What To Do When You Fall Out With Your Travel Companion

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Two tigers roaring at each other

Whether you start your trip with a partner/existing friend or meet someone along the way, there are bound to be times during your long-term travels when you find yourself travelling with someone else, which can be great…until you fall out with your travel companion.

I have form for doing a moonlight flit. I’ve done it definitely once, creeping out in the dark of night to catch a flight my ex-travel companion didn’t know I’d booked and even as I write this I am grazing alternative accommodation arrangements having misjudged the character qualities of my current travel companion. But does it always need to be this drastic?

Having travelled with many different people from friends to family to partners to strangers, here are my tips for:

1. Don’t react

I have an honours degree in tantrums. I don’t have them often, but when I do they are as unpredictable as monsoon storms. When these clouds of anger pass over me, they do so with less than a moment’s notice drenching anyone in my vicinity with a downpour of emotion. The storm will usually pass minutes later but instead of revealing a rainbow, I’m left feeling embarrassed and regretful for my actions that have regularly found me stomping off…usually in the wrong direction, often under the weight of my bags, only to sidle back to my travel buddy moments later with a full apology (and offer to buy the next coffee/beer) in hand.

Not reacting is something I’ve personally worked really hard at  (not least because it can be financially costly – all those coffees add up). Sometimes my efforts are successful, sometimes less so, but my stint of Vipassana meditation training in India definitely helps. If tensions are rising or a situation is annoying you, try your level best to adopt the tried and tested method of counting to 10 (or in my case 482) before you even consider responding. And then count some more until your anger is a distant, laughable memory.

2. Take some time out

In a scenario where you’re spending nearly all of your time with the same person, there are bound to be times when you clash. Fortunately, there is a simple solution – schedule in some alone time. Whether it is a walk in the park, an afternoon in a café or a few days exploring on your own, some time away from your travel companion can work wonders.

3. Slow down

Two of the most common causes of a bad mood on the road are stress and tiredness, both of which come hand in hand with doing too many things in too little time. It’s understandable that while you’re exploring new countries you want to cram as much into your days as possible, but is it worth your ongoing happiness and at the potential cost of your relationship/friendship with your travel companion?

If you find yourself starting to get annoyed at the slightest thing, including your travel chum, try slowing down. You may not see as many things, but you’ll probably appreciate the sights and your company a lot more.

Tip: I also find that there is very little that can’t be solved on the annoyance front by a good sleep or decent food. For a quicker fix, try doing both and seeing if things improve before you alter your travel itinerary.

4. Have a word with yourself

Whether secretly or openly, we all (I’m holding my hand high in the air here) like to think that we are beyond reproach – the vision of the perfect traveller, but the reality is rarely that (I’m holding both hands high in the air at this point). As much as we like to think that the sun shines out of our…travel shoes…we equally don’t tend to want to admit when we’re being an idiot. However, as often as we find other people annoying, it is more likely than not that our own actions are as much to blame for any conflict, which is where it is useful to sit back and take a large dose of objectivity (swill it down with a beer if necessary).

Try to consider your behavior from the perspective of your travel companion: are you being the best of who you can be? Are you being kind, generous, compassionate, understanding, unassuming, flexible, considerate…The answer is usually going to be: probably not as much as you could be. If that’s the conclusion you reach, adapt your own behavior and see if things change.

5. Talk it out

Left untreated, wounds can fester to the point of amputation and the same goes with feelings (though in a less physically dramatic way). If something is bugging you about your buddy, talk it out. It’s always better to get your thoughts off your chest in a calm, controlled manner than reaching the point where you can tolerate the annoyance anymore resulting in you screaming your objections at your (soon to be ex) friend in that posh restaurant you’ve being dying to try, with relationship amputation guaranteed to be served some time between the aperitifs and the main course.

Starting an honest chat can be difficult and there is no easier time than 5 minutes ago, but be brave, stumble the words out and wait for the reply. Two words of caution: i) your buddy is entitled to a response so be sure to apply rule number 1 – don’t react, and ii) be prepared to have a mirror held up to your own behavior, which may not look as pretty as you think. If you’re both able to take on board the points made on both sides, hopefully you should be able to move on, back to full travel friendship health.

