Life Is a Trip

The transformative magic of travel.

Should You Travel With Friends?

Traveling with a friend? What to know before you go.

Traveling with someone is almost like a marriage and, like a marriage, it can end in renewed vows, extreme intimacy, or divorce.

I know of numerous friendships that have broken up after a trip. Even though they knew each other well, they didn’t know each other THAT well. In one case, a woman turned out to be extremely vain, and she lingered in front of a mirror for hours every day. Her friend was furious that she had to watch hairdressing and makeup application instead of seeing sites.

Two men who went on a trip together ended up dropping their friendship and I have heard that they glare at each other at the gym and no longer speak. What was the blowup about? One of the guys is handsome and the other is buff, but not very attractive. Whenever the latter spoke to a woman, the former moved in and took over. Buff boy was left in the dust. So he added notches to his conquest belt, but lost his buddy.

In another case, two women went to Mexico together. One is adventurous, interested in culture, and loves engaging with people. The other is fearful, can’t handle seeing poverty, and loves to shop. It was a setup for disaster.

In my own checkered past, I once traveled with a boss. She always joked that she was a nasty bitch, and I laughed. When we were on the road together, it wasn’t funny. She really WAS a nasty bitch, and dishonest to boot. End of relationship. End of job.

In the interest of preserving friendships, here are a few things to check out before you check your bags at the airport. You may have other suggestions, and I’d love to hear them. The idea is to avoid misunderstandings, disappointments, and feelings of rejection, abandonment or anger by talking things out in advance and being searingly honest with each other. What’s true for friends is also true for couples. You probably don’t know each other as well as you think you do…unless you have already traveled together.

1. Talk Before You Walk.

Sit down with your friend and discuss what your preferences are when you hit the road. Do you like to get up early or sleep in? Do you want to splurge on meals, or travel on the cheap? Are you interested in culture or shopping for clothes? Spell it out in advance so you eliminate at least a few surprises.

2. Too Much of a Good Thing?

Discuss in advance if you both want a lot of togetherness, or if it’s okay for you each to do things on your own. Do you want to have all your meals together? Some of them? Is nighttime the right time to go out together, and is there more flexibility during the day?

3. Overnights.

What if one of you meets a person of interest? Is it okay to go off and spend the night with him or her?

 4. Museum Burnout.

Some people want to spend all day in a museum, and they leave reluctantly when the guards turn out the lights. Others have a two or one-hour limit. Find this out in advance, so one of you can search for alternative things to do instead of fulminating in front of a Dubuffet or Daumier.

5. To Plan or Not to Plan.

Is your style to plot out all your days, and know what you are doing from dawn to dusk? Or do you like to set out and discover things along the way? There is a middle ground between being the Plan Man and Spontaneous Suzie. Can you find it together?

6. Hand Signals

Establish a code sign or word to indicate that it’s time to split. One of you may want to stay at a bar until the customers roll out the door, and the other has had enough after one glass of wine. If you don’t know your buddy has had it, how can you act on it?

7. Quiet Time

Some friends want to indulge in wall-to-wall chatter, and others like quiet. Don’t be afraid to ask, “Do you want some quiet time?” or to request a little down time to regenerate. If it’s done with sensitivity, you stand a chance of getting your needs met.

8. Show Interest

If your friend is interested in something, and you find it completely boring, have a little patience. Show some interest, even if you have to fake it. Hopefully, your friend will do the same for you.

9. Don’t Lose Your Sense of Humor

You may experience friction, hurt or anger no matter how much you discuss in advance. Sometimes it can be diffused by saying, “We’re both ridiculous,” or “I can’t believe we are arguing over the type of pasta to buy.” Loosen up. You’re on vacation. Laugh at yourself, and you can laugh together. Laugh mockingly at your friend, and you laugh alone.

If you are traveling with a group of friends, the same issues apply, only multiplied by the number of friends. Talk it out so you can work it out…before departure day.

Good luck. Bon voyage. Don’t forget to write about your experiences and what we can learn from them.

Photo by Paul Ross. 

Judith Fein is an award-winning travel writer, speaker, teacher, and tripaholic. She is the author of THE SPOON FROM MINKOWITZ  and LIFE IS A TRIP:The Transformative Magic of Travel. Her website is www.GlobalAdventure.us

Judith Fein is a travel journalist who lives to leave. She writes for numerous publications (The Los Angeles Times, National Geographic Traveler, and The Boston Globe).

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