It was 50 degrees outside, the desert sand blazing along the Nile. But she wanted to go for a walk. “Even the guide says it’s too hot. For God’s sake, the cruise has cancelled the afternoon tour,” I pleaded.
To no avail. Snapping that I was a spoilsport and “wasting a precious afternoon in Egypt”, she marched off while I sighed, blinked and pouted (those three stages just before the tears), picked up a book and tried to enjoy my free afternoon.
The truth is, there is no such thing as the perfect travel buddy. Even when you find someone who checks all the boxes – same interests, similar income, flexible schedule, neat, clean, punctual, pleasant – there will still be the odd disaster. Like that afternoon in Egypt.
Or the time I really needed a loo, but she had spotted a ‘muse’ who would make the perfect photograph against the façade of a museum in Istanbul. She left me waiting and waiting as she crouched and knelt and circled, determined to get the perfect angle.
Still, it is a rare blessing to have a travel buddy. After all, it’s not like you can just pick any friend, parent, cousin or sibling. Believe me, I’ve tried. Travelling with family, for instance. What is it about packing a bag that can so totally alter a person, taking them from kind, loving parent to a complaining nag who will not let the cook make tea without handwritten instructions?
Who will complain that every single person we meet is either “too nice… how suspicious” or every place has “dreadful service… we should never come here again”. Sigh, blink, pout.
As for friends, you may have known someone for decades and still have no idea exactly what form of nightmare they will take outside city limits. I mean, you spend days together, studying, going to movies, dinners and parties and all is perfectly sane and reasonable.
Then the bags are packed, you’re off for a week in Singapore and you discover that your friend is a gambler and a shopaholic, wants to spend every free moment at a mall, and, when not shopping, would rather spend hours cooking than pay for a meal, because “that money could be spent on cosmetics”. Oh, and the alcohol is too expensive, so we’re just drinking water… from the tap. Everywhere.
Suddenly, the idea of a scorching summer walk in the desert alone doesn’t seem so bad.
Especially if you find ways around the sticky points – like immediately walking away when she points her camera at that ‘muse’, because you know it’s going to be a while and, really, there are things to see at the museum, for God’s sake.
And if you remind yourself that she does all the research (invaluable), packs light (leaving plenty of space for your books and outfits) and takes great photos (invaluable, if sometimes inconvenient).
The truth is, once you’re lucky enough to have found The One, for every silly argument, you will have dozens of golden memories – of afternoons spent watching the sun set over the pyramids, sipping cocktails at Rick’s Café in Casablanca or sharing fish sandwiches at a floating restaurant along the Bosphorus. And if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit, you’re not the perfect travel buddy either.
Travel buddies on screen
The Hangover: Only go on holiday with this lot if you want to get lost. For real!
Dil Chahta Hai: They drive off in a fancy car, clown around in Goa and have a good time.
The Motorcycle Diaries: You can’t get any closer to one another than sharing a motorcycle. Especially if you share the same political beliefs too.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara: Best friends in Spain egg each other on to do daring things. They even throw tomatoes!
The adventures of tintin: The boy reporter, Captain Haddock and even Snowy get on so well together!
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle: A shared love of pot and hankering for burgers. Despite the odds, they reach White Castle, eventually!
Dumb and Dumber: Look at the movie title. Enough said.
Lord of the Rings: Hope you get a travel buddy like Sam. And not like Gollum!
Think you’ve found The One?
Start small: Go on a weekend trip first, or explore a local or inexpensive destination. That way, you’ll feel the break-up less keenly if it doesn’t work out.
Don’t throw in the towel too soon: If you have some good memories, and didn’t need a doctor, you can still make it work. Identify pain points and decide together how you will resolve them.
Write your vows: Have clear ground rules about budgets, schedules and cost-sharing. This will ensure that one person does not spend the emergency fund on alcohol, leaving you with not enough money to get to the airport.
Get your head out of the clouds: Do not ignore the warning signs. Is he/she tardy, messy, needy? Sort it out before you book your tickets. Remember, every tiny peeve is magnified on a holiday.
From HT Brunch, March 24
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