6. Lay down some laws

I’m not talking about an attempt at the Magna Carta or the 10 Commandments, punishable by drowning under the nearest waterfall for non-compliance, but agreeing on some ground rules can sometimes help. Whether you determine some rules before you set off or agree them as you go, identifying the main causes of friction and working around them can dissolve a good portion of your travel companion troubles. For example, if you feel like you spend all of your time trip planning while your friend lounges in a hammock, draw up rules on who will do what, utilizing both of your strengths (note: if you ever travel with me, never, ever, ever, let me be in charge of map reading – even with GPS).

Whatever rules you come up with, be careful not to let them sneakily introduce an alternative source of stress and conflict – they are there to help and if they are not working, it’s time to re-assess.

7. Acquire some new friends

I’m not suggesting a straight swap (as I assume you’re reading this because I’d like to improve things with your existing friend), but there is nothing like a group get together to take the pressure off. Let’s face it, we all behave better when we’re around strangers and swapping stories, laughing and having a light-hearted time can work wonders for your existing friendship…even if all you do is spend the following days pondering between you the various curiosities of the people you met, reveling in your luck that your existing travel companion isn’t quite as bad as the potential alternatives!

8. Consider a longer break

“Ok, see you in the next town…country…continent.” Sometimes things reach a point of near no return, but there is still potential to salvage your travel relationship, if you’re prepared to take a leap of faith with an extended break. If your relationship is romantic, be careful to set the ground rules to avoid the painful Ross-Rachel-Friends-‘we were on a break’ scenario, but taking longer time out can be just what you need.

Whether you decide to meet up in two town’s time, the next country along or back at home, a real separation can provide time to reevaluate whether you want to continue to travel with your companion or whether you really do prefer to be apart. I tried this method once, parting ways with a male travel friend. When I felt relief rather than longing when we did part ways, it gave me the answer I’d been battling with for weeks.

9. Set a limit on compromise

As much as I can be a grumpy cow prone to tantrums, I also have a serious weakness when it comes to compromise. Catch me before I get angry enough to explode and I’m most likely going to bend with whatever situation I’m presented with, adapting as I go. At times, this can be good, but in some cases, for me, it means that I bend so much it is ultimately to my detriment.

Not only can I find myself tolerating situations that shouldn’t be tolerated (unreasonable, unfair and sometimes just plain bad behavior), it ends up detracting from my enjoyment of my trip. If you’re of a similar ilk, it is all the more important to set a limit on what you will and won’t compromise on. From experience, I have developed a simple threshold – if I reach a point where I would enjoy my time more if I were alone, and none of the above have worked, it’s time to thinking about number 10…

10. Be prepared to walk away

The longer you have travelled together and the more entwined your relationship, the more difficult it can be to walk out on a travel friend. However, sometimes it becomes a necessity. If you find yourself in a situation where, despite having tried all of the above, you are experiencing more bad than good times, your travel friend is taking unfair advantage or you’re missing out on the kind of trip you envisioned (and let’s not forget you’re investing hard earned cash in each day of your trip), it may well be time to say goodbye.

It’s not always the easy option and my flit in the night method is cowardly…yet (I’m embarrassed to admit) effective. If you’re worried about the finality of this approach and don’t want to rush out under the cover of darkness, consider approaching your walk away as a longer term break, accepting the reality that you may not want to meet up later down the line after time has passed (and you’ve met another, better, travel buddy).

However, it is important to be prepared to walk away – you get each day only once, so it’s important to enjoy it. If that means being apart from your travel friend, so be it.

Have you done a moonlight flit or endured travel friends for longer than you should? Let me know your stories.

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Photo by:  Tambako the Jaguar.

Author - Jo Fitzsimons

Avatar for Jo Fitzsimons

Hi, I'm Jo, the writer behind Indiana Jo. In 2010 I quit my job as a lawyer and booked an around the world ticket. As a solo female traveller, I hopped from South America to Central America, across Asia, the Middle East and Europe. It was supposed to be a one-year trip but over a decade later, it's yet to end. I've lived in a cave, climbed down a volcano barefoot, spent years as a digital nomad, worked as a freelance travel writer, and eaten deadly Fugu. Now I'm home, back in the UK, but still travelling far and wide. You can find out more About Me.

