How do I travel well with someone I don't like?
February 26, 2009 5:52 PM   Subscribe

How can I make the best of a holiday with a difficult travel companion?

A few months ago, I planned a three-week trip to Thailand with a dear friend of mine. We're going at the end of March. I'm really excited.

My friend is going to be moving to the UK from New Zealand, and is doing the Thailand trip with me on her way to the UK.

Recently, my friend told me that her roommate wanted to come along with us and asked if that was OK with me. I said sure. So the roommate has booked her ticket and is on the trip as well now.

I've met the roommate a few times, and have tried to be friendly and get to know her. She's made it clear that she doesn't like me, and has a very domineering personality. While my friend and I had a very open itinerary (loose ideas of what area we wanted to be in at what time, estimates on how many days we wanted to spend scuba diving/snorkeling vs. cities and trekking) the roommate seems to be taking over and adjusting the schedule to what she wants.

I've become disappointed that this girl is tagging along, and really want to figure out how I can enjoy my time traveling with her. She has a really negative attitude about everything, and every time I've been with her she has dominated the conversation with gossip about other people, making fun of other people (I hate what she's wearing, he smells, they make a bad couple, etc.) which I have no interest in. I get the feeling she isn't going to be much fun.

I haven't said anything to my friend. Should I try to get to know the roommate better and try to and become friends with her? Or should I just be open to the idea of going off on my own if this isn't going to work?

Has anyone experienced this situation before?

It's the last time I'll be seeing my friend for a long time and I was really looking forward to the trip until this new development. I want to make the best of this situation. I don't want to be grouchy! What should I do?
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I travelled with a woman like this when my mother invited a co-worker along on a trip with us. She (I'll call her Elaine) was just about exactly like the roommate you describe. It was not a good trip. These are some things I learned:

1. If the roommate has complaints, and indeed she will, don't allow yourself to be drawn into the situation where your dear friend has to relay complaints to you. If that ever happens, nip it in the bud immediately by going directly to the roommate and saying "If you have any issues, please address them directly to me. I'll be happy to listen to your concerns."

2. Do not allow her to dictate your schedule. Be flexible with suggestions, certainly. If you allow her free reign, she'll be insisting you get up at 6am and help her find a taxi to visit some obscure monument.

3. Make sure you know how to get from place to place, if you have to separate from the group. In a three week trip, it's not a catastrophe to say "I'd really like an extra day of trekking here, I'll meet you in Phuket on Wednesday afternoon at the post office (or wherever)" Don't let the roommate make this a big deal. It's not.

4. Whatever the roommate says, grit your teeth and be gracious. Try to take her on excursions that will allow her to make all the catty observations she likes (say, an open air market), while you and your friend follow behind at a small distance and enjoy your day.

Good luck!
posted by HopperFan at 6:14 PM on February 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Keep your open schedule. If she says, "We're doing this today," respond with, "That's cool - why don't we split up, do our separate things, and then meet up for dinner?" Then DO YOUR OWN THING, and let your roommate decide who she wants to go with. If she wants to come - awesome! If not, no big deal! That way you get to minimize time, still have time to do the things you want, and not feel like a total jerk for marginalizing the new travel companion.

I went on a trip with my best friend and realized halfway through that we were awful travel companions, and that traveling brought out all our worst qualities in each other. (a slightly different situation - but still) . We dealt with this, mostly, by hanging out with other people, and occasionally getting together for coffee and drinks. This was by far the smartest travel decision I've ever made -- it gave us both our space, and meant that I got to look forward to the time I spent with her, rather than resenting her for making the trip "less fun" than I had imagined.

Besides - you may find that you like her a lot more in small doses.
posted by puckish at 6:21 PM on February 26, 2009

Best answer: Try not to let this become a self fulfilling prophecy whereby you don't enjoy your vacation. If you're convinced that the roommate will make everything miserable, and you resign yourself to that, then it will be a miserable trip.

Be prepared to go do things you want to do, and be prepared to do them alone. Plan your own time and invite your companions to join you, but allow them to say no and do not hold a grudge. Do not state your plans and just allow them both to join you if you want a day alone, and if you want your friend to come with you, pointedly invite her. Should you be invited to do something you don't want to do, say no. Graciously. And don't make excuses for not wanting to do something.

You can pointedly talk to your friend about your worries before the trip. You can also openly discuss with them both that you expect that any of you may want to do different things, and that it is okay to do so.

Oh and also, despite your insistence that the roommate dislikes you, it's possible you're reading into something that isn't actually there. Don't assume how she feels about you.
posted by kirstk at 6:29 PM on February 26, 2009

Talk to your friend - you don't want to get in the middle of the trip and have your friend feel surprised at having to choose which one of you to hang out with that day.

Tell your friend that you were stoked about getting to spend unstructured time together, and it seems like the roommate is taking over the planning. Then ask your friend if it seems that way to her - this opens up a conversation, rather than possibly putting her in a position of feeling defensive. She may hate the way the roommate is acting, too, but is afraid to say anything.

Anyway. Air it out now, before you travel. Have some expectations in mind, communicate them clearly, and be willing to really consider ways in which you're willing to compromise - but don't be afraid to say no. Your goal is to spend quality time with your friend, right? Just keep that in mind, and remember that the original plan isn't necessarily the only way to do that.

(That said, my sympathies at having to travel with someone with whom you are not sympatico!)
posted by rtha at 6:39 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

You need to have a group meeting before the trip. Where you make it plain that you and your friend are the ones that originally planned the trip, and that the roommate needs to fit into YOUR plans, not the other way around. You also tell her that negativity is not allowed on this trip. There is a reason that Thailand is called "The land of smiles" !

In other words, get the inevitable fight out of the way before the trip.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:39 PM on February 26, 2009

Best answer: I think you should talk to your friend, since this was your trip originally. Bring up some concern about the room mate, but in a non confrontational way, maybe ask her what she thinks about her room mate coming. You should be able to tell your friend your concerns, especially since you are looking forward to the trip so much. It would be a shame if you went on the trip saying nothing and you just end up getting wound up or not having the holiday you wanted because of an intrusive room mate.

Don't be afraid to go off on your own, you will almost definitely enjoy the chance to do what you want surrounded by your own thoughts and tending to just your own needs. It will also make a nice change from seeing the sights as a group.

Good luck and have a great trip!
posted by tumples at 8:14 PM on February 26, 2009

I think you're going to need to spend a lot of time alone on this trip. But really, I wish you'd said "no, she can't come" before she bought the ticket. If she actively can't stand you, well...I understand "being nice", but who wants to spend the entire trip fighting?

But yeah, too late now. I think I'd go with a lot of "just don't spend that much time together" on this one.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:21 PM on February 27, 2009

Thanks for all the great advice. I found all these answers very helpful. I've had a great conversation with my friend, and I think it's all going to work out. I also found out some stuff that the roommate has been going through lately that has caused her to be overly grumpy.

But now I feel like we're all on the same page, and that I have good options if things aren't working out. I'm back to being excited about this trip!
posted by Flying Squirrel at 2:13 PM on March 5, 2009

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