Traveling with Girlfriends
Do you really know your friends until you've traveled with them? I don't mean road-trips to the next big city, but travel that pushes you both out of your comfort zones and into new terrains, whether that's a language barrier, unfamiliar culture, or other challenges that inevitably come up when traveling.
Sometimes, it's easy—you'll see a shooting star, wade in bioluminescence, shoo monkeys off of each other's shoulders while supporting each other climb up and down a mountain, and belly-laugh into the night (all of these things happened on my trip to Thailand with G). Other times, you'll have walked ten miles in sunny, 107-degree Fahrenheit weather, with one of you having just started her period, the other about to start her period, and neither of you having slept enough the night before or eaten enough that day (and all these happened in Porto with K).
There are innumerable factors and variables that can positively or negatively impact moments of your trip with your best gal pal, but the experience of being with her in a place that's new to both of you, and seeing how she sees and engages with the world around her, enables you to learn not only more about her, but also about yourself and your friendship.
Still, it doesn't hurt to be mindful and proactive in preventing those negative moments so that you can maximize your time spent enjoying the positive ones. Here are some lessons I've learned through my recent travels with girlfriends.
assume best intentions
I'm not sure that I've worded this the way I mean, so here's what I mean. My girlfriends are some of the people who know me best in this world and who I know best in this world. Sometimes, what we 'know' to be true can be blindspots to what is true in the moment—I might think I know what my friend meant by what she said, or why she said what she said, but it could be something else entirely. Assume best intentions, ask for clarification, be open to receiving it, and trust what she says is true. And if it's the other way around, self-reflect, because what you meant to say might not be what you said, and likely could have been said differently.
be honest and straightforward about what you want and don't want
The essence of this is to communicate openly and honestly, but it's a bit more specific than that. In any relationship, it's important to be willing to compromise, but it's equally important to acknowledge what each of you is unwilling to compromise, and to come to an alternative together. Your friend might not be as concerned about her budget as you are, and might not even realize it's a concern for you, and it will only lead to stress and resentment if you don't put that on the table. You might prefer to wander while she might have agenda items she wants to tick off. It's each of your trips, and it's not selfish to be straightforward about what you want and don't want. If you can't be honest with your best girlfriends, then who can you be honest with? My friend B said it well in this post, "I think it’s important though, especially on long trips, to take time for yourself and be comfortable with spending some time doing our own respective activities." Do your own thing and meet up again for the things you want to do together—the stories you'll each have to share make the meeting up again that much sweeter.
recognize each other's speeds, styles, and strengths
I could spend half a day admiring just the flowers and architecture in one pocket of a city; my friend K is already eager to get to the third city on our list when we've just arrived at the first. Somehow, we got to four cities and several neighborhoods within those cities throughout our trip, and I was able to enjoy more hydrangeas than I ever have my entire life. One thing K and I are quite good at is accommodating to and balancing each other's speeds, styles, and strengths—taking the lead and following as appropriate or necessary (we did pledge a Greek organization together, which might have something to do with it).