22 thoughts on “What To Do When You Fall Out With Your Travel Companion”

  1. Here I am in Mexico on a trip with a new friend who’s like a 16 year old who needs adderlol. He’s an energy vampire. Won’t stop chattering. Nervous and drinks way too much, pressuring me to do the same. I tried a day off. That didn’t work. Yes I began to voice my frustrations and that didn’t go well. We are now staying at the same Airbnb and I’ve found New Year’s Eve plans away from him. Then we fly home in 2 days. I am just avoiding him completely and know that I won’t ever have to see him again after a few days.

    • Ouch! Sometimes travelling with someone is the most complete way to get to know a person. Sorry you had that experience. One to chalk up to experience. Hope your New Year was good, at least.

  2. On a world tour with my husband. I loved when we traveled alone and maintained our space and privacy. It’s all gone now. I love meeting people and sharing sometime together for a drink, meal, coffee or a chat in the hostel. After that; I respect everyone’s plans, space and privacy and I want the same for me. We have maintained this for the longest in our trip but now he is inviting people to travel together. We don’t have our travel anymore, we don’t have our time anymore until we are in the room. For me bed time is bedtime not time to make up for all lost time together. It’s getting on my nerves. He is not happy if I choose to spend time away from the rest. I am getting pissed and now having to deal with lots of people with my getting pissed. He has stopped observing our budget and he is now spending like everyone else. We don’t know them and we don’t know what they have. He shares our personal stuff which is really annoying to me. I have told him so many times not to engage or start conversations that tend to discuss personal details. These people are not know to us, they are people we meet on the road traveling like us. We haven’t even know each other and personal matters are subject of discussion on a beer table. Am so fed up and my talking is not heeding any fruits. I miss my solo travels. I do, and this is sad to say now.

    • Hi Muyu, I’m sorry you’re having such a bad experience. As a complete amateur psychologist here, I wonder if your husband is trying to impress the other people and ‘keep up with them’? I’m no expert on these things. Is it worth taking a little time to travel separately, often a break is all you need. I wish you every luck.

  3. I’m in the same situation stuck on a tour in Asia with a friend who has been extremely nasty to me. We have to share rooms in all stops and then the 23 hour plane ride home. Good times

    • Yikes! That’s not fun. At least on the plane you can legitimately put some headphones in and focus on the screen in front of your or close your eyes. Hope it got better!

  4. Old post I know but I just need to vent a little while I’m on this trip. I tried to come up with an excuse why I couldn’t go before we even booked but I couldn’t come up with a valid reason. My travel companion is very self centered. Coming into it with that attitude was probably my first problem.

    We’re staying overseas at some of her families house. I’m sleeping on the floor. I’ve tried to be polite to the family and haven’t complained about anything. She has thrown insults at me for the first two days. I finally can’t take it anymore and confront her. She blames her attitude on me because I’m being rude to her family by asking them questions (I was clarifying who they were talking about in their story) and having bad energy. She tells me she’s really sensitive to energy and she’s just reacting to my energy.

    I asked her if she’s going to continue to be this was because I don’t appreciate it. I even offered to go home because it’s not worth it to me to stay if this will be the experience. She told me to stop being the victim and apologized.

    She continued to belittle me the rest of the time with her family and got mad at me for being a controlling. She gets mad at me for telling her things, like which train to take, gets mad at me for not telling her things, like which train to take, and then gets mad if I get the wrong train.

    She even got mad when my phone told us to take the subway and it was longer than 2 stops.
    She told her family that I was on her last nerve while I was in earshot. We were eating at a restaurant and everyone got up to look at the view except for one family member. I stayed while my friend went to the bathroom so her family member wouldn’t eat alone. When she got back I told her I needed to use the restroom. She asked me why I why waited instead of going while she was up and I told her it was so the other lady wasn’t alone. Then she started talking about me.

