10 ways to deal with a bad travel partner

I tend to make reasonably good travel decisions. I pack appropriately (and always bring a sweater), I consult maps, and I tend not to eat anywhere that includes the phrase “o-rama” (i.e., “Bob’s Fish-o-rama.” So NOT a good idea).

But even those of us who make great (dare we say, flawless?) travel decisions falter now and then. Especially when it comes to picking a travel companion. For some reason, people tend to change dramatically when on a trip. It might be that the oxygen-rich recycled air has gone to their brain. Or that jet lag, combined with one-too-many in-flight drinks, has brought out their inner crazy. Maybe it’s the stress of being somewhere new and strange. Whatever the reason, you may have the misfortune to find that, no matter how great you are at making decisions for your trip, you’ve managed to pick a travel companion who … well, who just plain sucks.

Perhaps they snore incessantly, or chew with their mouth open. Maybe they’ve used your last clean shirt … as a handkerchief. Whatever the reason, you are not getting along. As the trip progresses, you feel tempers running short and a screaming match between the two of you looms on the horizon. But you’re stuck together. You might be thousands of miles away from home. You might have no one else to talk to. You might even be sharing the same bathroom.

First off, take a deep breath. Having a miserable travel companion doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have a miserable trip. These tips and tricks will ensure that you’ll both get home in one piece, and, with any luck, you’ll still be talking to one another, too.

Kill them … with kindness.

You will notice I said WITH KINDNESS. As ridiculous as it sounds, being excessively polite and kind to your loathsome travel mate will probably help ease tensions (I’m not saying it’s easy, but it will help). Plus, they’ll find it exponentially harder to stiff you on the bill or be an all-around snot to you when you’re acting so darn nice. And in the end, you’ll come across as the good guy — because a travel companion who’s “being too nice” isn’t really something they can complain about.Don’t lose your cool.
You may feel a scream bubbling up in your throat, your hands clenching into fists, and know that a fight is mere moments away. Whatever you do, keep your temper in check. Count to ten, grab a snack, or do something else to get your mind off the situation. Blowing up at your travel mate isn’t going to make you feel any better — it’s actually more likely to make you feel worse. You could end up saying something you regret (“I wish you were never born … MOM!”) making for a very awkward flight home.

Spend some time apart.
Even someone you adore can grow a little tiresome after 6 days/7 nights together. If your travel companion wants to spend the day at by the pool, and you’re dying to explore the museum, why not go your separate ways for a few hours? It will give you both time to relax and cool down, and you might actually start to miss each other. Maybe. Or, at least, hate each other less.

Speak up before something becomes a problem.
If you suddenly find yourself traveling with a morning person, and you’re a night owl, let them know before you’re too sleep deprived to be civil about it. Bringing issues up before they bother you means you’ll be calmer — and less likely to have a vicious, hair-pulling fight about what time to set the wake-up call.

Select activities that involve little interaction.
Sometimes you might not be able to get away from your travel buddy, no matter how hard you try. When you’re absolutely stuck, try activities that don’t require a lot of teamwork. Instead of sharing a canoe, grab individual kayaks. Go see a movie (or if you can’t agree, see different ones!) Avoid ballroom dancing at all costs. It will end badly.

Make new friends.
If your travel partner is turning out to be a dud, why not try befriending some other travelers? You’ll have new people to talk to, and possibly commiserate with! You might meet someone who’s sharing an hotel room with an ex-con — or worse, a lousy tipper. It will make your situation seem like a dream by comparison. Can’t find anyone to talk to? Chat up the bartender. You might even get a free drink out of the deal.

Get some exercise.

Not only will a quick jog or swim give you some much needed alone time, but it will also help burn off all the pent-up anger and stress you’ve been lugging across three timezones. Plus, those endorphins can help calm you down and make you forget all about that fiasco with Homeland Security.

