The Wandering Writer: A Tour Through Manhattan’s East Village With Tony Perrottet

Tony Perrottet won’t talk to me. When I call him from the lobby he picks up his phone but doesn’t utter a word. Rules dictate that he can’t speak in the Writers Room, the shared workspace where he churns out articles and books, and the first stop on our walking tour of Perrottet’s favorite neighborhood spots. Five silent seconds pass, then ten.

“Oh heeeeyyy, Rachel,” he says finally, his Australian accent infused with a Bob Dylan-esque twang. “I’ll be right down.”

Silver-haired and wearing dark blue jeans and collared shirt under a soft green sweater, a college-professor-on-sabbatical look, Perrottet ushers me into the elevator. When we reach the Room, I can see why he’s a stickler for cellphone protocol. The large loft is quiet as a coffin except for the rhythmic tapping of keyboards – and the twenty or so writers present seem cognizant of doing even that as softly as their productive fingers can manage. Back to back desks are occupied by whoever has shown up for the day, faces obscured by dividing screens. There’s a kitchen for lunch breaks and a nap room in case you need to rest up before returning to the Muses. You can come here any day of the week, any time of the day, and stay as long as you like.

At this 30-year-old institution, Perrottet has rubbed elbows with literary celebrities like Jay McInerney, as well as the famous aspiring to the literary, like Molly Ringwald and Brooke Shields. But despite the many well-known authors who work here, Perrottet says it’s actually very democratic. “They’ll let anyone in as long as you’re serious about your writing.”

And membership isn’t too hard on a writer’s often-measly budget. “It’s around $100 a month and they give you free coffee so you could actually make a profit if you had a cup every day,” he says. It’s a pretty good sales pitch, especially in a place like New York, where we cram ourselves into apartments people in other parts of the country would assign to kitchens or particularly roomy bathrooms.“Working from home would be a fiasco anywhere, but in New York there’s a particular madness because of the claustrophobia,” he says. “I couldn’t exist without this space.”

The transplanted Aussie seems to revolve around places that make life in this chaotic city bearable. He’s set up “little refuges” all over the East Village where he can go depending on his mood or work needs. After touring the Writers Room, we set off for one of them: the Italian cafe Taralluci E Vino. It’s just after 4 p.m., the perfect time for an afternoon cappuccino.

We walk east, eventually winding up on 10th Street between First and Second Avenues. Perrottet has lived on this block for over two decades in the same rent-controlled apartment, a holy grail for an artist in costly Manhattan, where so many have moved to Brooklyn or Queens or Harlem.

“Back then this was the big drug block,” he tells me. “This was in the early 1990s. Now it’s like ancient history, some fantasy world. Back then it was lined with 20 or 30 Colombian guys selling stuff. And these limousines would go by, Wall Streeters getting their cocaine.” There was a red door and blue door, one for soft drugs and one for hard drugs. The newly arrived Perrottet found the whole thing exotic – and the block was actually very safe because the Colombians didn’t want any trouble. But then the neighborhood association started making plans with the mayor and police to revamp 10th Street. In the end, the whole area was sealed off and a police car would drive back and forth all night. “The idea was to break the association that New Yorkers had with this block and drugs,” he says. “It worked. They all moved to 11th Street.”

No more than 100 yards from his apartment, we find an outdoor table at Tarallucci E Vino. As we sit, I catch a glimpse of the sugary pastries inside the café: buttery croissants, chocolate-tipped biscotti, mouth-watering miniature muffins. Perrottet strategically orders the check at the same time we request coffees. If not, he warns, it could be hours until our waitress drops in on us again. “This really is like visiting Rome because it’s totally incompetent,” he laughs. “It’s a complete mess. I like it.”

Today we’re here for the coffee, but Perrottet sometimes stops in around 6 for the aperitivo session. “For $6,” he tells me conspiratorially, “you can get this really nice glass of Lambrusco and they give you some little nibbles.” Any Manhattan writer worth his byline knows his neighborhood happy hours and it seems Perrottet is no exception.

But before we partake in one of our own, we need to pop into an East Village antique shop Perrottet frequents. Spirit and Matter is a tiny incense-heavy place stocked with tribal pieces ranging from war clubs to wooden jewelry to an intricately decorated paddle once used in courting rituals in Micronesia.