    On the second leg of the trip she told me I could still lose 20 more pounds (I’ve lost 75 in the last year and am the smallest I’ve been since high school). She’s very large. She also told me to stop talking to her like a child. (She pointed out a dog that we had seen earlier. I said that’s the one from the store.)

    I’m not changing my plans for tomorrow, there are things I want to see that she won’t let me so I’m sending her off on her own. She wants me to come because she’s worried how to get where she’s going because her phone is not working. I’m hoping she gets lost.

    On the last leg I booked a city pass that we both agreed to buy. Now she wants me purchase hers. I told her I can’t. 1. I don’t want to pay for her and 2. I can only have one Reservation number on the app it uses. She has not booked it and I’ve already spent $150 on my 3 day pass.

    I am counting down the days for this trip to end. I can’t stand it. The only reason I’m still with her is I booked the last hotel. Otherwise I would separate at this point and book my own hotel.

    The worse is that we have friends in common and she is know to talk behind your back to people like crazy. That’s why I couldn’t just say no to the trip in the first place. It sounds ridiculous but this lady is crazy.

    • Sorry for taking so long to reply. I hope by now the frustration has passed and that the rant helped. I genuinely think that you never really know a person until you get to spend time with them in a travel situation. I hope you’ve managed to stay friends or at least have learnt a little something from the experience.

      • A little update. I tried really hard to keep my cool. We separated on the last two days. She wanted to go on an all day tour, I told her I didn’t want to as we didn’t have time but she could go on her own. She told me we needed to stay together so I told her we’d play it by ear. She got mad at me a little later and told me she was pissed at me for treating her like a child saying we’ll see if we had time. I lost it and told her I was done and offered to book her a separate hotel. She told me she’d do me a favor and book a flight home. I told her to do what she needed to do.

        The night before she left she barged into my room to curse at me and cobitue to put me down and insult the people in my life. Then she asked me to book her a taxi because her phone didn’t work. I didn’t argue with her as I didn’t see the point in talking and booked her taxi, everyone told me later I was too nice by doing that and they would have told her off. I didn’t see the point by then though. I just wanted her away from me.

        She called, with the phone that didn’t work, her family to complain about me where I could hear everything she was saying. Then she left early the next morning. She met with a mutual friend and complained about me. The friend tried to reconnect us. I ignored that attempt. I let people know that if the friend wanted to know what happened she could ask and I would tell her my side of the story. She has not asked me once.

        I enjoyed my last two days and even met some lovely people who live very close to me. I did more in the last two days then I did on the whole trip leading up that point.

        I have not seen her since. She has not shown up at meetings where we have both been required to attend for work. As far as I’m concerned she knows she’s wrong and she’s a coward. I’ve have a family member and a friend offer to go “talk” to her. I’ve declined both offers.

        Thank you so much for reading my complaint. It really did help me blow off some steam, at least for a day. I also appreciate you responding to me. Thank you.

        • Hi Kri, I’m sorry it ended badly but I’m glad you felt like you had a space to share your experience. Travel does bring out a side of people that we might not otherwise see. I was at least pleased to read that you met some nice people and did fun stuff at the end of your trip.

  5. We getting nice information through this blog. It’s Greate and Very Helpful. Thanks again and keep up the great work!

  6. I just came back from vacation with a childhood friend (guy) and, well, we aren’t friends anymore. I would have never thought things would go so horribly, because I’ve known this person for over 10 years and always considered him to be like a brother to me, but things certainly went bad. First off, he wouldn’t shut up. He would talk all the time, mostly about himself and how great he is, and never let me enjoy a moment of silence. Then 2 days later, when I really started to need some space, I joined a group of people from our hostel who were going to a nearby bar but my friend started making a big drama as we were walking to the bar because I supposedly ‘’broke the initial plan’’ which was to hit a nightclub. Problem was, all the nightclubs were empty that day, it was a Monday night in a small town in Costa Rica, so following our group from the hostel was obviously the better plan and I just went with it. But he got so angry so I repeatedly explained I preferred staying with the group and didn’t feel like going to a nightclub with him only, so he disappeared that night without saying goodbye.

