Tuesday, March 6, 2012

TRAVEL : How To Take a Trip with Friends (and Remain Good Friends)

Editor of Unleashed (Sasha Martin) and her best friend in Costa Rica. "We followed Katie Helete's advice to the T," said the two, "And, we didn't fight once-- best trip yet! And, looking forward to many more."


There are some things that are notoriously challenging to do with even the closest of friends. “Never mix business with pleasure” is often quoted, and with good reason. The obvious dating-your-boss idea never pans out. And, we all know the nagging feeling of dread when engaging in business or any kind of money exchange with friends. Even rooming with people you are closest with can end up being equally uncomfortable. One of the worst of these situations is traveling with friends. When you travel with someone, you learn what it would be like to live with them for a year in a week-- and you have to like it, because you're stuck with them. While traveling with a group of friends can be fun-filled and create amazing memories, it too can lead to awkwardness, arguments, and even worse, the notorious burning of bridges. Most everyone loves to travel with friends, so how can we learn avoid this drama? 

1.     Be mindful about which friends you plan to travel with. Even if the two of you get along well at home, traveling to an unfamiliar place presents an entirely new set of challenges that can create an imbalance in the relationship. On any trip, you will be forced to compromise; good communication skills become imperative. Tensions can run high during these kinds of conversations, especially because traveling in itself requires a lot of energy. And, because you may only get to travel to this foreign place once, the added pressure of having-to-see-it-now doesn't help. 

    The little things that may have annoyed you, minor irritations, at home can transform rapidly into monstrous resentment. So, know your limits – if you are already aware that you and a friend have completely different ways of expressing yourselves or differing ideas about what kinds of activities are fun or exciting or interesting, think about talking about these concerns before the trip. Even nocturnal habits can create problems. If you get up early and like to have a busy, walking-filled day and your friend likes to sleep in and mosey about, seeing one or two things... imagine the frustration! If the idea of discussing such concerns is a deal breaker, consider making the trip with a friend more similar in disposition or preferences. And, coming from my own experience, pick someone who is flexible! And, remember to be flexible yourself.

2.     Create a money pool. One way to avoid last minute cancellations or uncomfortable discussions about finances on the eve of a trip is to agree to pool your money in the beginning stages of planning a trip (North, sec. 2). This way each person pays the same amount for communal expenses and everyone is monetarily invested in the trip (sec. 2). And, if friends change their mind and back out, they will lose a relatively small investment and the change of plans will not prevent anyone else from making the trip (sec. 2). This strategy levels the playing field and insures that you and your friends are clear about your budget and the way in which you plan to travel.

3.     Discuss your itinerary beforehand. Regardless of how similar you and your friends are, there are bound to be differences in what each of you wants to see and do during your travels (sec. 3). This is only natural, but what is important is the open discussion of these travel preferences and talking about how all of you are going to make sure that each person gets what they want (at least some of the time). Honesty is definitely the best policy here – it is much better to have a disagreement or voice your frustrations at home, rather than wherever you are planning on going. This doesn't mean you can't be spontaneous, but at least discuss the bare bones of the trip so that no one is disappointed or feels gypped!

4.     Leave space for alone time. It doesn’t matter how much of a social butterfly you are or how much you love your friends and their company – everyone needs some time alone to recharge emotionally. Distance can definitely make the heart grow fonder. Some days, have the group split up, switching up combinations of people. Or, just explore solo (in a safer area) if you need the time! If you feel yourself getting frustrated, take the opportunity to try some solitary activities – time alone to journal at a cafĂ©, a short walk through your neighborhood or in nature. Even spending some time in the hotel room alone can do wonders... whatever works best for you (sec. 5).

5.     Be honest. To sum up the most important point, make sure you’re clear and open about how you’re feeling. If something fundamentally does not work for you, say so. Don't be the sheepish traveler who sits back and builds up resentment, only to go home to complain about your friends. Wouldn't you rather enjoy the time and have grand stories? I think so. 

    If you are honest about everything, you and your friends can have the best experience traveling possible, in whatever form it may take. It is always difficult to have disagreements or conflict with friends, but in the end, it’s healthier for you, your friends and your trip.

Traveling and experiencing the wonders other places have to offer with those closest to you is one of the most enriching life experiences you can have. Next time you’re planning a trip with friends, remember these suggestions for the best experience possible. And, for god's sake, you're lucky enough to travel! Have fun!
Friends at a Bar in France, photo from Anonymous 

Works Cited
North, Anna. “How to Travel With Your Friends (And Remain Friends Afterwards).” Jezebel. 16 July 2011. Web. 04 Mar. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/5812594/how-to-travel-with-your-friends>.

The Woman Behind the Travel Section:

Katie Helete is a cultured old soul with a kind of energy that would entice you to travel with her anywhere. Attending UC Berkeley as an undergraduate, she is majoring in Political Economy. Explore the world, bucket list by bucket list with the brilliant and bold Katie.

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