighting at a resort with someone she thought she was going to spend the rest of her life with—vacations, especially those with unlimited alcohol, can show someone’s true colours.
Conversely, going on a trip with a lover has the potential to make your relationship blossom. It’s a great way to figure out if you have a future together because those instances where you need to compromise tend to come up quite quickly.
“Now that I’m engaged my partner and I plan to travel a bunch together,” Lindsay Czitron, a 26-year-old singer-songwriter who lives in Toronto, told VICE. “We’re very in sync with each other and know each other very well, so we’re into a lot of the same stuff—and when we’re not, we compromise.”
FYI, sharing an Airbnb with someone for a few days is a great preview of what they’d be like to live with.
If you haven’t done much travelling alone, you might wonder why someone would want to or perhaps have a strange admiration for them. But even though they’re hitting the road alone, that doesn’t mean they’re a loner on their travels necessarily.
Czitron said she prefers to travel by herself and doing “off the beaten path” activities. “In Buffalo, [New York], I made a new friend at the [Sunny Sweeney] concert, and we went bar-hopping afterwards,” she said. “In the Bay Area, I went to a conference about spirituality for the first day and a half I was there. In Austin, I explored neighbourhoods that people generally wouldn’t think to visit.”
“If it really makes you nervous—some people really get anxious—I say don’t do it,” Clark, who usually travels alone, said. “But if you’re more open-minded and fearless, I would say definitely do it.” Clark said to keep in mind that people like to show hospitality all around the world, but to keep your wits about you and be aware of scams.
“People are often like, ‘You’re really brave,’” Czitron said. “But I’m a very independent person, so it’s felt natural to me. I like not being bound by other people’s preferences and schedules.”
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