photo: Nandhu Kumar
Travel the world with a sibling and take along a reminder of home
by Jennifer Mitchell
Anyone who’s done a significant amount of traveling knows there is no such thing as the perfect travel companion. Friends, co-workers and significant others all bring unique rewards and challenges when exploring the world. Even solo travel can be strenuous at times. But your sibling—or siblings—might be as close as it gets to perfect.
The thought of traveling with siblings may bring to mind road trips filled with screaming matches and timeouts, but as adults, siblings make great travel companions. The bond you share is unlike any other. You’ve known each other for the majority of your lives and have seen each other at your best and at your worst. Biologically, you share half your genes, which provides evolutionary motivation to protect and care for each other. And there’s a mutual understanding that you’ll always have each other’s back without any pressure to put up a false amiable front.
After speaking with members of the No Small Plan community who travel with siblings, and doing some sibling travels ourselves, we’ve come up with four reasons why siblings make great travel companions and four benefits of traveling with them.
4 reasons siblings are great travel companions
1. You can relax and be yourself
No one knows you better than your sibling, so there’s no need to put up a front. You can unwind and be yourself without worrying about being perceived as a bad travel companion. And without the pressure of participating in near constant small talk, you can truly relax.
When it comes to deciding on activities, destinations and meals, there’s no second-guessing what your travel companion wants to do. You can trust that you’re each being honest with each other.
Our friend Mary O., who has travelled to all 50 states—among other destinations—with her sister, put it best.
“Sharing the experience with my sister, my best friend, the person who has been sharing experiences with me since I was three-and-a-half years old was incredible,” says Mary. “It's the best—being with someone who knows your history, enjoys the present and someone who shares your future too!”
Colin M., who spent three months traveling Southeast Asia with his brother, says that being yourself is one of the most rewarding elements of traveling with a sibling.
“Meeting people is an incredible experience,” states Colin. “But sometimes it’s nice to 'turn off' and just be yourself.”
2. You can be honest about your travels
If you’re trying to attack a travel quest with your sibling or are planning any type of extended trip, honesty is key. The sibling relationship allows for total honesty as cautious politeness goes out the window. You can be honest about what you like and don’t like when traveling. When you’re exhausted from doing back-to-back walking tours and need a break, you’re comfortable voicing your opinion without feeling like a party pooper.
As is the case with any other travel companion, you’re bound to disagree with your sibling at some point. But because your relationship has withstood hundreds of spats, you’re more likely to bounce back quickly, and you don’t need to worry about frustrations boiling up over the course of the trip.
3. You’ll feel less homesick
When traveling for extended periods of time, homesickness will eventually set in. Not only can you talk about this with your sibling, but their presence should provide some familiarity and comfort when traveling in a foreign destination.
“It felt like I was always traveling with a part of home,” explains Colin. “With somebody who inherently understood who I was and where I came from.”
4. Your personalities are complementary
Siblings raised in the same household and who possess shared experiences make good travel companions. Not only do you share the same values, upbringing and past family travel experiences as your siblings, but your birth order naturally makes you complementary travel buddies.
Firstborn children tend to be leaders. They’re responsible, overachievers and high performers in school and hobbies. These are often the travelers who are making itineraries, leading the pack through historic sites and taking the lead when it comes to making decisions.
The middle child tends to be the peacekeeper. They’re agreeable and loyal to their families. While the first child is calling the shots, the middle child is happy to follow and remains cool and level-headed when travels become stressful.
The youngest child is the adventurer. They’re usually outgoing and social no matter what situation they’re in. When the oldest and middle child need a little nudge to go on an adventure or try something new, the youngest sibling will be more than happy to oblige. They’ll probably also be the first to reach out to locals or other travelers when you are looking for recommendations or directions.
Mary O. and her sister in Alaska at the completion of their shared quest to visit all 50 U.S. states
4 benefits of traveling with a sibling
1. You’ll carve out time for each other
As you get older, it becomes more and more difficult to find time to spend with your siblings. Careers take off, new families are started and the sibling relationship takes a backseat. Committing to travel together once a year is a great way to make time for catching up and bonding.
“I love the ability to spend time together,” notes Mary. “My sister and I live in separate cities (NYC and Chicago), so traveling together is a gift for us and our kids.”
2. You’ll strengthen your relationship
No matter where you’re traveling or for how long, you’re likely to encounter some challenges along the way. You and your sibling will need to work as a team, which strengthens your relationship and develops an even greater appreciation for each other. You’ll also create the opportunity to make powerful memories with each other.
“I love sharing outlandish adventures with my brother,” reminiscences Colin. “An experience is always more memorable when you share it with someone close. I have traveled to many places, but most of my favorite memories include my brother by my side.”
3. You’ll be happier—really!
Several studies have shown that a close bond between siblings during middle and old age results in a positive mood and better overall health. At these stages in life, a person’s morale, stress levels, depression and life satisfaction are all tied to how they feel about their brothers and sisters.
So spending time with your siblings as adults is very important and leads to a happier life.
4. You’re more likely to try new things
Though you and your siblings are very similar, you’ve developed individual interests, hobbies and tastes outside of your family. And it’s probable that you’ve chosen friends and a mate that share your interests. Traveling with a sibling exposes you to new cuisines, experiences and adventures that you might not have experienced by traveling alone, with friends or with your significant other.
Siblings are also not afraid to push you out of your comfort zone. And, surprisingly, you might be more likely to jump onboard. Since your siblings have witnessed some of your most embarrassing moments, you won’t be as embarrassed to try new things and make a fool of yourself in front of them.
Coordinating schedules, deciding on a budget and choosing a favorable destination for all parties might sound like a challenge, but we promise it’s worthwhile.
“Seeing the world together is my favorite way to travel,” states Mary. “And seeing our kids growing up with the special memories of traveling with their cousins is priceless.”
If the thought of traveling with a sibling sounds fun, but memories of family spats while traveling are holding you back, just remember that you’ll make it through your trip as you’ve made it through everything else.
“Make sure you and your sibling have the same agenda (locations, budget, etc.),” advises Colin. “Acknowledge that all trips and travel companions have ups and downs, incredible experiences and unfortunate bad luck. But know that you’ll endure it all together.”
Have you traveled with your siblings? We’d love to hear about your experience! Share your sibling travel experiences in the comments section below or on social using the hashtag #NoSmallPlan. And don’t forget to sit down with your sibling to make your map—and matching t-shirts.
Jennifer Mitchell is a blogger, comedian, freelance copywriter and travel enthusiast.