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Trouble In Paradise: A Guide for Traveling With Others

20 Sep

We all like to imagine that traveling with a friend or lover will be blissfully conflict-free, but let’s face it – sometimes you never really know a person until you travel with them… and sometimes you don’t like what you see.

You’re spending 24 hours a day with them, planning your trip, your meals, your stays and dealing with the stresses of unexpected travel inconveniences. He wants to go there but you want to go here and it’s your first time in a foreign country so you aren’t comfortable splitting up. Or maybe it’s just been two months straight of sharing the same room with that person and if you hear them brush their teeth that loudly one more time you’re going to scream!

Traveling with others is a beautiful thing because it gives you someone to share the memories with and someone to turn to if you’re in need of support. However, living in close proximity with someone and developing a dependency on one another can bring out the worst in both of you and can ruin your relationship.

I’ve traveled alone, with a best friend, in groups of friends, with people I just met, and with a boyfriend. These are my tips for traveling with others and keeping your sanity:

1. Discuss how you will address conflict before you leave. 

This is important to discuss before you ever board that plane because you can come up with a system of keeping the peace before emotions get involved. Agree on a statement beforehand that opens the floor for communication (like: “hey, remember when we said no matter what happened we’d talk about things because our friendship/relationship is important?…)

Sometimes when we’re traveling with people we love we try to avoid conflict at all costs and we don’t say how we really feel which only leads to resentment, passive aggressiveness and a compromised trip. A friend of mine is a skiing, snowboarding and kitesurfing instructor who served in the Swiss army and he finds that the best way to teach someone or to handle conflict constructively is to use the “sandwich approach.” With this method you sandwich the concern or complaint in between two positive statements that show what is working so the person you’re addressing doesn’t feel attacked.

For example, if you’re traveling with a best friend for the first time and you feel like he/she isn’t listening to what you want to do, say something like:

“I’ve enjoyed going to all these museums you found but I’d really like to change it up and start doing something off the beaten path. I think we’d both benefit from seeing the city in a different light.”

That will be much more effective than if you passive aggressively roll your eyes and say, “Another museum, seriously?”

Don’t foolishly assume that your relationship is so indestructible that you can handle anything that comes between you. Discuss the possibility for conflict before you leave and you’ll handle it better when it does happen.

2. Come up with a rough itinerary before you leave.

This is your chance to find out what each person is hoping to get out of the trip. Maybe one of your friends is a party animal and can’t wait to see the night scene in Barcelona and maybe you’re more interested in the history of the city. Use this pre-departure opportunity to come to a compromise and establish a few things that each of you definitely want to do, that way you’ll have a balance once you reach your destination.

3. If you need your space, take it. 

Don’t let bottled emotions explode and say things you can’t take back. Unaddressed tension can destroy a trip so if you feel yourself on the edge or you’re just the type of person who really enjoys her alone time, tell your travel partner(s) that you need to take some time for yourself. Then find an obscure cafe and people watch, take your book and head to the beach, or go for a walk to clear your head. A little of space can mean the difference between a lasting relationship and one that crumbles. And remember that little idiom about absence making the heart grow fonder? There is absolutely some truth to that. Test it out if you feel like you’re starting to take each other for granted.

4. Don’t be afraid to meet and travel with other people along the way.

Sometimes the best tension dissolver is the company of a new friend. A new group dynamic brings an air of lightness and before you know it the little things you were bickering about will seem insignificant and your perspective will shift. If it’s just the two of you, try couchsurfing for a night or stay in a hostel and go out for drinks with some of your dorm-mates. It’s human nature for you to tire of your travel partner, especially if this is the first time you’re learning all their quirks or spending this much contiguous time together. Don’t be dismayed, be proactive.

5. Go with the flow. 

Travel issues are bound to happen but it’s how you handle them that determines the quality of your trip. Your purse gets stolen, there’s no record of your reservation,  you get stranded in a tiny town or you get hopelessly lost… all of these situations are common and if you can handle them gracefully and make the most out of a bad situation, months later you’ll laugh back on that night when Charlie didn’t realize he was pick-pocketed and had to do the dishes at that restaurant with that big, hairy Russian woman who kept making moves on him. Some of my most interesting travel stories happen when everything goes wrong but I’m determined to stay positive. Keep your cool and learn from the experience.

6. If all else fails, be the bigger person.

No one said it would be easy but if whatever is bothering you is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, maybe it’s time to suck it up and be the bigger person – for the trip’s sake!

You’re annoyed that your friend has a case of ‘travel love’ and now wants their exotic new lover around all the time? Tell the lover to invite some friends.

All your friend wants to do is get drunk every night? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, or go do your own thing while they recover all day.

There’s no real problem you’re just snappy with each other because you’ve spent too much time together? Have a ‘you’ day and then share all your experiences over dinner.

The annoyances, bickering, and resentment that can come with group travel might not happen to every group but it’s important to realize that it’s one of the most common travel complaints and why a lot of people decide to go it alone. The level of disturbance is directly proportional to the length of travel, the ease of travel, the dynamic of the group and the personalities involved. If you communicate beforehand, address situations as they’re happening and take the time to reassess and get back to what is really important, you’ll be just fine.

I’ll leave you with my favorite lines from Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s poem, Worth While.

It is easy enough to be pleasant
When life flows by like a song,
But the man worth while is the one who will smile
When everything goes dead wrong.
 
Do you have any group travel horror stories? What are your tips for seamless group travel?

Tourist in My Backyard: San Francisco Treats

20 Aug

The fog engulfs the Golden Gate bridge one summer day.

When I get a case of the travel bug and running off to South America, Egypt or some other equally exotic location isn’t possible, I like to pay a visit to California’s ‘ City by the Bay’: San Francisco. Since my best friend, Kat, moved there two years ago I find any excuse to board the hour-long flight: The Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, Halloween, spring break, a Tuesday in the middle of semester, a cheap flight alert… and I’m off!

The city’s charm extends beyond its unique architecture, hilly streets and foggy summers and into the culinary realm, delighting the palates of foodies and laymans alike. These are the five San Francisco treats I can’t miss:

1. The ‘Dirty Hipster’ at Loving Cup – You won’t find this amazing frozen yogurt concoction on the menu but it is the number one treat I have to have while in San Francisco. Frozen vanilla yogurt, oreo cookies and nutella swirled and ground to perfection make the Dirty Hipster a creamy, gritty indulgence that I don’t dare pass up. The Loving Cup specializes in rice puddings (which are also worth trying) but its their custom blended yogurt that everyone adores. 2356 Polk Street

2. ‘Green Eggs and Ham Benedict’ at Pork Store – This spin on traditional eggs Benedict is also not on the menu, but makes ‘special’ appearances  from time to time and is worth asking the waiter for, with a little wink and a nudge. Poached eggs, country ham and asparagus sit atop a toasted English muffin, covered in green hollandaise  sauce on a warm plate with hashbrowns. It is the ultimate hangover cure and the perfect way to start your Haight-Ashbury sightseeing since it sits right in the heart of the infamous hippie district. 1451 Haight Street

3. Cocktails at Absinthe – The only experience I had with absinthe before discovering this bar was a few wild nights in Europe – sugar cubes, lighters and all. I had to destroy the evidence because the burnt forks I used to melt the sugar into the strange green liquor connotated a heroin habit and I wasn’t about to raise any suspicions.

Absinthe is the perfect place for a date with its dim but warm lighting and impressive range of gourmet ingredients and appetizers. It has an old-fashioned feel and stands out in a world of generic bars and obnoxious clubs. If you’re a cocktail connoisseur who appreciates ingredients such as kaffir lime-pepper syrup and brandied cherries, then this is your place. 398 Hayes Street

4. Crepes at The Crepe House Any crepe is amazing here. Savory, sweet, a la mode … you can’t lose. I prefer ‘the Mediterranean’  (cheddar, onion, tomato, feta, olives, artichoke and avocado) or the ‘Hawaiian’ (cheddar, ham, onion, mushroom, brown sugar, soy sauce and pineapple) for my meals and the Nutella-strawberry dessert crepe for any other time of day. The Crepe House flourished in the last sixteen years and has expanded to included three San Francisco locations. Take your pick! 429 Gough Street, 1755 Polk Street or 1132 Valencia Street

5.‘The Breakfast Burrito’ at The Grove – Be warned, this breakfast burrito is huge! I like to get it for breakfast and save the other half for lunch. The scrambled eggs, refried beans, cheddar and jack cheeses, salsa, and avocado mixture wrapped up in a grilled tortilla is very Californian and the rosemary country potatoes are its perfect accompaniment. The inside of the Marina location has a ski-lodge vibe and the outdoor seating is prime for San Franciscan people-watching. And if you’re only in the mood for a drink, skip Starbucks and try their lavender lemonade or mocha chai. Choose from any of the four San Franciscan family-owned locations: 690 Mission Street, 301 Hayes Street, 2016 Filmore Street or 2250 Chestnut Street

Hostel Etiquette: A Guide

8 Mar

After spending the last seven weeks in dorm rooms I feel it’s necessary for me to write this post. It seems some veteran travelers already have this down and some newbies know the unspoken rules instinctively, but the others, well … the others give hostels a bad name and can ruin everyone’s experience.

Rule #1: Be aware of when people are sleeping.

If it’s before 8 a.m. and people are still asleep, take your conversation outside. If you have to talk, whisper. You don’t need to tip toe around but staying conscious of how much noise you’re making goes a long way.

Rule #2: Prepare before you leave the hostel. 

If you know you won’t head back until well after everyone else is asleep, lay your pajamas and toothbrush out on your bed before you leave. Instead of having to rummage through your bag in the dark (waking everyone up as you do so) all your things will be waiting for you.

The same applies if you plan on having an early morning. Prepare your bag the night before and lay out a change of clothes. It will save you time and you’ll be less likely to receive death glares once you return.

Rule #3: Don’t have sex in the dorm room. 

I know it’s tempting and I know you think everyone is asleep, but they’re not or they won’t be for much longer. Your innocent romp will end up making everyone else in the room feel extremely uncomfortable. Keep in mind that not everyone is as sexually open as you are and you could be traumatizing someone.

I had a friend who was about to get to up to pee in the middle of the night when two people starting going at. She felt so awkward about the situation that she decided to lie in bed until they finished and then couldn’t get back to sleep after the whole ordeal was over.

Get creative and take it outside or head to the bathroom. It’s just as exciting.

Rule #4: Keep your space clean.

Don’t unpack your whole bag or leave your stuff everywhere like a bomb went off. Remember: this is isn’t only your room and people on the top bunks need floor space too. You’re not entitled to more just because you have more things.

Rule #5: Don’t spend all your time in the hostel. 

This isn’t so much a rule as it is a suggestion. Don’t have every meal at your hostel or spend all day sitting at the computers. Get out there! See some things! Make some friends and discover the ‘real’ culture of a place. You didn’t travel this whole way to do the same things you can do back home, did you?

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