Heather and Megan (pictured here in Sri Lanka) let me know that though they live in different cities, they meet up once or twice a year in a new far flung destination. How fabulous is this setup?
And how jealous are we?
These travel besties got me thinking: How does one find their perfect travel bff? If you are lucky enough to have one, then you might be able to give the rest of us some pointers (hop on down to the comments below!) but what follows is my advice on how to find this most important, life-long travel pal.
As in: do not choose to try out your new travel friendship on a 4 month jaunt around Southeast Asia. Start small, traveling friends! Head off on an easy weekend to a cool nearby city. Go on a long hike in a state park! Then, pay attention to any red flags that clue you in to the possibility that this person might not share your traveling style. Do they get impatient waiting for a table to open up at a restaurant? Are they bothered by the smaller things that you can brush off with ease? If so, they may not be able to handle the mishaps that are bound to happen when traveling any better than they can handle everyday, trivial problems.
Look for People Who Are Similar to You
Before I ever stepped on a plane with my travel bestie, I knew the following about her:
- We got our MA in the same obscure (read: slightly useless) subject.
- We share an astrological sign, and this is a valid measure of a person in both of our opinions.
- We are early risers.
- We are early-to-bed-ers.
- We like to get as much out of life as we can.
- We love to plan, write lists, and mark things off those lists.
- We both speak Spanish, and prefer to travel in Spanish-speaking countries.
- Our brothers both work at the same company, in different states (this doesn't matter, but is a weird coincidence).
- We are politically and religiously on the same page.
- We both have dogs, and they are also travel besties.
So, yes. We have quite a bit in common. Though this is not something I'd insist for in a friend, it is really, really helpful to have someone who is a lot like you when you are traveling. Why? Because you will almost never come across a situation wherein one person wants to go to the club and the other wants to go to the museum. You will both want to go to the museum, because that is the only sane choice in this scenario. (Right, travel bestie?)
Choose Someone with Similar Travel Experience
If you have hopped all over our glorious globe as a solo traveler, it is wise to look for someone who has (at least almost) traveled as much as you. This shows that they are able to handle themselves when completely out of their comfort zone, and won't rely fully on you every time a train is missed or something gets lost in translation. If one of you is an experienced traveler and the other is a newbie, it is natural that the newcomer will look to the more seasoned traveler to help get through the tough spots. That is all well and good if you are the most patient person ever, but if you've been on an overnight bus for 14 hours and there's a flood in the middle of Ecuador that means you'll be on said bus for another 8 hours and all you've had to eat is fried plantains, you're going to want someone with you who can handle this. Because at that moment, it will be every woman for herself. Trust me.
Also, having someone who is comfortable traveling alone means that they can... wait for it... travel alone! Even when you travel together, there is going to be one of you that wants to see where Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, your hero, is buried, and the other of you that wants to see some stupid art thing that obviously isn't as awesome. And that's great! You can both go do what your heart desires, and meet up again for carne asada in the evening.
Have Similar Travel Budgets
Hear me well, travelers! I am absolutely not saying that you must make the same salary as your travel bff. If, however, your travel pal expects to drop 500 EUROS a night on a swank hotel in Madrid and you are looking at the more budget-friendly options, this will not work out well for either of you. Your pal will end up feeling cheated out of their luxe vacay and you'll end up feeling guilty about that and resentful that you should have to shell out more cash than you want to. Come to an agreement before you even start booking about how much money you have to spend on this trip, and book from there. This is called booking backwards. (Actually, it isn't. I just made that up. But I like it. So, yeah. Coined.)