5 Tips for Travelling with Friends
Travelling with friends is a gamble.
Flip heads, you win. You share the same sense of adventure, want to go to the same sightseeing spots and everyone will roll with the punches as gracefully as an eagle taking flight.
Flip tails, you lose. You disagree on accommodation; hotel versus hostel, the loss of a car key, the delay of a train and the meandering pace you’re setting all become points of contention. You leave the holiday feeling tense or bridges are burned.
While I’ve been lucky never to have my coin flip tails, there have been times when the coin has balanced precariously on the edge.
“Get out now and leave me alone. Don’t come back till dinner!” was the catalyst for a new learning experience. My best friend and I were on an eight-day cruise as part of our ‘Schoolies’ trip (an Aussie tradition of celebrating the end of your formal schooling by drinking and partying.) We’d made it to day four before my unrelenting mockery of King Kong forced my friend to snap. As I played several games of chess against myself, ignored odd looks, and turned down the sole offer to join my game, I came to realise the enjoyment I was having by simply being alone with my own quirks for company. Travelling is full of these moments, especially when you travel with friends.
The following are some tips for travelling with friends:
1. Identify triggers
My friend and I have known each other for 9 years now. In that time we’ve learned what irks the other the most and that sometimes even though we know it is a source of irritation we just can’t help ourselves. Knowing what sets another person off is important when traveling with your friend, especially when it is just the two of you. You’ll be living in each other’s pockets so having consideration for others is paramount. If you feel yourself getting into that particular mood or itching to do that thing which ticks off your travel partner then consider having some time apart so it doesn’t become the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
2. Discuss expectations
Before going on a two-week road trip with my best friend we sat down and discussed, in detail, what we wanted out of this trip. She wanted Paris for her birthday, the Loch Ness monster and to see the Scottish highlands. I wanted Scotch distilleries, a manual car and to visit family. We both wanted castles, museums and Jane Austen. We negotiated the things we each wanted so that our trip was a mix of experiences that made us both happy. I even managed to find a scotch distillery she loved! Having had this conversation beforehand was great. We both knew where we were headed so nothing was left to last minute, people didn’t feel left out and our communication lines were solid.
3. Understand the importance of time apart
After the Schoolies cruise we both knew that sleeping in the same room, driving in the same car, visiting the same sights and eating at the same places was going to wear on us over the two weeks. So we agreed that every so often we would have a day or few hours apart. This meant that we could do the things we wanted to do but which the other person wasn’t keen on. Alternatively, it meant that we could do nothing at all and rest in the beautiful surroundings writing letters, journal entries or simply breathing in the fresh air. Even the closest of friends need time apart to collect themselves. Make it a part of your travel plans.
4. Establish signals
Hand signals or even a ‘safe word’ are a must among friends. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten ‘the look’ and have instantly shut up. It might sound silly but it is always important to have a way to signal to your friend for help or to establish your current mood. People aren’t mind readers so if you need time alone or help and you don’t have the ability to communicate it in so many words then use your signals. Taking care of each other’s needs is integral to a healthy friendship.
5. Celebrate the positive
My manual driving skills weren’t fantastic when we first bundled into our tiny Fiat Panda. The first obstacle in a long line of many was an Edinburgh roundabout. Needless to say, I held up traffic for a few minutes as I tried again and again to not stall the car on my way around. Throughout this ordeal my friend reassured me and helped me to keep calm. In London, when we got lost for three hours trying to get to Waterloo station to return the car (I’d really gotten good at manual cars by that point) she bought me a monster bag of M&Ms to keep me going.
That little Fiat was a nightmare but after all was said and done, that shocking experience was actually one of our best bonding experiences. In the face stressful situations my friend could have very easily blamed me for choosing a manual car just to save a few dollars but she didn’t. She chose to see it as something that made the road trip a memorable and at times, comical holiday. Looking for the silver lining is a choice and it can make all the difference to your friendship.
We joked that after the UK we’d come back as either enemies or closer than ever. I’m pleased to report that our friendship is still going strong.