How To Pick Your Around The World Travel Partner


Julie Kern / July 2016

The opportunity to take an around the world, long term backpacking trip is one that usually comes once in a lifetime [if you’re lucky]. Maybe it’s in-between highschool to college, or it’s after you’ve been saving up at the corporate job for a few years. Either way, it’s all the more reason to make sure that whoever you go with, is on the same page as you. While you will definitely make compromises with your travel partner, for the most part, your idea of a successful trip should be aligned.

We’ve heard quite the horror stories of travel partners gone wrong. Kind of like those stories you hear of two best friends trying to live together, but it turns out to be a total disaster. Since there’s nothing worse than showing up halfway around the world to realize you don’t actually get along with your travel mate, here are a few things to consider when you’re thinking about taking off with your bff on your next trip:

Money actually matters

When you’re roaming the streets and you’re stoked about the $1 street noodles in front of your face, but your travel partner is oogling the latest Michelin-rate spot, it’s about to get awkward. While it’s good to have balance, and challenge one another, constantly negotiating your finances can leave you two with some tension in the air. Honestly, not seeing eye to eye on budget will probably make you feel resentful and frustrated. After all, it’s your hard earned cash money holla for a dolla, and you should spend it just how you intend.

With that said, there are some important questions you can ask each other before takeoff:

  • What’s your budget for the trip – per day and total?
  • What are the expectations for places to stay – are you cool with a dorm? Or do you need the full on works with AC and hot water
  • What are the kinds of things you want to splurge on?
  • What do you not feel comfortable spending money on?

For me, I don’t give a shit where I sleep, but I’ll pay that extra bit to make my transportation a little bit less miserable. Yeah, I paid $50 extra bucks for the flight that skipped a 36 hour bus ride. It would have been a really rough day and a half if my travel bud wasn’t on board with that decision.

Beach bunnies are a different breed than yogis

Whether or not it’s obvious, you most likely have an intention for the trip you’re about to take. Are you trying to challenge yourself physically? Do you want to learn how to surf? Are you looking for cultural immersion and language lessons? Whatever that intention is, it needs to be in line with whoever you are traveling with. Coercing someone who wants to lounge on the beach into a 4 day camping trip inside a volcano can get pretty hairy, pretty damn fast. Not to mention, unfair to both of you.

Questions to ask each other before you go:

  • What are you hoping to get out of this trip?
  • What are your day to day priorities – is it sightseeing, working out, drinking by the pool?
  • What level of physical activity are you going for?
  • Is there anything you are 100% not down with doing?

When I was traveling with my BFF for 5 months, we split up on 3 different occasions because we wanted to do different things in that moment. It worked for us to say, hey – this is what I want to do and it’s ok that you don’t, I’ll see you in a few days. Let me tell you, the reunions after those split ups were embarrassing. Hugs for days. Maybe some tears.

Party like it’s 1999..or not

While it’s all fun and games to go out and party with people in your hostel, if one of you is taking the party part of traveling more seriously than the other, you’re going to butt heads. Waiting for your hungover friend to get up when you’ve been wide-eyed and bushy tailed since 7 AM, is definitely not fun. Once in awhile, sure. But if that’s happening on the regular, you better start practicing how to say “good morning” without a passive aggressive tone. Lastly, when you’ve just gotten home after a 12 hour sightseeing extravaganza and all you can think about it sweet, home bunk bed in the dorm, but your bud wants to go out for a beer…well, then you’re just annoyed AND tired. Le sigh.

Questions to ask before you leave on a jet plane together:

  • How often do you like to party?
  • Do you do drugs – are you ok with that, and/or do them yourself?
  • What’s your drinking style – clubs vs. low key beach get togethers?

And I, I took the one less traveled by

Everyone has different travel styles, and it’s not just the cheddar that’s making the difference. While some people prefer to travel in touristy areas or are looking for that all inclusive trip, there are other people who prefer to travel as far away from those destinations as possible. If you want to venture off by kayak to a beach bungalow on a remote island with no wi-fi, but your bud would rather stay next to the swim up bar in downtown Cancun, well there are bound to be some issues.

Questions to ask before exploring new territories with said person:

  • Do you feel comfortable navigating new places?
  • If not, are you open to it?
  • How adventurous are you?
  • Are you interested in traveling more locally? Touristy?

You get what you give

Lastly, one of the biggest things to realize about the person you are going to travel with, is that you are about to embark on a journey across the world together. You are going to see and learn more about that person than you ever wanted to. That person is the only other person that will know you wherever you’re going, and probably the only person who has a long-term investment into your well being. You want to go with someone that you genuinely trust. Someone that you know will have your back when you get into a shit storm of a situation. Someone that you are confident will make decisions with your best interest in mind.

