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How to Backpack with Your Sibling (Without Killing Each Other)

I’ll be the first to confess: My family isn’t perfect. We’re not the Von Trapps, nor are we the Brady Bunch. We’re a bit dysfunctional. I suppose you could call us the Griswolds, especially when we’re travelling.

My siblings and I argue, disagree and have our rivalries. You’d probably sometimes second guess that we’re all part of a loving family, but we are. Backpacking through Europe with my sister was some of my best memories from travelling overseas. White sandy beaches, Italian food and sangria were no ailment for the odd sibling feud, though.

Here’s how we (mostly) managed to survive a trip void of arguing:

Do Your Own Thing

Just because you’re travelling together doesn’t mean you always have to be together. Let’s face it: you may have the same nose, eyes and even the same blood, but you’re polar opposites. When my sister and I travelled to Milan, she wanted to go shopping and I can’t blame her. Milan is the fashion capital of Europe, but I’m more of a history guy. We split ways for a few hours – she went shopping and I went to Milan’s famous cemetery, Cimitero Monumentale di Milano. I couldn’t imagine my aggravation if I had to walk around with my sister through shopping malls and I just couldn’t imagine my sister touring a cemetery either. We met at night for dinner and wine, and you know what? Some of our best laughs were sharing what we did during the day.

barcelona sibling

We each have our own differences. Respect those differences and don’t try to force one another to do something they don’t want to. Spending a few weeks, let alone a few days, together with your sibling is bound to drive you crazy if you don’t have space. Give each other some breathing room.

Plan Your Itinerary (Together)

There’s never a right way to travel. Some people will never accustom to hostels or backpacking and some will want to travel at a different pace than others. If you’re the sibling who’s more experienced with backpacking, take a step back and understand the experiences of your other brother or sister. Try and negotiate a comfortable pace of travel beforehand. Book hostels in advance and research your destinations. Quite simply find a middle ground where you’ll both be pleased. Be transparent and don’t surprise each other.

lagos sibling

Plan activities you’ll both enjoy. Believe it or not, but it turns out my sister and I actually have similar interests. We’re both adventurous – we take it after our dad – and went kayaking in Lagos, Portugal off the coast. It shouldn’t be too hard to find that you and your siblings will actually want to do a lot of the same activities together.

Another important thing is also to plan a budget. Find out how you’ll be splitting for meals or for excursions. Money’s the root of most conflicts, but it really doesn’t have to be.

Enjoy This Special Journey

I’m sorry for sounding like mom, but cherish the time you have. When I went backpacking with my sister in Europe, I hadn’t seen her in over a year. We had been divided by an ocean. I was living in the Netherlands, Denmark and backpacking myself, while she was working and living at home.

lisbon sibling

Today, people say it’s so easy to stay connected, with Facebook and Skype. We really hardly ever see each other though, even when we’re at home. I can’t remember a time, other than our backpacking trip, where I got to spend just two weeks with my sister and I. We bonded and learned so much about each other. Even though we certainly fought on the trip just as we did back home, the only memories we really have are the laughs and obstacles we overcame.

Conflict is bound to happen between travellers, whether or not they’re siblings. Frankly, I can’t say there’s one all-in solution to make a brother and sister cooperate during an entire trip. But the positives will always outweigh the negatives. They always, always do.

How To Back Pack with your Sibling (without killing each other)

Evan Przesiecki

Carleton University | 9 stories

Evan Przesiecki is a journalism student at Carleton University who studied abroad in the Netherlands and Denmark.

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