Perrottet, recognized by the bald, baritone owner, inquires if any erotic relics have recently arrived. He’s on the hunt for one for a TV show he’s involved with. The owner hasn’t got anything but suggests trying Obscura. “I hear they’ve got a mummified penis over there,” he says, as intriguing a lead as any.

It turns out Perrottet, who has stumbled upon many a story idea through casual conversations like this with locals, has already heard the rumor. And in fact he’s already seen just such an artifact.

“I’ve seen Napoleon’s.” He pauses while I consider the rather unpleasant mental image. “Allegedly.”

Still, one can never see too many mummified penises, so we push off for Obscura. The name still fits the shop’s content but not its character these days, since Obscura is the star of a Science Channel reality TV show called “Oddities.” Inside it’s a quirky collector’s dream, all statues and skeletons and strange souvenirs.

Obscura’s proprietor, like Spirit and Matter’s, knows Tony, and he knows why we’re here. He leads us into a cramped back room where the quested-for object is being housed in a shoe box-like container on packed shelves. If this was an action film starring Nicholas Cage, the thieves would have it all too easy.

The desiccated member is delicately wrapped in tissue paper. As we examine it, I comment on the small tragedy of a man’s most private parts being separated from the rest of his body. Perrottet tells me that women, too, have had pieces removed posthumously.

“The breast of Mary Magdalene is one of the great relics,” he says. “So is the heart of Joan of Arc.”

With our luckily still-beating hearts, and all appendages attached, we thank Obscura’s owner and head out. Perrottet wants to take me to Café Mogador, a Moroccan and Mediterranean restaurant where happy hour has just begun. He treats the friendly spot as his local diner, perfect for eating alone or with a visiting editor or friend. “It’s got space and excellent food and has been around forever,” he says. “The quality is amazing but it’s not expensive. And it’s very comfortable. In the East Village, there aren’t that many comfortable places. You don’t want a place filled with NYU students going nuts, which is basically what you’re fighting against.”

While we sit at the bar with tapas and white wine, a smiling waitress pops over to greet Perrottet. He apologizes on behalf of a boisterous friend he brought in last week, clearly wanting to make sure all is well in one of his chosen refuges. The waitress isn’t fussed in the slightest. “It’s all part of the job,” she says, and tells Perrottet it’s nice to see him.

We can’t stay for long, though. We’ve got a reservation at 6 and have been cautioned to be on time if we want to keep it. PDT, which stands for Please Don’t Tell, is our final stop on the Perrottet peregrinate. It’s the kind of secretive place you bring out-of-town visitors to prove Manhattan’s magic. We enter the small, dark cocktail lounge through a telephone booth. Inside, the nonstop noise of the East Village is muted entirely.

Perrottet likes the speakeasy feel here, the wide-eyed stuffed animals lining the walls, and the fact that you need a reservation. Most importantly, though, he likes the crowd control. “That’s what I’ll pay for,” he says, “a bit of elbow room, a bit of quiet.”

“They tried to get rid of me. We’re the riff raff now”

The payment at PDT comes in the form of expensive cocktails with cute names. Perrottet orders a Tompkins Square, so strong you can smell the whiskey rising off it when the bartender delivers it. I get a gin based drink called The C Cup, which feels like far too easy a joke for such a sophisticated place.

As we sip our concoctions, I ask how the East Village has changed since Perrottet first arrived.

“I’m not one of those nostalgic nuts who say it was always better years ago because there was a lot that was wrong,” he says. “But I like it because thanks to the rent control laws – it’s been gentrified obviously –it’s still like nowhere else in New York. They can’t get rid of all the old Polish guys and the Ukrainian women. They tried to get rid of me. We’re the riff raff now,” he laughs.

It’s as hard to imagine the affable Perrottet as riff raff as it is to picture him living anywhere other than the East Village. He seems not just to live in this neighborhood but to be actively part of it. It’s obvious that Perrottet would know where best to take you at 3 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning. And wherever you wound up, they would probably know him, too. There’s something comforting about realizing a person can be part of a small community in a massive city like New York. And Perrottet, an Australian ex-pat who arrived here one mild night in September some 20 years ago, most certainly has found his.

About This Wandering Writer:

Tony Perrottet is the author of four books – a collection of travel stories, “Off the Deep End: Travels in Forgotten Frontiers” (1997); “Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists” (2002); “The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Greek Games” (2004); and “Napoleon’s Privates: 2500 Years of History Unzipped” (2008). His travel stories have been widely anthologized and have been selected four times for the “Best American Travel Writing” series. He is also a regular television guest on the History Channel, where he has spoken about everything from the Crusades to the birth of disco.