On the flipside though, traveling can be a very selfish sport, and so this also means that you will have to make sure you are ready for the commitment to another person while on the road. Having a good travel partner means being a good travel partner. One time, my BFF almost ripped her leg off in the middle of nowhere. The shit we had to do to fix that situation was a lot of work, but I know if the situation was reversed, she would have done the same for me. Oh wait, she did about 2 years later when I broke my arm.

Questions to ask before you commit:

  • Do you trust me in a sticky situation to make a decision on your behalf?
  • How do you handle the situation if something happens to either of us – injury, illness, etc?
  • Are you committed to traveling with me?
  • If we find it doesn’t work out to travel together while we’re out there, what will be our backup plan?

These questions are definitely hard to talk about face-to-face, but trust me when I tell you that they will really help you figure out if someone is right for you. If you deep down feel like someone isn’t going to be the right partner, trust your gut. You can always give ‘em the classic, “its not you it’s me,” and keep searching for the one.

If you can’t find someone who fills the shoes of the travel partner you’re looking for, or maybe you found the perfect person, but they won’t commit – you have another option. Just fly solo [at first]. One of the best ways to meet a great travel partner is simply just by getting on the road. You very quickly find out if your styles align and you’ll have a new PIC in no time.

picking travel partner

Tags: backpacking, BFF, Cover, featured, Travel Buddy



Read 14 Previous Comments

  • Kate // July 6, 2016

    Great tips! Definitely things anyone should consider when picking a travel buddy, no matter how big or how small the trip!

    Kate |

  • Taylor Fuller // July 6, 2016

    Really awesome tips! I definitely always ask myself these questions before planning a trip with someone. Luckily I’ve found my travel buddy already!

  • CJ Weeks // July 6, 2016

    These are some very important question to ask and I wish I had thought of them years ago when I went travelling with some friends. Turns out we simply did not work out as travel friends but as home friends it was great. Something to always think about when travelling with others.

  • Shobha George // July 6, 2016

    I love your article. I think it is very important that you do get along with your travel buddy or else it will be a disaster! 🙂

  • Emily // July 6, 2016

    This is great advice! I traveled to Spain with a friend and I didn’t realize until we were there how different our travel styles are!

  • Diana // July 6, 2016

    Everything in this article is so true to consider when choosing a travel companion especially the part of how it’s important to consider what ones goals are on the trip.

  • Chantell Collins // July 6, 2016

    Wow what a great list! I am so picky about who I travel with after having a bad experience traveling with a friend. Just because you are good mates doesn’t mean you will be good travel mates. If you are lucky enough to find someone who you are compatible to travel with – that’s a great thing.

  • Stella the Travelerette // July 6, 2016

    You’ve done a very good job underlining all the reasons that people might fight on a trip! I think this helps me clarify why I prefer to travel alone. Then I can just do whatever I want! I like to meet people along the way but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who was a super compatible travel buddy for me.

  • Jennifer // July 7, 2016

    Wow! That is a very useful article. Could have safed me some trouble if I had that advice some years ago 😉 Obviously you must have made same experiences haha

  • Laura Nalin // July 7, 2016

    I love this so much! It’s definitely an important thing to be sure you and your travel bud are generally on the same page. I’ve traveled really well with some girlfriends, but I’d have to say my favorite is my boyfriend. I was a bit nervous at first but I’ve realized we are an even better team than I thought. All of these points definitely factor in when it comes to him as well. Thanks for sharing!

  • Naomi // July 7, 2016

    Thanks for this guide. I think many people just forget about this aspect. I see so many requests posted online from people just looking for other people to go to the same place and a certain time. But it takes more than that to find a good travel buddy. I experienced this too. I travelled with someone who kept saying: I can’t believe they just not change this or that. it would be so much better around here if they did. We travelled in Tibet and Nepal and after a day I wanted to shout: shut the F*** up and accept it and cherish things the way they are. So, bottom line: choose your companion wisely

    • Julie Kern // July 8, 2016

      completely agree! It’s not as simple as oh, we’re going to the same place! It takes a special type of chemistry / dynamic to travel long term together and it’s super important to figure it out because you’ll be spending LOTS of time together. One time we had to share a twin dorm bed sleeping head to foot because it was late at night and that’s all that was left. Gotta think about who you’re okay doing that kind of stuff with!

  • Brenda // July 7, 2016

    Great tips! I felt somehow identified because one of my best friends and I were great travel partners, but it turned out that we werent able to live together.

  • Lian // July 8, 2016

    Great tips! For the most part I prefer to travel solo as my friends and family never like to do the things I want to do so it’s certainly easier to go by myself xx

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