    The next morning when I went to breakfast, he was there, ready to fight again about the previous night. He started telling me I’m unstable and should always stick to the plans or advise if otherwise, which I apologized for. But the next day was the breaking point for me…
    We were at the beach and we had each taken a 2 hour surf lesson which ended at sunset. We both got out of the water after our lesson, we smoked a cigarette and relaxed a bit, and I was ready to go back to the hotel to shower and rest as I was exhausted. But before I knew it, he was already back in the water with his surf board, in the dark. Our hotel was a few steps away from the beach, so I figured he could join me when he’s done. I really did not feel like waiting after him, I only wanted to shower and rest. So I tried yelling, from outside the water ‘’hey I’m going back to the hostel okay? Need to shower see you there!’’ I yelled it a couple times to make sure he heard it, and next thing I know, he’s coming out of the water screaming at me again : ‘’F*** you got a f***** problem why can’t you just wait for me to finish, you’re in need of attention or something! If you want to leave just leave and stop being annoying you’re so unstable you’re a pain to have around etc.’’

    I was so in shock, it did not make the slightest sense that he would be angry at me for this. I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of his mouth so I took my stuff and left without saying a word to him. The next day, at breakfast, he started accusing me again of being selfish, not caring about other people so I simply told him I thought it would be best to cancel all our plans for the rest of the week and each go our own way. So we cancelled our reservations at all the other cities we were supposed to visit together and he left the next morning. I stayed in that city alone for the rest of the trip, and I must say, it was SO MUCH BETTER than to be around him !!

    I still can’t make sense of anything that happened with him during this trip, and I can’t believe our friendship is over. The only explanation I can find to his behavior is that maybe he had feelings for me and wanted to spend a lot of alone time with me? Or maybe I’m too independent to travel with other people? I’m not sure…All I know is that he wasn’t fun to be around from the start, and it only got worse as days went by…

    • Lea, sorry for the slow delay in replying (holiday season!). I’m sad to read that you had such a bad experience with your friend while you were away and that you went home no longer friends. If it makes you feel better, I’ve spent time with dozens of people on the road who were reeling from a friendship breakup. Feeling better when you’re away from your friend is a definite sign that something is wrong in your relationship. Sometimes that can be cured with a bit of time apart but if someone is flinging offensive comments at you and criticising you, you’re better walking away and explaining why. I hope that when some time has passed you’re able to reconnect with your friend and sit down with him in a less charged atmosphere and understand what went wrong, with a view to patching things up. That might be more tricky for him if he does have feelings for you. It might also be that he’s experiencing stress elsewhere in his life and it manifested itself while you’re away – it’s often easier to take out our frustrations on those closest to us even though it’s not the right thing to do. If you’re unable to patch your friendship back up, I understand how sad that can be. However, when that has happened in my life (and it has more than once), I remind myself that there are over 7 billion people in this world. There’s no need to chase after the friends who treat you badly. There are literally billions of other people out there who will treat you better. Have a great New Year. Here’s to finding new and more positive friends in 2015.

  7. I have come to the conclusion after numerous ruined trips, vacations, that I will have to face the reality that I cannot travel with my mother and probably will not be able to ever take her to any countries she would like to see. We have so many differences. For instance, if the gas tank is half full then it is an argument because she starts panicking and I can wait until longer before I fill it up.
    Or, getting into a blowup over how much of a tip to leave the server when she was horrible. This may sound petty to people but you have to understand that a mother feels she has more say in how you behave so it is much worse. I can’t even hardly visit her at her home without leaving early. It is very sad.

    Then, I think of the one time I traveled while studying abroad and then had a ten day break. Another student and I decided to see several countries together. Boy, did I learn that the next time you really need to talk to someone about their travel habits!

    We were using RyanAir with no assigned seats so I would have to get in line early because I am claustrophobic. She like to wait until the last minute. So, we usually got in lines separately for the same flight. I always wanted to leave the hotel on time so we didn’t get charged a late fee for not being out on time…. and she would argue
    about that and did everything late. She never left room for error to catch a bus or flight or anything.

