Good travel companions are hard to come by, especially traveling abroad. The stress of planning and budgeting is hard. Pair that with not knowing the language and no consistent internet access, it can be down right exhausting. Add a long time frame and no plan to the equation and it takes a toll on even the strongest of relationships.
When it came to choosing my particular travel mate, it was a decision based on pure coincidence. The decision stemmed from the mutual dissatisfaction of where we were in our lives and the matching desire to see as much of the world as we could. It was that simple.
We weren’t childhood friends who engaged in life changing conversations every year since we were seven. We didn’t have high school (or even college) memories to speak of. At the time the decision was made, I think we were barely on each others Christmas card list. But we managed to come together by one common goal: travel, travel, travel.
We spent months saving and planning and prepping ourselves for the dramatic act of submitting our work notice . We packed similar hopes, desires, and travel destinations in a carry on suitcase. At the same time, we bet against the mutual friends who didn’t think we would last two weeks without separating.
What happened instead was twelve weeks that I couldn’t imagine spending with anyone else. It ended with arguably one of the most emotional separations I’ve ever experienced.
I would never disregard the benefits of traveling alone. But I will say it’s a rare occasion when you can connect with someone and sync up on such an extreme level. They become your rock in the most unconventional circumstances and life changing decisions.
Other than an unbreakable, lifelong bond. Other than having someone to share the memories with. Other than someone having your back in unknown territory. Here’s my list of reasons why you should always add a companion to your packing list.
Not just the act of actually getting a picture taken in front of a particular landmark, but getting it exactly the way you want it. With the exception of being a huge inconvenience to the closest passerby, it’s very difficult to get the perfect photo. You can’t get that photo leaning against the tower in Pisa if you don’t have someone you’re comfortable with to navigate it with.
You want to make a heart over a fountain? You wont to look like you’re using all of your strength to hold up the Acropolis in Athens? A personal photographer is a must.
It’s a necessary evil that can become time consuming and frustrating in countries that you don’t speak the language. Plus, Google Maps wasn’t always at my disposable. Free walking tours are great, but you still have to find your way to the starting point. Also, the tour doesn’t cover everything, and they only last a few hours until you’re back on your own anyway.
If you’re spending time in foreign countries, it helps to have someone sharing the responsibility. This way you can sit back and be a passenger. Not to mention, being lost with company is so much better than being lost alone.
This is extremely rough for the solo traveler. Like you’re in a busy train station with your luggage and there’s a ridiculously long line for the bathroom. Who wants to cart everything they brought behind them? Not to mention who needs it as a bathroom stall buddy?
It is so much easier to leave it outside with a friend you can trust and tag team the bathroom. What if you’re standing in line at a busy Shake Shack in Madison Square Park and finally see a table open up? You can’t exactly hold your place in line and run to grab the table that’s in high demand.
The good thing about traveling alone in Europe is that in most cities it is completely socially acceptable to drink at any time of day. You also don’t need a table for two in order to do it. However, as easy as it may be to order a beer with lunch, it is not as fun experiencing real live nightlife without a partner. Organized pub crawls can be hit or miss and unless you get on a good one with the right people they can feel forced and awkward.
Short term memory
Do you remember the name of that restaurant you stumbled across on the way to the Pantheon in Rome, or the dish you ordered in German with no English translation but was so good you want to learn how to make it when you get home? If you don’t remember every detail about your trip before you get a chance to write it down, chances are your travel companion does.