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A Guide to Finding the Perfect Travel Companion

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 19/10/2015 Marjorie Freimuth

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Travel is the best, but it can sometimes bring out the worst in a person. So, someone who can revel in the awesome sights and exotic foods and stumble through the unfamiliar languages while at the same time taking bus delays in stride is a rare gem. Don't let that person go (or, if they do, go with them). If you're looking to travel the world or even take a jaunt to the next city, the right companion can enhance the adventure far beyond what you would have experienced by yourself or, perish the thought, with an incompatible partner.
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Choose someone who isn't afraid to tell you when you're being an idiot, but make sure it also goes both ways. This person will help keep you grounded and potentially safer. The flip side is that this may also prevent you from following said person onto a path in a darkly wooded forest because they're convinced it will lead back to the road, but you know that it won't.
Make sure you're with someone you can spend an unlimited amount of time with and not want to hop the nearest rickshaw out. Depending on the length of your travels, you could be spending a lot of quality time together. You had better find this person interesting, or you're risking a lot of boring meals and train rides. Meanwhile, remember to take time for yourself. You will both appreciate each other much more after ten minutes, an hour, or even a day apart. You'll also have even more to talk about after you reconnect.
Speaking of which, find someone with whom you don't completely agree. While you probably don't want to be constantly bickering, a person who occasionally pushes a few of your buttons can be a good thing. Travel is about broadening your horizons and teaching you to think in new ways, so a companion who challenges your intellectual comfort zone can be a good thing. Continually reaffirming each other's opinions will get tedious and doesn't lend itself to much creative thought. But you'll remember a day spent in heated debate on the merits of Star Trek vs. Star Wars. Hey, I never said you had to debate philosophy or politics.
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While a person with a good sense of direction is an added bonus, it's also fun if this person has a penchant for wandering until, and even if, he or she gets lost. While traversing an entire city on foot can be exhausting, it's also a great way to see things off the beaten path and get your bearings. You'll never forget the orientation of Mt. Lycabettus to the Acropolis when you've walked the whole distance between, using the two landmarks for orientation. Pro tip: it helps morale if you stop near the end to buy a bottle of wine (as a celebration of your success, of course).
Although this might be a hotly contested tip by other travelers, I greatly prefer a travel companion who isn't glued to a smartphone. A large part of travel is discovering the mysteries of an unfamiliar place; smartphones can all too easily remove the mysteries. Smartphones are helpful tools, but use them with caution lest they take over your experience, and beware those who prefer to stare down at a screen rather than up at life. Life can lead to getting lost, learning how to read maps, asking friendly locals for directions and restaurant recommendations, and making memories that can't be captured through an iphone camera, no matter how professional their quality becomes.
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Find someone who is willing to eat anything at least once. Food is a huge part of a region's culture, and in many ways it might be hard to understand people or their way of life if you don't experience the food. When the group at the next table helps you place your order because you don't speak Chinese, then offers you a bite from their platter of pig intestines, you should probably go for it. You might also find yourself in a situation where you don't actually know what any of the food is. You don't want to have to quiz the proprietor of an eatery in Tanzania about whether they're serving something that you're comfortable eating when you're still tripping over "good morning" in Swahili.
A person with a good sense of humor will go a long way (this may be a life tip, not just a travel tip). Travel is messy. It's full of flight delays, boat cancellations, and missed reservations, not to mention unfamiliar food, difficulties communicating, and, even if you've studied up beforehand, cultural faux pas. You may have to spend a night sleeping on the floor of an airport in Prague, or attempt to ask for the train schedule in German, or find yourself facing a plate of stinky tofu in Taiwan. A person who rolls with the punches and even makes you laugh about them is invaluable.
While there are many personality traits that might make certain people better travel companions than others, much of it is about matching personal temperaments. These recommendations are a good starting place, but you alone will have the final say in whose personality meshes with yours. Choose wisely and travel far. Oh, and travel with someone who always suggests dessert.
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