Is your BFF Really Your Best Travel Buddy?

I love solo travel, but it can get tiring having to constantly fend for yourself on the road, and solo travel just isn’t to everyone’s taste. Sometimes you will want to enlist a friend to travel with you and who’re you gonna call? Not the ghostbusters, but most probably you’ll be asking your best friend to travel with you… right? After all, what could be better for bonding than a Best Friends Forever (BFF) trip, Thelma-and-Louise style?

Here’s something I think you and your best buddy need to think about, even before you start planning your trip:

New Zealand Lake Tekapo Flowers Me
Why having a travel buddy rocks – who else will take pix of you being all cheesy without judging you (too much) – thanks P for snapping this shot of me on our first road trip together way back in New Zealand, 2005. I went to visit her on exchange.

Your best travel buddy is not necessarily your best friend or your partner

Travelling with a loved one can definitely make or break your relationship. All your personality tics are revealed when you spend most of your waking time together, who you truly are as a person becomes apparent when you’re in each other’s space all the time, and what you thought of as a mildly annoying trait in your pal will get multiplied a thousand fold especially when you encounter stressful travel situations.

Obviously, travelling with a friend isn’t all doom and gloom – it’s always nice to have a familiar face and someone who knows you by your side as you discover new things, and if you can make it through a trip without killing each other, I sincerely believe that you will most probably end up friends for life.

Hong Kong Traveling Spoon Giant Tiger Prawn
That’s not A, the friend and fellow colleague who I travelled to Hong Kong with – she’s the one snapping this shot. We were friends already before this trip and had travelled in small group trips with other friends, but this was the first time we went with just each other and I think we definitely became better friends after the trip

I first wrote this article back in 2012 when I had someone I considered my all-time BFF, though we never wanted to or planned to travel together. At that point, I didn’t think it was weird. Here’s what I wrote:

My BFF and I get along fabulously but we’ve never taken a trip together. Why? Mostly because we’re pretty similar in temperament – easy-going, not too particular about stuff, tending towards laziness. While that works in our friendship in that we’ve never had a serious argument, as travel partners, we just might end up spending all our time lazing because we’re waiting for the other person to plan something.

On hindsight now, I think the fact that we never travelled together, even though it turns out we have similar tastes in activities and she does travel quite frequently as well, should probably have been a sign that maybe our friendship wasn’t as strong as I thought it was. We were BFFs for more than 10 years but ended up drifting apart – we’re not even in contact at all these days.

I still don’t think that all BFFs are born to travel together, and not having a mutual love for travel or similar travel style isn’t a dealbreaker when it comes to a friendship (it probably will be in a proper relationship heh), but it’s a friendship barometer I sometimes consider these days in all seriousness – would I want to travel with this person, why and why not?

Philippines Manila SG Travel Bloggers Z Hostel Locker
Can you recognise your fellow travel bloggers? We mostly knew each other from events and conferences back home and somehow clicked – this was our first trip as a complete group and it was a helluva time. And yes, we had a shared dorm room all to ourselves in Manila during TBEX and we are all sitting in the lockers

Picking the right travel partner is key

While your default travel buddy tends to be your BFF or partner, I know of plenty of couples who break up and friends who stop speaking to each other after a disastrous vacation together. It’s a good test for life partners looking to spend the rest of their lives together, but for you and your BFF, you need to consider if your relationship will withstand the pressure of spending 24/7 together in a foreign land, which is not a situation you usually end up in back home where you’ve already established your BFFness.

Consider these things when deciding if you want to travel with someone:

Do your travel styles complement each other?

You don’t need to be the exact same kind of traveller, but you do need to be on the same page, or at least in the same dang book if you want to have a trip that leaves everyone relatively satisfied. Someone who only loves museums and galleries is not going to want to be dragged on a 5-day mountain trek with the outdoors lover, and someone who is a happy spendthrift wanting to eat at all the Michelin restaurants is not going to be a happy camper when on a trip with a penny pinching budget traveller who would rather cook spaghetti than spend on an expensive lunch.

And while having similar travel styles seems like a good thing, I probably wouldn’t want to travel with someone who was too much like myself. I tend to be a bit shy and overly reliant on my friends if we travel in a group, and I’ve gotten very used to doing things my way from my solo travels, so having someone who travels exactly like me seems more like a recipe for disaster than a good thing.

I think the best sort of travel buddy relationship is one where you share similar enough tastes that you can enjoyed shared activities, but it helps you to open up to new experiences that you might not have even considered on your own accord. I’m not a fan of mountain trekking or any sort of heavy duty camping activity at all, but having friends coax me to join them on short treks has let me witness some amazing views that I probably would have skipped if left to my own devices.

Spain Chipiona Beach Shadow
R was one of my close pals in school, and I visited her while she was studying up in France. Here we are on our road trip in southern Spain, on the beach of Chipiona. We’ve probably seen more of each other in Europe than in Singapore in recent years because she’s spent a lot of time living overseas, but we’re still great friends today (and she’s come home too!)

Can you compromise and tolerate each other’s quirks?

When you are overseas, it will be just you and your buddy spending most of your waking moments with each other. If foreign languages are involved, you’ll probably only have each other to talk to, so your travel buddy has to be someone who you’re both comfortable with having long conversations and being silent with. Awkward conversation will only add to any tension on your trip.

You might snap at each other at some point – being with someone 24/7 will definitely show the best and worst of each person. The graduation trip I had with my school buddies hit a bit of a bump when one party decided he had to leave early for a pining partner, and it caused a lot of tension during and after the trip. Thankfully we got through that and occasionally reminisce about ‘that time’ over drinks today.

If your personalities and interests differ significantly, you will need to compromise by doing a little of what each other likes, or consider planning your itinerary so that you’ll give each other some space on the trip – perhaps a day where you each do your own thing and meet up for dinner to trade stories. You get to do what you want and someone to share your experiences with after… Best of both worlds! This seems like such a simple solution, but both of you need to be okay with doing your own thing.

It sounds like travelling with friends is such a daunting experience, but I think that if you make it through a trip together with your friendship mostly unscathed, you are definitely on the path to lifelong friendship. I definitely prefer having either just a single travel buddy or a small group if possible, so it remains fun and sociable without being too unwieldy as large group trips tend to be.

I love solo travel but I also love the different experiences I get travelling with people who know me, and not just random friends I make along the road. There’s something about these shared bonding experiences with your travel buddy that makes that friendship so much stronger, because they were there, right next to you as you killed birds with your car in New Zealand, nearly got robbed in Barcelona or ended up unknowingly walking with coffee all over your back because of a an errant snake make for great stories to reminisce about.

Taiwan Tales Snake Encounter
My friends will probably accuse me of not being able to let this one go from way back on our grad trip in 2007, but I walked around for an ENTIRE DAY NOT KNOWING I had coffee splattered ALL OVER MY BACK.

So the next time you’re hanging out with your BFF(s), broach the topic of a trip together and see where that takes you. Who knows what crazy stories you’ll have to share and laugh about together many years down the road.

A version of this article was first posted on Go! Girl Guides, where I was a contributing blogger. I’ve since edited it to reflect my personal stance in more recent times.

4 thoughts on “Is your BFF Really Your Best Travel Buddy?”

  1. Travel can sometimes really make or break a friendship, I feel. Because it is one thing to be BFFS, another to be travel buddies:-) I am going to travel with a close friend of mine this year, let’s see how it works.

  2. I think that travel is a complex experience that can be enjoyed in many ways. For example when I travel solo I visit everything at high speed, when I am with friends I relax and slow down and if I am out with my Bf then the experience becomes something completely different. One type of travel is not better than another , they are just different

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