    Then choosing a restaurant was such a damn big deal to her. I was pretty open about it and just wanted to eat separately. I would want to sit outside and she didn’t want to because there might be dust. Or, I wanted to walk the boardwalk but she wanted to wait until evening. We disagreed on everything! The final straw was when she ran out of money and then copped an attitude because I said she could borrow some but needed to pay me back. Guess she thought I shouldn’t be concerned about my own money.

    • Oh, travelling with family. I think it demands an immediate knighthood 🙂 Mine and my mum’s travel styles are very different – she is very cautious and gets stressed easily whereas I’m way too laid back for her. Ironically, it is the reverse with my dad. I’m the one who gets stressed and I consider him very laid back. Family is one thing, and I like to take those trips because the memories, I find, tend to filter out the incompatibilities…after a while 🙂 Friends and strangers are another thing. There are actually only a few of my friends who I can happily travel with. Fortunately they are they ones who I keep travelling with. Otherwise, I prefer to go solo. I occasionally meet like-minded travellers along the way and it’s nice to share the journey for a while but then we eventually part ways. The more I travel the more I learn to part ways sooner than later…but I learn more and more with every trip. Maybe a solo venture for you next time? You never know, you might find your perfect travelling partner along the way. Happy travels!

      • Yes,
        I think may travel solo next time. I did once that same time studying abroad. I didn’t know we were going to be having a 5 day break and I had no one to go anywhere with so I went to Barcelona alone and thought I was going to be lonely. Nope! I had the best time of my life. Luckily I happened to book the best rated hostel in the city and the manager took us all out as a group. And, I didn’t realize how easy it was to meet other solo travelers.

        Every time my companion and I separated on the previous trip, I also had the best time meeting other people.

        I am light sleeper though. And now I am 38, so I guess I could book hostels with some individual rooms so I can get rest. I hate trying to do stuff the next day on no sleep. It ruins the whole day. Do you know if there are more hostels now catering to older people? I am wondering the best ways to meet other people without staying at a youth hostel.

        • Hey Bridget, one of my first solo trips was also to Barcelona and I loved it too…though I was nervous before I arrived, unsure what to expect. I actually booked a terrible hostel in a bad area and changed the second I saw it – changing was a good idea and I ended up in an excellent place on La Rambla. It’s interesting you talk about hostel and ‘older people’. I’m 37 and still regularly stay in hostels, even in the dorms. I personally never feel out of place in hostels even with my more mature age but I think a lot of that is down to perspective. I’d recommend doing a bit of research. Without wanting to stereotype, you’ll probably find a younger crowd at party hostels (you know, the ones that tend to offer free beer nights, have pub crawls and pictures of parties all over their site) and a more relaxed atmosphere is smaller, less party-oriented places. Private rooms in hostels are a grey compromise in my view, especially on the social side. As for meeting people outside of staying in a hostel, it can be more difficult but not impossible – you could simply visit the hostel bar/cafe social area (most hostels will let you do that) otherwise, pick up a copy of Lonely Planet – visit any of the cafes or restaurants listed there and you’re bound to meet some fellow travellers. Online forums are an option, though not something I’ve personally tried. Otherwise, finding a budget tour (can usually be booked through hostels even if you’re not staying there) is another good way. Some ideas to think about – let me know how you get on. Any trip plans coming up?

  8. That’s a pretty severe reaction! Haha!

    I have met so many people on the road with a variety of relationships ensuing. Some have been no more than a nice conversation or companionship for a long overnight bus or train journey. Others have become travelling companions and even friends for a few days or a week or so. Occassionally I have met those who have become – well lets just say more than that – for a brief time. I have never felt the need to run out in the middle of the night though! You meet people on the road and travel together for a time, when it is time to part ways you simply do that. That is the nature of backpacking.

    Travelling with a long term partner or friend from home is a WHOLE different matter though! haha!

    • Ha ha – I guess I’m perhaps a little prone to extremes 🙂 It takes a lot for me to fall out with someone, but when I do… I’m pretty lucky that I havea ‘stock’ of family and friends who regularly come and visit me on my trips and I always feel like they are deserting me when they have to go home 🙂


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