Remember: You aren’t exactly perfect.
Your mom might find your little quirks endearing, but not everyone does. Odds are, your travel partner could be just as fed up with you as you are with them. Keep this in mind, and you may suddenly find a new wealth of patience when it comes to dealing with your travel buddy’s flaws (“Well, she didn’t get angry when I borrowed her sweater, so I guess I’ll forgive her for puking in my suitcase.”).

Avoid contentious topics.
Maybe you’re a Mets fan, and he loves the Yankees. Or perhaps he watches Leno, and you’re with Coco. Whatever the case, try to avoid topics on which you disagree, not matter how tempting. It will only stress you both out, making future altercations more likely. Instead, stick to subjects on which you share an opinion: like how unicorns and cake are awesome.

Think of what a great story it will make later.
So you plan a trip to the Bahamas with an old college friend, only to discover he has a crippling case of eremikophobia (a.k.a., fear of sand. Seriously. Look it up). While seemingly disastrous now (because he doesn’t want a single grain of it in the hotel room) it will make a great tale to tell later. Try to see the humor of a dismal situation.

Rotten travel companions have happened to the best of us. Share your story — and how you lived to tell the tale — in the comments section below!

Read more:
What makes a good travel companion?
Uncommon traits of a good travel companion
Coping with a travel disaster

[Photos: Flickr | Evil Erin; W. Volk; jrodmanjr; StrudelMonkey]

Ten ways to deal with culture shock

Traveling to other countries can be an exhilarating and wonderful experience. When it is, treasure those moments and take lots of pictures. When it isn’t… it’s usually because you’ve suddenly realized you’re “not in Kansas anymore.” What felt exotic from your original home suddenly feels “weird,” “uncomfortable,” or “downright annoying” now that you’re in this new culture. Don’t let these down feelings get the best of you and ruin what could be an otherwise life-changing experience. Here are ten ways to deal with culture shock before and after it happens.

Get an “informant” (make friends with someone from the foreign-to-you culture).
This can be the most important thing for surviving another culture, especially if this person becomes a close and trusted friend. This informant becomes the go-to when something happens that you can’t make sense of, or if you have questions about what’s appropriate or not. It’s like having a “local culture dictionary” — and can be vital for your sanity’s survival.

Get a same culture buddy (make friends with someone from your own culture).
This helps in having someone who either is going through or has recently gone through a lot of the shocks you are currently enduring. You can vent with someone who knows what a public restroom should look like. Just be careful not to let it slide into a “hate everything about this country” session.
Every day make yourself find something that you like about the culture
Celebrating the good of the new culture can help take some of the edge off the things you see as bad. Think of it as the things you’ll miss when you go back home; and as hard as it is to believe at times of heavy culture shock, there will be plenty of things that you miss one day. Bonus: when you can find a positive aspect to the “squatty potty,” then you know you’ve made progress.

Be a tourist
Plan time to do the cheesy touristy things that the locals wouldn’t be caught dead doing. It helps to be an outsider sometimes, because you can find wonder in things the locals don’t even notice anymore. Sad to say, but once you see it day in and day out, those majestic mountains become just common place. So, before it becomes mundane to you too, stand in wonder at the wonders of the world. Extra points if you take a local with you and make him/her be your “tour” guide.

Do something that takes courage every day
Eleanor Roosevelt is famous for saying this, and it’s good advice to take. Besides, it’s actually not that hard to do when you are somewhere foreign. Adventure surrounds you in another culture — big and little. Taking courage can simply mean going to the market by yourself, but if you see it as an adventure, rather than a chore that will take you three times as long as it does in your own culture, you may actually find yourself having fun.

Do something familiar
Figure out how to make your favorite food and do so often. Watch your favorite movies. Listen to music that makes you feel good in your own language. Have people over to celebrate your home culture’s holidays your way. Sometimes you just need to close your eyes and hear, smell, taste the things that are home to you. It’s amazing how good mac n’ cheese can taste when you no longer have easy access to it.