[Photo Credits: Lesley Thalander and Rachel Friedman]

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.

Honesty
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.

“Hey, Dave.”
“What’s up bro?”
“Well, I’ve got some things on my mind, Dave.”
“Cool, cool.”
“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?”
“Right on.”
“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.Avoidance
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
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.

The Ditch
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.

Travel Troubles: What To Do When You Lose Your Passport Abroad

Some people are accident-prone. Others attract bad relationships. Me, I get into travel trouble. I once broke a piece off a plane mid flight – luckily not one crucial for flying. I’ve been robbed and swindled – in Bolivia, both in the same morning. There are friends of mine who joke that the only sure thing when traveling with me is that our flight will be canceled. I confess to you that I have even been deported.

Amazingly, I’ve never actually lost my passport. (Just a moment, please, while I race around knocking on every available wood surface in my apartment.) However, being embarrassingly prone to travel troubles, I’ve gone ahead and prepared for the highly likely possibility that this will one day occur. Here’s what to do when you lose that prized official ID, according to various subjective (me) and objective (the government) sources.

Panic
What? You’re not panicking? You’ve lost your PASSPORT. You might be stuck in a place that is not America FOREVER. I’m kidding. Do not panic. Definitely don’t. Do you know what happens when you panic? Well, it has something to do with the shift of blood flow and “fight or flight” and sweating and, see, it’s all very scientific so let me simplify things by saying that it’s the reason all those big-breasted, short-skirted girls run up the stairs in horror movies. In your case, it’s the reason you are currently braced against the nearest wall, starting to breath funny, and wondering if 25-year-olds ever have heart attacks. This will keep you from taking the necessary steps to remedy this unfortunate situation. So stay calm, guy. Everything is going to okay.If You See Something, Say Something
Of course, you might not have actually seen anything at all. When I was robbed in La Paz, the culprits set up an elaborate spit-on-the-target-and-abscond-with-her-stuff-while-she-is-wiping-disgusting-goo-off-her-neck ruse. I had no clue who these ninjas were. (Side note: referring to the people who rob you as “ninjas” makes you feel better than admitting they were probably not particularly gifted 12-year-olds.) Still, I filed a police report and you should, too. It’s important for making claims with travel insurance, at the very least. And you can rest a little easier that night knowing you’ve done your small citizen part to fight crime in Gotham City (or wherever you are).

Get thee to an Embassy
Turns out you’re not spending a lazy morning sucking down espressos at that quaint little bakery in rural France. Nope, you’re on the next train back to far less friendly Paris to visit your embassy. Here’s what will happen when you get there, according to the Bureau of Consular Affairs website: “You will need to speak to the American Citizens Services unit of the Consular Section … You will need to complete a new passport application. The consular officer taking an application for replacement of a lost, stolen, or misplaced passport must be reasonably satisfied as to your identity and citizenship before issuing the replacement. In virtually all cases this can be done through examination of whatever citizenship and identity documents are available, conversations with the applicant, close observation of demeanor and replies to questions asked, and discussions with the applicant’s travelling companions or contacts in the United States.” My unsolicited advice: don’t make any jokes about being a double agent or respond “Jason Bourne” when asked your name. I understand the embassy has a terrible sense of humor.

Ask for Help
Before traveling to any foreign country, I make sure to learn a few key phrases. How much does this cost? Where is the nearest restroom? Is what I’m eating right now technically food or are you just hazing unsuspecting tourists? Useful things like that. Another helpful sentence would go something like this: Help, please, I’ve just been robbed and I need to use your Internet/phone/bottle of tequila. (If you lost your passport over-indulging in the local wine, say, I recommend neglecting the specifics of how you ended up ID-less and only wearing one shoe and concocting a more sympathetic storyline. The travel gods will forgive you the white lie.) Losing a passport sucks, no doubt about it. But you might look at it as an opportunity, albeit an unwanted one, to witness for yourself the kindness of strangers. In any given place, even New York City, I promise you, there are compassionate locals ready to offer help. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find them.

