In addition to traveling solo, I’ve travelled with my fair share of female friends as part of a group. But traveling with a (platonic) boy friend changes things.
My friend Howard and I have traveled together many times. And those trips have made me realize that there are a few points about traveling as half of a mixed pair that are worth talking about.
1. Know that Everyone is Going to Assume that You’re a Couple
For some reason it is still the common assumption that a guy and a girl traveling together must be romantically involved.
If you’re traveling in more conservative countries, this can actually work in your favor — even if it sometimes does involve pretending to be married.
However, a lot of the time traveling with a guy friend can be a disadvantage. Namely, it damages the chances of either of you pulling a sexy foreigner on your travels.
The solution: come up with a strategy early on. Establish early on in the conversation with new people what the reality of your relationship is
Be sure to explicitly introduce and refer to him as your “guy friend,” and make reference to one of your partners back home if there is one. Or mention in passing how annoying it is that everyone keeps assuming you’re together.
If all else fails, just tell everyone you meet that you’re desperately trying to help him pull. That should do the trick.
2. Consider how your partners feels about it
The first time someone expressed surprise that my boyfriend was OK with me traveling with a male friend, I didn’t know how to respond. It was something I hadn’t even thought about.
While thankfully my relationship lacks a healthy amount of jealousy, it is normal for people to feel irrationally worried that their other half might get caught up in the romance of the open road.
If yours or your friend’s partner (or both!) seem a little off about the idea, that’s OK. They’re allowed to feel that way. We’re all a little bit mad and neurotic when it comes to affairs of the heart.
The important thing is for couples to communicate with each other beforehand about how they’re feeling. It might be that the partner is fine with you traveling with your friend – but not with the idea of you two sharing a double bed in hotel rooms.
That’s not entirely unreasonable, and easy enough to comply with. The important thing to remember is that it’s not for your partner to tell you who you can and can’t travel with. A blanket ban is not cool, and should be treated with the contempt it deserves.
If it’s your friend’s girlfriend who’s causing problems, then tread lightly. If you know he has a jealous girlfriend, be sensitive when it comes to taking photos. Photos of the two of you with your arms around each other might be perfectly innocent but probably won’t do your friend any favors.
3. Sleeping Arrangements
Hostel dorms are generally fine, but when it comes to private rooms what’s the best course of action? Double up? Twin beds? Separate single rooms? The choice is up to the two of you and what you’re both comfortable with. Make sure you discuss this beforehand though, as it will affect your budget!
In some countries you might find it’s unacceptable for an unmarried man and woman to share a room. Often the mere fact that you’re an unmarried woman traveling with an unmarried man might be an unusual concept amongst the locals.
If you don’t want to lie about being married, it might be easier to claim that he’s your brother or cousin. It’s not too much of a stretch of the truth – he’s practically like a brother to you, after all!
4. Hello, Feminist Rage
The experiences my friends and I had when sightseeing on our own, as opposed to with guys we’d met at the hostel, could not have been more different.
It’s difficult to go from living in a society where women and men live on (generally speaking) equal terms, to one where you might be harassed, disrespected or ignored because of your gender.
In Morocco I got incredibly wound up because the local men would speak to the guys we were with, rather than us. Even replying to things we were saying but addressing them to the men!
Of course I know that in many cultures it is considered discourteous to address a woman you do not know. But that doesn’t mean it’s not infuriating or upsetting to encounter it for the first time.
Try not to take out your rage on your friend if you feel he’s getting treated more fairly than you. It’s not his fault he’s got a Y chromosome.
Also keep reminding yourself that, in countries with very clearly defined gender divisions, you’re actually getting the most out of the experience by traveling with a guy friend.
Together you’ll be able to get a clearer picture of the culture on both sides of the gender divide than either one of you could on your own!
5. Don’t Sleep with Them
I know it’s obvious, but it always pays to repeat it. Man, that would be awkward.
(I feel it’s important to finish by clarifying that Howard has always been a perfect gentleman through all of our many trips. Go Howard!)