Go for walks

Spend time exploring on foot. In your own culture, you take for granted how the trash is picked up, how the mail is delivered, the colors that the houses are painted, etc. Take time in this new culture to figure out how the minutia of life gets done and being on foot helps you to notice the little details, plus it gets you out of the house for a little exercise.

There’s no better place to get it all out then on the pages of a book that no one else will see. It will also help for you to look back on it and see how far you’ve come, the humor in situations that weren’t humorous at the time, and how you can help other newbies as they have the same problems. Consider taking this journal and sharing it in a blog form to help others as they transition, but be careful to gain some perspective before doing so. If you’re in the ugly depths of culture shock, you may really hurt the local people with your mad ravings. Wait until you’ve cooled off; you’ll be glad you did.

Ask for packages from home
Ask someone–anyone–from home to send you the taco mix, chips, chapstick, shampoo, and wool socks that you can’t find anywhere. It’s amazing how great it is just to get a little care package with a few of your favorite candies, spices, drink mixes, t-shirts, scarves, etc. If you don’t have anyone to ship them to you, then see if you can find a company that ships overseas. It may be a bit pricey, but it’s worth it to have a few pieces of home every once in awhile.

Do your research
Know what you’re getting into before you go, or if you didn’t before, then do it now. Research the web, buy some books, watch local movies, and learn the language. It will help you have some idea what you’re getting yourself into. Note on learning the language: it will be hard at times and you’ll feel like a two-year-old babbling incoherently, but not only will you gain a lot of insight into the culture by learning the language, you will also be able to function better. So, be prepared to look foolish and give it a try.

Play sports with the locals – International travel tip

When you travel abroad, it can be hard to meet locals, especially if you don’t know the language. But if you play a sport — soccer, swimming, football, even ultimate frisbee — then you have a head start.

Before you go, search the internet for a tournament or scheduled practice. Chances are you’ll find a welcoming crowd, whether you’re traveling to Bogata, Prague, or Morocco. Join a friendly game of soccer. Show up for a master’s swim practice. Find a frisbee tournament in the town you’re visiting. Almost every large city internationally has a Hash House Harriers club. Jumping in will give you a workout — and an instant link to local culture.

RELATED: Road trip tip: “Frolf” away the fidgets

Get to know your co-passengers – Road trip tip

Make the road trip as memorable as the destination itself.

Although car rides with the family can be a great experience, the road trip was designed for great friends to get away and escape everyday life. While traveling with friends, keep the radio off. Try playing a game like, “Top Five Celebrities I Want to Date.” Not only will games like this make the miles pass quicker, you can learn an awful lot about your friends. (Sometimes too much!)

Bonus Tip: Make frequent stops along the way for sightseeing, dinner, etc. This will provide the opportunity for new experiences and encounters.

8 Reasons Visiting A Friend Makes a Great Trip

We’ve all said it. “I really need a vacation!” That common phrase is uttered in offices and at happy hours all across this great land of ours by people in desperate need of some time away from their everyday lives.

Unfortunately, breaking the inertia of that hectic yet mundane existence can be challenging. What you need is some decision-making lubrication. Put down the WD-40 and instead check your address book. Nothing makes for an affordable, memorable and energizing trip than a visit to a friend. What seems like a simple idea can spawn some of the best possible adventures. If you don’t believe me, well, I’m writing this from Whitehorse, the capital of Canada’s Yukon Territory. I’m here visiting my friend Eva Holland of World Hum. And this isn’t the first time I’ve traversed the globe just to say hi to a someone I know. So, what makes visiting a friend such a special vacation? Let’s count the ways.

1. A Good Excuse – OK, we’ve determined that you need a vacation but may have a hard time summoning the motivation to pull the trigger. Visiting a friend gives you the perfect excuse to get off your ass, ask for some time off and get away from your everyday life for a while. There’s no planning or research necessary. Just ask your friend if you can come, ask your boss if you can leave and then get going!