Back it Up, Back it Up, Back it Up
This is more of a post (or ideally pre) passport loss piece of advice – common sense but often ignored, as is the way with much common sense. You should have copies of all your important documents: passport and driver’s license, boarding passes, traveler’s checks. If you’re a real overachiever, you’ve stashed copies with a loved one back home and somewhere in your luggage – not to mention scanned the stuff and saved copies in your email. I’ve heard that getting new passport photos taken abroad can by a royal pain in the embassy so you might consider bringing these along for the journey, too.

[Flickr image via Howdy, I’m H. Michael Karshis]

The Value Of Second Visits

We fall in love with places, just like we do with people. Maybe you worship Chicago or Bangkok or Buenos Aires – or all three. Regardless of the locale, certain corners of the world feel like they belong to us, so profound is our sense of attachment to them.

Some of these spots we adore because of their aesthetics, while others are tied to memorable experiences – where you had a romantic first kiss, or swallowed that disgusting bug to prove your backpacker mettle.

And then there are those places beloved because they are settings for what I call the “traveler epiphany.” It’s that moment (or moments) when you realize travel is not merely a take-it-or-leave-it hobby but rather that you must travel. It is an Urge with a capital U that cannot be ignored. Wherever you realized this, whether on an elephant in Thailand or at a barbeque in New Jersey, you no doubt remember the revelation as a powerful one – and fondly – and this is probably how you remember the place where you first experienced it, too.

But recently I returned to Australia, one of the countries that helped solidify my identity as a traveler, and was surprised by how unfamiliar it had become in my absence. I hadn’t visited in eight years, when I briefly lived there. I was biding my time back then, a new college grad, when an Aussie friend invited me to stay. We had met the summer before in Ireland, where I had started entertaining the notion that I might like not just to travel but to settle in somewhere foreign – and digging my heels into the Sydney sand for a stretch felt like an excellent plan.On that first trip to Australia, I lived with my friend, Carly, and her parents, Pete and Muriel, who quickly became a surrogate family. Carly was the sister with whom I had the kind of dangerous, youthful adventures easy to glamorize after you’ve lived through them. Pete and Muriel’s happiness was a revelation, and they single-handedly restored my faith in the institution of marriage. Sydney itself came across as a land of good cheer and good times, like Ireland without the bad weather. Every Aussie was beautiful and free-spirited. We went to the beach every day. In sentimental hindsight, even my dead-end waitressing job was a joy. If you had asked me then about my soul mate, I would have named Sydney, and I would only have been half joking.

Immediately upon arriving back in the United States, I began infusing my time in Australia with nostalgia, like a baker carefully injecting cream into pastry. For years after I visited, I proclaimed to friends and family: I would move to Sydney. I would. I treated the country like a dead boyfriend, one who I desperately wished to see again but who was now, sadly, entirely inaccessible.

***

Upon returning to Australia this past June, my old notions of the place were put to the test – from the moment I landed, in fact. I remembered everyone in Sydney as tan, good-looking surfer types, and distinctly recall how even the passport control agent was crush-worthy. This time around, though, the immigration officials seemed just as pale and beleaguered as in the U.S. (though not quite as miserable as in the U.K.). The points of difference didn’t stop there. My Sydney had been cheap but this new Sydney was expensive (an effect of the devalued American dollar). In my Sydney, the stunning Opera House had an almost angelic glow but in this new city it was reduced to a dull aluminum block on certain rainy, winter days. Even my second family had changed. Carly was pregnant and no more able to replicate our hard-partying youth than I was (on my 30th birthday I had made the unhappy discovery that hangovers now lasted two or three days instead of one). Pete and Muriel were still the loving couple I remembered, but had they always nagged each other like that? My time in Sydney started taking on a surreal quality as I processed this new reality, scanning my archive of material from eight years prior in order to make sense of these new impressions.

Was I seeing this altered Sydney because of some inherent change in the city itself or because I was different? Probably a little bit of both. Surely we cannot expect places to stay exactly the same. Just like us, they evolve. But I had also changed as a person and as a traveler. I wasn’t a wide-eyed backpacker this time around. Like realizing the difference between loving someone and being in love with the idea of loving someone, I was no longer throwing myself at every country I visited. I was more investigative, more circumspect.

Once I realized this, I put less pressure on Sydney to conform to the ideal city of my past, and was able to see a more balanced view of the place I still adore – even more so because of this new understanding.

People seem to be happier when they look back on their lives through a nostalgia lens, filtering out the unpleasant and keeping its opposite. But is it good for travel?

