Travel Buddies Beware

Me in Caye Caulker, Belize. My travel buddy is in the background, at the table. December 2012.

Not long ago, I took a trip with assorted family members. Of the entire group, no one shared any of my habits. Fortunately, they indulged me—as have a handful of other travel buddies I’ve had over the years.

But I’m not the ideal travel companion for just anyone. Or even, likely, for most people.

  • No foodie. If vacation means indulging in unhealthy or decadently gourmet food, I’ll disappoint. I won’t appreciate the gourmet and won’t enjoy the unhealthy. Going to dinner doesn’t interest me. Even on vacation, I want my food clean. I don’t mind cooking it—and would probably prefer it if I did.
  • Exercise required. Time away doesn’t mean less exercise; rather, it provides free time for more. I run on vacation. Sometimes I hit the gym. Sure, in Belize I didn’t run, but we did yoga, spent entire days caving and hiking and climbing through ruins, and swam vigorously. Every day. Travel buddies don’t have to join me, but they have to allow me the leeway to get it done.
  • Alcohol-free. On vacation, many people enjoy wine or beer tours, get tipsy at the end of the day, and hang out at the ritzy (or local) bar. Well, I don’t drink. At all. I don’t mind when others do—but they typically don’t enjoy drinking alone.
  • Up when? Most people stay up past 9 p.m.—especially when a night on the town in a hotspot destination awaits. Alas, I’m a morning person. I fade long before the nightlife begins.
  • Television = yuck. Many people switch on the television when they walk into the room, whether for background noise or to decompress. I find it highly irritating. After all, I haven’t had a television since 1998.
  • Rough it? Pass. My days of roughing it on travel ended a few years after graduate school. Today, I’ll endure discomfort for a rare and fantastic reason—perhaps for something desirable that I can’t experience any other way—but the vast majority of my vacations require good beds, quiet rooms, quality showers, and my own space.

At least I’m laid back—as long as you let me do what I need to do, I’ll happily let you do the same.

And at least I don’t mind traveling solo.

Do you have any quirks about which you’d warn potential travel buddies?

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Reader Comments (7)

I am a morning person. Sleeping in, for me, is 7 am. This also means that I don't stay up late. I nod off around 11.

I am a photographer. A day spent wandering around taking snapshots is a good day for me, but it tends to annoy those who want to get somewhere, or who don't have the patience for the sun to come out from behind the clouds so I can get a decent shot.

I am also the person who will lie on the ground (or hang off the balcony) to get the right angle. Some people have found this embarassing.

I am fascinated by groceries and markets. I know I don't have a kitchen when I travel, but I am always interested in new and unusual ingredients. Sometimes, I even find cool stuff to take home. Black pepper candy anyone?

I loathe buffets. I am a foodie (though I hate the label) and buffets, even "good" ones, are never that good. Also, I prefer not to walk through crowded restaurants balancing plates and silverware.

April 3, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca

I tend to go off the planned schedule so often that it's almost as if the trip itinerary was a suggestion. World's largest ball of yarn, 10 mile detour your next left? Yes!!

Schedules are a very good idea for maximizing your vacation time and one day I promise that I will follow one to the letter.

I avoid packaged holidays and tour groups. I will avoid big resorts and well managed tourist locations but I will immediately run to some mom and pop tourist trap. Shrug.

I want to see what's on the other side of that (hill, river, lion car safari, or whatever) and somehow I usually will.

As to your points:

Food and drink: It is silly to go on vacation just for food and drink. Sometimes though you have to try the local fare. I mean why go to Munich during Oktoberfest if you're not going to try the Schnitzel (ok, I don't like Schnitzel but you get my point, right?)

TV: Are you kidding me? Travelled X number of miles and spent Y amount of money to watch TV in another city?!?!

Sleeping: Two schools of thought on this. First you're burning daylight. Your vacation is only a finite amount of time and the more you're in bed the more you're using up that time. On the other hand it's your vacation not office time 2.0.

Really depends on the vacation setting. For most vacations you will want all the daylight hours that you can get for activities. If you go to Vegas you will probably want to see all the sparkly lights at night.

I will say though that near the end of the vacation I do start sticking to my normal sleeping hours to reacclimate to my normal schedule.

Exercise and roughing it: Not as much on the former. Though our association in the last year has made me reconsider this position. As to roughing it, I want to favor a balanced approach. I definitely don't want to spend all my time in hotels and resorts though.

For my upcoming vacation I am planning at least a few days at a place called "The Sagamore" on Lake George as well as some time in the back country at some B&B's though as always nothing is set in stone yet.

April 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Pora

Rebecca, sounds like what we suspected: We'd be good travel buddies. :)

Will, I'm not a Vegas kind of girl, you see. ;) Actually, I've been twice: Once, for a conference, and once, for a wedding. For the latter, we did do a bit of wandering in the evening to get a feel for what the place is about. I came away with a pretty clear knowledge that Vegas isn't really for people who aren't into gambling, clubbing, and overpriced restaurants. Sounds like you're a pretty adventuresome traveler, though! We're kindred spirits in some of that. Can't wait to hear about the Lake George trip!

