I spent four days in Cartagena with the kind of people who make you laugh until you’re clutching your abdomen, who share their food while placing their fork in your plate, and nudge you out of your comfort zone if the need arises. The three of us have a good relationship so it wasn’t surprising that our time together was pleasant and stress-free but my experiences have taught me that when traveling with people, good relationships will only get you so far.
I could use a little PATIENCE: Sometimes I’ll find myself agitated that someone is spending -in my opinion- too long at the shop stall deciding what earrings they want, trying to take the perfect photo, ordering a meal, or figuring out where they want to eat. My agitation then fills me with negative emotions that are detrimental to both me and the person(s) I’m traveling with; so I’m learning to simply slow down & be patient. For starters, I breathe deeply a few times- it helps to calm me down if I’m already worked up, then I see how I can involve myself because the pain of waiting for someone is often worse when I’m idle. Sometimes my intervention helps to speed things up. However, if I find that the person is simply being inconsiderate (say we have a time constraint they aren’t paying attention to), I try to hurry them up directly & politely. There’s no need to get passive-aggressive or aggressive-aggressive, it just makes everyone uncomfortable.It’s okay if we don’t do EVERYTHING together: If everyone agrees on every activity while on vacation, that’s great, but it won’t always happen, especially when the group is big. I’m that person that likes to keep everyone together because I think it’s nice to share experiences that we can talk and hopefully laugh about for years after the trip has ended, but it has to be organic. I can’t force it. While I lived in Ecuador, our entire group (at any given time we were always more than 5) rarely traveled, went out or did activities together. In Mindo for example, we split up based on interest. One group opted to go on a chocolate tour while another went to a butterfly museum. Now it’s easier to do this in a big group because there’ll likely be ONE other person who’s interested in the same things as me. However, if I’m in a group of 2 and my travel partner doesn’t want to be alone, we might decide to stick together but not partake in an activity together; I can chill on a boat or the beach while he/she parasails. Whether it’s party of 2 or 10, ideas will differ sometimes, this doesn’t always need to be a point of contention.Travel buddies won’t always be familiar, and that’s OKAY: It’s an ideal situation when I can travel with people I know intimately, but it’s even better when I’ve traveled with them before. For the most part, I know what to expect and I often go in with the belief that we’ll make great memories. So it’s not a surprise that when I have to travel with people I’ve never met, I get anxious because I don’t know what to expect. Thankfully, both times I did this -the Dominican Republic ’13 and Ecuador ’17- I did not only create memories that elicit laughter or a smile when I recall them, I also met and befriended amazing people who I still talk to, reminisce & plan future trips with. I have to TALK, not expect people to read my mind: My travel buddy might want to party on a night where I’m feeling exhausted but it’s up to me to let that be known instead of sulking about the fact that he/she can see I’m exhausted but still wants to go out, or worse, choosing to go out and sulking while we should be having a good time. It’s unhelpful and almost a sure-fire way to put me and my company in a bad mood. It’s important not just to talk but to do it politely and listen too. Unless I’m traveling alone, it’s not all about me.
Finally, but most importantly:
The best person I can be is MYSELF: and I won’t alter that to suit person A’s expectations. Striving to be someone I’m not to impress or fit in with my immediate and short-lived company is not how I want to live my life and I’ve found that it’s easy to be sucked into that kind of pressure especially when traveling in a large group. If someone doesn’t like that I want to take out some time to journal or meditate, it’s not my goal to make them, the same way it shouldn’t be their goal to force me to do otherwise. There’s less disagreement and conflict when you appreciate other people’s individuality and allow them to express it. I can make compromises on where to eat or go dancing but I won’t fundamentally change who I am if it isn’t harmful to you. The best person I can be is myself, and I’ve learned that while people don’t have to like that, they definitely have to respect it.
The best travel buddy [and the one I strive to be] is the one who realizes that a trip is just as much about their partner as it is about them, and is willing to compromise to make things work out in the best possible way.
Thank you for reading!
Same Footprints, Different Sands