A good destination can be ruined by the people you share said destination with. I am perfectly happy alone with my podcasts, and many of my travels have involved just that. But for the sake of good conversation (or, you know, any conversation) around the dinner table, I do prefer to have a travel buddy.
One of the best vacations I have ever had was with Barb. We were raised within 30 miles of each other, yet did not meet until we moved to Senegal with the Peace Corps. What are the odds? As is common tradition amongst Peace Corps workers who are about to finish their contract, I began to plan a travel plan for the trip home. Sure, the final destination was Minneapolis, but where would I make pit stops at first? It somehow morphed from Dubai to India to Europe, and I asked Barb if she was interested in tagging along. After some hemming and hawing of her own (she was debating going to Australia, which sure, would have been fun, but I wasn't there and I'm pretty great so..) she agreed to come with.
I am a planner when it comes to travel (well, to everything). I want to arrive in a location knowing what I want to do, how long each thing will take, and how much it will cost. I leave room for extra surprises, but as a general rule I like to have a basic idea of these things. It's common for travel bloggers to like to travel on the fly, but that stresses me out. It leads to a loss of money I do not have and potentially missing out on an experience that I will regret when I find out about it after the fact. Good for those who are more easy-going, but not me sir, not me. Barb had known me for two years at this point and already knew that I was deep in the planning stage. She told me to let her know the itinerary each morning of the trip, and she would decide then whether or not she would join me for various excursions.
We did the two trips I had planned - Delphi and Santorini in Greece - together, but otherwise we learned rather quickly that we have two different travel styles. We both like museums, but I go through them faster than she does. I am more interested in seeing certain things, whereas she wasn't as willing to spend the money on entrance fees if she didn't think that she would be blown away (I saw the Acropolis alone, for example). So we mostly did our days separately and then reconvened in the evening.
This might sound like a terrible combination, but in reality it was absolutely perfect. What I like about traveling alone is that you are able to do what you want to do. What I don't like about is the boredom in the evening. This was a beautiful combination of both options. Whenever we separated, we agreed on a time in which we would meet for dinner. And, because we had not spent the entire day together, we actually had things to tell each other. We were already going to be together for two weeks, it was ok to take daily breaks.
We were already good friends prior to this vacation, but it was really this trip that elevated our friendship to a best friend level. Not only had we talked prior to the trip about each other's expectations, but we had a perfect balance of time together and time apart. We did not force each other's interests on one another, and we were not insulted when the other wanted to do their own thing.
I have had friendships tested due to travel expectations that were not the same due to a lack of communication on the part of both parties. One vacation I took was with a friend who, after I described the above trip, jokingly said, "remind me to never travel with you. I don't care about museums, I just want to relax with friends and drink." Needless to say, a few months later when we did go somewhere together...well, we should have listened to her "joke".
Communication is key, as they say. But if you have never traveled the way Barb and I do, I highly recommend giving it a shot. Do your own thing and then share a plate of the local cuisine afterwards. It just might just lead to the best trip you've ever had.