April 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterLeslie Farnsworth

I’ve had ample opportunity to ponder over some of these questions during a recent extended (solo) vacation. Re the items you mentioned:

--Food: Particularly when on vacation, I generally view meals as a way to fuel the body in preparation to do more entertaining things than sit in a restaurant. That food needs to be healthy and clean, but otherwise, I’m not too picky. During my trip, I often would stop by a Subway (which are absolutely everywhere in Australia just like they are in the US…) before a day of hiking and get a sub or two to bring with me for lunch/dinner so I could stay in a national park all day. Easy, pretty healthy, and saves precious vacation time for more entertaining stuff. Also found myself cooking simple healthy meals for dinner if wherever I was staying at the time had decent kitchen facilities. I might be enticed into heading out for a fancy meal on rare occasions by a travel companion, but that certainly wouldn’t be the focal point of my vacation.

--Exercise: Yes, please. An absolute prerequisite of my vacations as well. When I plan a trip, I devote a lot of time to outdoors hiking, trail running, swimming, caving, etc. Even when touristing in big cities, I try to explore as much as possible on foot to get a sense of the place as well as a little exercise that way too. Jogging thru new cities is also a great way to get acquainted with such places. Like you, I have no problem exercising by myself if my travel companion(s) would rather shop, sleep in, etc., but it’s certainly more fun if they want to join me too.

--Booze: I’m also not a drinker, so when I was staying with Aussie families, I often had to explain that I’m not a recovering alcoholic or some sort of religious nut who thinks that alcohol is a tool of the devil—I just don’t find that drinking adds to my enjoyment of most situations, so I choose not to partake. Still, I’m more than glad to sit out on the porch in the evening and chat with people having a beer (a staple of the Aussie culture!) as long as I can have a cold lemonade or iced tea instead, though. Seems logical to me, but apparently a foreign concept (no pun intended) to some of the people I met on my trip… It doesn’t bother me at all if my travel buddies want to go out drinking (provided they don’t come back hammered, wake me up at 2AM, and puke in my backpack), but I am unlikely to be interested in getting dressed up again after a full day outside and going out in the evening just to have a few drinks.

--Bedtime: By nature, I tend towards being a night owl, which fits in well with my current job. However, I don’t go on vacation just to sleep in until noon. I like to be active outside on vacation, so it would be stupid to waste half of the day in bed when I’ve made the effort to go somewhere that is tailor-made for outdoors fun. I used to work a shift job where we would bounce back and forth between 6AM-6PM and 6PM-6AM shifts, so moving my sleep schedule while on vacation to be early to bed and early to rise was not difficult at all on my recent trip.

--TV: See previous item—much like sleeping in, watching TV isn’t what I go on vacation to do.

--Accommodations: I love being outdoors all day, but at the end of a day like that, I want a hot shower and a comfy bed. I thought I might try camping out at some point during my stay overseas, but I never did—it was always well worth paying for some decent lodging (doesn’t need to be a 4 star hotel at all—in fact, I’m probably a little out of my element in unbelievably fancy places like the casino hotel I stayed at in Macau (my mom’s comment was “it must have been like the Beverly Hillbillies checking in”), but clean and quiet are must-haves) to relax and recharge for the next day.

--Schedule: One item I’d add to your list is that I don’t like to travel with a super-fixed itinerary. I will do my homework to have a general idea of what activities are available in a particular area and usually have a list of specific activities that I want to do at some point during the trip, but I rarely have each day planned out to the minute in advance. This is actually a big reason that I don’t go with tour groups when vacationing—to me, that sort of ultra-regimented trip (e.g., on bus at 8:00AM, stop to observe historic building for 15 minutes between 8:45-9:00AM, etc.) saps a lot of the fun out of travel for me.

--Together apart: This is probably linked to the point above, actually. It’s fun to vacation with someone if you’re compatible travel buddies, but I don’t really enjoy traveling with someone who demands that every activity must be done together. It’s definitely fun to do things together if that activity is what both parties really want to do, but I don’t want to talk Travel Buddy into a beach run if that’s not their cup of tea just like I don’t want them to try and guilt me into a day of wandering around some mall with them. Having to negotiate that sort of give-and-take just reduces the fun for everyone so much that it defeats the point of traveling with a companion. I’m very much a “live and let live” traveler (and in most other aspects of life, I suppose)—if our preferred itineraries differ, then neither of us should take it personally. We can just go our separate ways during the day, then meet up for dinner later on to talk about our respective days.

So I wouldn’t label your list of travel prerequisites as “quirks” at all—sounds to me like the recipe for an excellent trip…

April 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick

All good points, Nick! As for schedules--which you and Will mentioned--I definitely have "must sees" that I schedule if I need to, but having unstructured time is really important for a trip to be relaxing for me. Good point!

April 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterLeslie Farnsworth

We are ones who like exploring new things, so give us a map and we're good to go. And while I like a good glass of wine with dinner, that's about it, my husband and I have never been the party til you drop types. We have a TV, but it's used for movies and video games, and I really cannot see the point of that as background noise. Give me some good music instead.

June 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKim

Sounds like we three would be good travel buddies then, Kim! Now we just need to get your guys to plan a vacation... :)

June 18, 2013 | Registered CommenterLeslie Farnsworth

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