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Travel Troubles: How To Break Up With Your Travel Companion
Our options for ending romances are plentiful, ranging from face to face meetings to changing a Facebook status knowing your soon-to-be-ex will stumble across the unhappy message you are sharing with him and 500 other "friends." Depending on your perspective, we live either in a golden age of communications or a social media hell of our own making.
Travel breakups are a bit trickier. Maybe you've planned a trip with a mate then realized a week in that your idea of bliss is a day at the spa while hers is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Or you're losing sanity because the jackhammer snoring your buddy characterized as "light wheezing" is keeping you up nights. Whatever the reasons, sometimes we need to part ways with a travel companion. Here's how.
You can plan your itinerary, your route and your meals. But as far as I know there is no fool-proof way to calculate how you and your friends will interact after, say, getting lost for the 300th time or when forced to make nice with the frat boy, who always smells like cheese, your friend has fallen for. Be honest about needing some space. Here's a script to help you practice.
"What's up bro?"
"Well, I've got some things on my mind, Dave."
"I'd like to strike out on my own for a bit, maybe meet up with you in a few weeks in Uzbekistan. How's that sound?"
"Awesome. Great talk, Dave."
Okay, it might not be as painless a conversation as it is with surfer Dave but the premise still holds. Be direct. Be kind. Be strong, grasshopper.
Pros: This strategy is your best bet for remaining friends after your trip and, let's be real, the healthiest suggestion on this list.
Cons: Honesty is tough. Just ask any politician, anywhere.
My friend Christina went on a three-week tour of Europe with her two best friends. At the end of the trip, one friendship was firmly intact but after saying goodbye at baggage claim, she never spoke to the other girl again. She describes her former BFF's travel personality as miserly, rude and condescending. A triple threat! Christina practiced one type of avoidance, dodging confrontation during the trip itself. But this strategy can also be used on the mate himself. Do you notice your companion is already dressed and out the door before your alarm has even gone off? If you get more than one hastily scrawled "gone exploring for the day" note stapled to your backpack (not that I recommend stapling things to your backpack, who even brings a stapler on a trip?), you might be the recipient of the avoidance strategy.
Pros: Great for those who loathe confrontation.
Cons: Your silence might unintentionally cause more suffering, not less. Instead of ripping off the bandage, you've chosen to bleed out.
The Bad Hotel
Recently in Sydney, Australia, some folks decided that the 5000 grey-headed foxes making their home in the Royal Botanical Gardens needed to be evicted because they were destroying the batch of trees that house them. The relocation strategy was dubbed "the bad hotel" and it involved blasting the creatures with noises described as "glass smashing, fast hum, and whipper snapper" – imitating the type of unending renovations that might cause you to book accommodation elsewhere. My friend Jenna offers a disturbing example of how the bad hotel strategy could work with a travel companion. On a road trip, for instance, tell a buddy who is bugging you that you need to drive from now on because you're getting carsick. Then drive like a maniac, Jenna counsels. Text, go too fast then too slow, stop all the time, eat messily in the car, smoke if she hates it, etc. Bonus points if your mate screams: "Stop this car right now I'm getting out!"
Pros: You get to practice your acting (you are acting, right?).
Cons: Texting while driving is dangerous. Seriously. Don't do that sh*t.
The Switch and the Ditch, although I have rhymed them adorably, are not for amateurs. Both strategies involve a good deal of planning and mental fortitude. Consider yourselves warned.
I've never successfully pulled off a switch but I've seen it done and it was a thing of beauty. In Ireland, I once shared a dorm room with two guys (let's call them Tom and Jerry) who had been traveling together for a few weeks after meeting abroad. One night I was out with a group of backpackers from the hostel when Tom confessed to me over a cold Guinness that he was a bit sick of Jerry. However, his new friend was a timid traveler and he didn't want to leave him in the lurch, despite being ready to hit the road on his own. But Tom had a plan, he said, nodding in the direction of Jerry, seated a few chairs over, and deep in conversation with a guy named Aaron. Tom had met Aaron that morning and thought he seemed like a worthy replacement. So he ferreted out some details about Aaron's upcoming travel plans and dropped delicate hints about how much Jerry, too, was keen on heading to Dublin soon. Then he introduced the future bros at drinks that night, a matchmaker on a mission. Sure enough, a day later Jerry announced he was going to take off with Aaron. Switch accomplished.
Pros: You get to exercise concern and cleverness.
Cons: It's a delicate dance, the switch, and many of us have two left feet.
It is not nice to ditch someone. Truly, it is a last resort. But some situations call for extreme measures and I want you to be prepared. This last strategy requires little in the way of explanation. You simply, well, you abandon someone. You should be aware, though, that there is a strain of traveler immune to the ditch, often the same clingy folk who need to be left behind in the first place. My friend Carly once told a love-struck guy she was traveling with to meet her in the hostel kitchen for breakfast. She said she was just going to pack up and would be down in a few minutes. Then Carly slipped out the back door and disappeared into the frenetic Sao Paulo streets. Only she didn't vanish quite well enough. Two days later she was hanging out on the balcony of her new room when a familiar voice called up to her. "Carly! Carly! There you are!" her suitor shouted, convinced their parting had been an accident and not an intentional ditch.
Pros: No muss, no fuss (usually).
Cons: You might have to stop once and for all using the adjective "nice" to describe yourself.