Returning to Sydney was an unsettling lesson in the ways we can warp places to suit our memories of them. But ultimately I’ve learned that I like the exercise of returning. It’s nice feeling your way around somewhere for a second or third or fourth time, when you’ve already done all the greatest tourist hits and are now relieved of any particular duties besides absorbing the place.

Australia is no longer just one of the countries I discovered myself as a traveler. It’s now also where I learned something about the way I want to travel. And I’m grateful to Sydney for showing me this new piece of my traveler identity – and for having the best coffee in the world. But that might just be the nostalgia talking.

How To Vacation With Friends Without Killing Each Other

Every August I head to Long Beach Island for a week with girlfriends. (Yes, this is part of the Jersey Shore. No, I have never met Snooki.) This is our fourth year going and it’s taken about that long to figure out how best to vacation together. One of my friends, for instance, likes to have breakfast at the exact same time each morning while reading the New York Times. Mess with this routine at your own peril and travel gods help you if she hasn’t had her coffee yet.

Another mate is perpetually training for a marathon that requires a vigorous dedication to 6 a.m. exercise. And I am constantly experimenting with weird food choices (heads up, guys, I’m not eating gluten this year!) and strongly believe that if we are not all drinking cheap white wine by 4 p.m. then we are not really on vacation.

The point is, we all settle into different cycles while we’re traveling, and if you’re not careful then it’s easy to disrupt the carefully crafted vacation balance. So if you, like me, want to maintain your at-home friendships post group excursion, follow these five simple rules.

Choose Wisely
I’m sure you’ve heard this delightful expression: you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose but you can’t pick your friend’s nose. There should be a travel version of this disgustingly conveyed wisdom, something like: you can pick your friends and you can pick your route but you can’t pick your friend’s route. (I’m still working on the phrasing. Suggestions are welcome.) We don’t all have the same ideas about travel. Some are determined to spend their entire South Dakota vacation at Mount Rushmore while others think the state is all about the Corn Palace (I hear it’s a-maize-ing). Agree where you’re going and what you want to see once you get there – before you start the trip.Talk it Out
What are your vacation hopes and dreams? Have any pet peeves or weird quirks? What time do you like to go to bed? To get up? I know your mom says the way you belt out show tunes in your sleep is endearing but I want to know about it beforehand so I don’t think we’re being invaded by Broadway bandits. And if me rising early to snap a million photos of the sunrise from our balcony then babbling on about how glorious it is will make you want push me over that same balcony, I want to know about that, too. Oh, and single folks should establish a hook-up policy. Mine goes something like this: do not let me go home with anyone sporting facial tattoos no matter how passionately I pontificate about how brave it is to disregard societal notions of beauty (that is just the cheap white wine talking).

Take a Break
You are traveling together. This does not mean you are conjoined twins. If you want to ride horses in the Andes for six hours that’s great, but to me this sounds like a special breed of torture. Let’s go our separate ways for a bit. We might part for the hour or day or week or longer. That’s cool. Like couples who pursue separate hobbies, we’ll have lots to catch up on when we reunite. That old travel spark will ignite between us once again and we’ll ride off together into the sunset, renewed and reinvigorated by each other’s tales of solo adventure – just not on horses, of course.

Money, Money, Money
People say there are three crucial conversations to have before getting married: about children, religion and finances. Luckily, you can avoid the former two with your travel partner – but not the latter. Are you planning to split costs equally? Divide up bills based on what each individual eats and drinks? Are you going to pay for all our trips because you recently won the lottery or work in finance or both? Hash it out now and not when the Excel spread sheet is circulating two weeks after the trip and that little square next to your name says you owe more than is in your bank account.

Keep it Real
This falls under the category of obvious but important life advice (and also under the category of white girls trying to sound like rappers) but it’s also vital for traveling with friends. If you’re annoyed, speak up (be nice, I’m sensitive). Suppressed feelings fester under the very best conditions but in enclosed spaces like cramped hotel rooms and overcrowded Bolivian buses they positively pickle. You’re bound to get into some minor scrapes with buddies on the road – the longer the trip, the more likely – but this can actually be a good thing. As long as you resolve the issue in a timely and diplomatic way and without anger-invoked defenestration from your hotel room, you’ll probably find yourself closer than ever after having survived your adventure – and each other.