Everyone travels differently. Some people like pounding the pavement, perusing museums, and tracking down attractions. Others prefer relaxing and shopping, and still others like experiencing a place from a local’s point of view by exploring parks and eateries. Maybe you are a mix of all three or none of the above. Whatever your travel style, you’re very lucky if you find yourself with a travel buddy who has the exact same one. And sometimes unexpected differences can cause conflict while traveling. Here are some suggestions for navigating travel style differences so everyone involved can have a good experience.
1) Discuss priorities and concerns ahead of time
If you know there is something you really want to do or experience on a particular trip, it’s best to let your travel buddies know that before you go, when you are all in a calm, well-rested state of mind. (It’s harder to have these conversations in the middle of a trip when everyone is tired and stressed.) It can also be helpful to rank your priorities on a scale of 1 to 10 to let your travel buddies know how disappointed you would be if you ran out of time to do them. Are there some things you would like to do, but if you don’t get to, it’s not the end of the world? Are there some things that you feel would make or break your whole trip? Let everyone express what those things are for them, and then during the trip, be sensitive of others’ priorities. Try to make sure everyone’s “10s” are accomplished.
Additionally, if you are worried about something, be open to talking about it. Personally, I’ve learned that spending many days constantly around people really wipes me out, so in order not to become a cranky monster, I have to carve out a little time to myself here and there. That’s something that it would be beneficial for my travel buddies to know. Once while traveling, I was with someone who took a little longer to get around. Instead of having a conversation about it, we let the frustration that our activities weren’t all going as planned build up inside us. It was still a good trip, but an honest conversation about expectations and priorities would have helped the situation.
2) Split up
I know this isn’t always an appealing option, but if you are finding that your travel styles are just too different to enjoy parts of the trip together, it’s okay to go your separate ways for a bit and then compare notes at the end of the day.
3) Avoid packing your itinerary too tightly
It’s tempting to schedule every part of a trip so you don’t miss out on anything. But if your itinerary is filled in down to the minute, it probably won’t accommodate everyone’s travel style. Inevitably, someone will want to take a detour from the schedule to spend a little more time getting dinner or checking out a shop that wasn’t part of the plan, and this will lead to frustration and stress (and possibly a missed bus or train). The best way to avoid this problem is just to let your itinerary be a little looser. One of my favorite trips was when a friend and I spent a few days in Amsterdam. We had a couple of things scheduled, like museum and festival visits, and we also had some other things that we wanted to see and do, like check out Rembrandt’s house and the market. But we gave ourselves lots of time to wander, eat, shop, and explore in between. When I’m by myself, I usually like to see EVERYTHING in a city, but with a friend, it was much nicer to just relax and see what we could in the time we had without any pressure. Then, when new priorities came up (like tracking down the best apple pie in the city), we were able to accommodate them without any trouble.
4) Let things go
Conflict and frustration mostly happen when our expectations aren’t matching up with what our travel buddies are doing. One thing my travels have taught me is that things go wrong. Exhaustion and mistakes happen. People want to do different things.
While you can let these things aggravate you and lower your mood, a better option is to just let them roll off your back and enjoy the ride. So what if your travel buddy would rather spend the evening in or at the pool than explore the town? Order takeout, make the best of your night in together, and catch up on sleep. So what if you missed out on an attraction because no one else wanted to go? Find something else to do with that extra time that you’re all excited about. So what if you get dragged along to something you’d prefer not to have spent money on? Choose to have a positive attitude about it and make the best of it. So what if you were abandoned for a few hours while your companion took off on their own? Instead of moping in your hotel, spend that time exploring the things that seem most interesting to you and making conversation with locals, people you likely wouldn’t ever have met if you were with your travel buddy. You are still experiencing a new place and having fun with your friends. You are still having adventures, whether they’re what you expected or not. At worst, you’ll have a story to tell when you get home. At best, you’ll find that the unexpected path your trip takes you on is better than the one you had planned for originally. I’m certainly not always the best at following my own advice, but I’ve found the more that I let go of expectations, the more I enjoy my travels.
5) Eat good food
Honestly, I think this is something everyone can come together and agree on, regardless of travel style. 🙂
What lessons have you learned from taking trips with people who have different travel styles?