2. It’s Cheap(er) – Sure, you’re going to need a plane/bus/train ticket and that’s going to cost you a bit. But when you arrive at your friend’s house, you’ll have a place to stay and a kitchen in which to cook your own meals. Accommodations and food can be the two biggest expenses once you’re on the ground. Knock those costs down a few pegs and your trip just got a whole lot more affordable. And that just means more cheesie souvenirs and drinks for you (and for your friend, since you should treat her to a round or two for being your host)..

3. Friendly Tour Guide – Who needs guidebooks and expensive tours when you have a local friend? Not only can your buddy share his expertise with you, you’ll get to experience the destination through the eyes of a local. Of course, seeing the touristy sights is worth it, but the best experiences often come at seemingly innocuous local restaurants or on lazy days in a park. Share a “typical” afternoon with your friend and enjoy a slice-of-life experience that no tourist would ever have. You’ll leave having a better understanding of the place than you would if you just followed that guidebook’s advice.

4. Getting to Know You – Odds are, if you’re visiting this friend, you’ve kept in touch with her since she moved away. You’ve listed to her stories on the phone, followed her on Twitter and killed time at work by perusing her online photo galleries. But do you really have a sense of what her new life is like? By visiting a friend, you’ll have a new appreciation for her anecdotes and everything that she’s shared with you will have more context. You’ll meet her friends, see where she lives and party where she parties. Your friend may have a new life away from you, but there’s no reason that you can’t get to know it (and her) better by paying a visit.

5. New Friends – Speaking of meeting her friends, you’ll get to expand your social circle on your visit. Having you in town will be the perfect excuse for your friend to host a dinner party or rally a group to hit the town. Meeting new people and spending time with locals make travel such a wonderful activity. By visiting someone, you’re guaranteed make new friends on your trip. At the very least, you’ll get some new Facebook friends out of it.

6. Built-In Travel Pal – We’ve written a fair amount about travel companions here at Gadling. But when it comes to visiting a friend, all you need to worry about is getting there. Once you arrive, your friend will be around to create memories with you. Even if he needs to work for part of the time, you’ll still be able to explore your surroundings with him when he’s free rather than always being alone. And those are the types of stories that will make your other friends regret not joining you for that visit.

7. You’re Going Where? – I’m sure I would have gone to Sydney, Amsterdam and Chicago whether or not I knew people there. But I’m not sure when I would have made my way to Fargo or Whitehorse if I didn’t have friends to visit. Going to a somewhat obscure or less “sexy” locale is a fantastic byproduct of visiting a friend, You’ll get to see a place that you may never have experienced and learn that it’s just as awesome, if not more so, than many of the more popular destinations around the world. You can have Paris. I’ll happily spend my week in the Yukon.

8. A Friendly Face – For you, the visit may just be a vacation. For your friend, however, it’s a chance to see a someone familiar. Whether she admits it or not, her new life may still have her longing for the comforts of her old home. Your visit won’t just be about you getting away. It’s will be a chance to remind your friend that she hasn’t been forgotten and that people will actually visit her — no matter how remote her new home may be. Bring a bag of her favorite junk food or a t-shirt from her old local bar and it will be the best gift you can give as a house guest.

Visiting a friend is so much more than just a vacation. It’s a chance to learn about a new place, reconnect with someone special and experience life as a local. Visits to friends often generate the fondest memories of travel, as those trips tend to strengthen old bonds, create new inside jokes and foster a comfort level that is often hard to achieve when traveling to a place that is completely unknown to you.

So, the next time you are desperate to get away and think that it’s just too difficult to plan a trip, consider those friends who have relocated to a place that you never would have imagined going. Write one of them an email or, better yet, give him a call. He’ll be thrilled to hear from you and beyond excited that you want to visit. Before you know it, you’ll be together again. Just be sure to thank him and to pack that gift from home.

Did I miss any good reasons for visiting a friend? Have you had an amazing trip just by reconnecting with someone who had moved away? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments.