Welcome to Dear Here, an advice column from Here Magazine where we tap into the hearts and minds of travelers, working with experts to find solutions to travel issues you can’t always solve with a search engine. Below, writer Carlye Wisel tackles the difficulty of keeping it cool when you travel with friends.
Last summer, I traveled to Mexico City for the first time and, like so many young people from the U.S. these days, absolutely fell in love with my surroundings. Everything about the city felt at once both familiar and all-new, and it’s hard to imagine a better way to spend an afternoon than just sitting in a sunny CDMX park, eating fresh mango with tajín and lime. It was a magical trip—in almost every way. This was my first time as an adult traveling with a group of friends, and things didn’t exactly go smoothly. Not everyone went into it with the same expectations or needs, and we spent a good portion of the trip either arguing over logistics or passive aggressively agreeing to go along with plans to avoid immediate conflict. The worst part? Our final dinner together was super uncomfortable and two out of the three of them left the next morning without even saying goodbye. We haven’t spoken since, and it’s been almost a year. I want to be able to travel with friends, but how do I avoid devastating my friendships in the future?
“Two out of the three of them left the next morning without even saying goodbye.”
—Good Trip Gone Wrong
Dear Good Trip Gone Wrong,
Yiiiikes. Vacation should be for relaxing and escaping the horrors of a regular work week, but this trip sounds packed with more drama than a Lucha Libre fight.
Challenge yourself to speak up for your preferences.
Before we tackle the issue at hand, let’s debunk a myth about guy or gal pal travel. Exploring the world with friends is exciting, but everyone’s Instagram pics riding bikes in the Hamptons or lying on the coastal rocks of Cinque Terre are edited with a particularly gorgeous filter of color-rich falsehoods. Going to Mexico City, Miami or even the Minneapolis airport with anyone other than family—A.K.A. loved ones you can openly argue with in public—is going to make way for personality clashes. You’re bound to get irritated with anyone you travel with—group tension is almost inevitable. The difference is how you and your friends handle it.
That blissful setting you mentioned—the sun shining, the beautiful outdoors, the juicy mango con todo—how much of it did you actually get to do on this stress fest of a vacay? Maybe it should have been more. Challenge yourself to speak up for your preferences in the future, and encourage others to do the same. Do you need to pack the day with activities? Or do you crave some time alone to decompress? If you’re an introvert, it’s essential to carve out necessary personal time, even if it means making up a work-related excuse to book a flight separate from your mates (hell on earth is chit-chatting while waiting for boarding group 3 to be called). It’s worth recognizing, too, that it’s okay to split up on a group trip. You’ll be inclined to feel you four must operate as one gigantic eight-armed, guajolota-eating human, but at the end of the day, it’s everyone’s vacation. Making time to do whatever the hell it is that you want is imperative. (And if you can’t decide, we’ve got plenty of suggestions.)
If these buds are the real deal, you should be able to tell them you want to stuff your face with tlacoyos instead of sit-down meals or trudge to Casa Azul in lieu of an afternoon nap—and even if you do begrudgingly bum along on that late-night trip to Yuyu, you should be able to find your way back to common ground without ghosting each other permanently. It’s your vacation too, and being able to spend time with friends should enhance, not diminish that.
So long as everyone gets to do something they want, no one will feel like they’ve compromised.
Next time you travel with pals—because there should definitely be a next time—have a loosely agreed-upon plan going in. You can abandon your itinerary, of course, but having a game plan in advance can smooth over many of the issues it sounds like your vacation faced. Now, I’ll admit to being the research nut of the group, presenting preferable ideas in well-organized emails to try and get what I want, only to abandon so many incredible design hotels in favor of friends’ Airbnb picks. But, generally, I’ve learned that so long as everyone gets to do something they want, no one will feel like they’ve compromised.
No matter what you do, prepare for pinch points, particularly at bedtime and in the morning. I loved traveling to Santa Fe with my friend Julia because she’s an expert at this: too sleepy to chit-chat in the morning, she lets it be known that she needs more time to fully wake up. Since I gotta move first thing, trudging to a local coffee shop for sustenance while she relaxes in the room worked perfectly for us.
I can lob as much advice your way about smoothing over a group of friends-turned-foes in an unfamiliar place—can you tell I planned my own bachelorette party?—but the truth is, it won’t fix everything. Traveling back to that fateful Mexico City dinner would be a terrible use for a time machine, so take a few minutes to slap a bandage on this emotional wound. It’s never too late to do the right thing, and acknowledging the rift in a group email even a year later can do wonders. They’re probably hurting too, and raising a flag to say you love them, you’re sorry with how things panned out, and you’d love to get together for a drink, a coffee, or a FaceTime spa party while wearing face masks is worthwhile, even if none of this mess is your fault. You four were once close enough to have taken time from your busy lives and cold hard dinero from your paychecks to go on this trip. Let’s hope you’re close enough friends to forgive each other, too.