How can I decline this trip?
April 20, 2015 6:38 AM   Subscribe

I just spent the weekend in Paris with a friend, which was... okay. It wasn't great. We have another trip planned in a month's time but haven't booked tickets yet. How can I weasel out of this without hurting my friend's feelings?

The trip wasn't a disaster - it was just very tiresome travelling with my friend. She is LOVELY. Don't get me wrong. Capitals are necessary and I get on really well with her (we've been friends for circa 15 years) across different continents. It's just that we have quite varying styles of travel (walk vs. taxi, vegetarian vs. paleo, teetotal vs. drinker) and if a weekend in Paris made me feel stressed out and pissed off, I can't imagine what a week's trip to Malta, a total unknown for me, will be like.

How can I decline at this stage... Excuses I have thought of include: not enough money, having to look after the dog/no pet sitter, partner's extreme schedule, work commitments (I'm only taking a day's leave and tagging it on to some public holiday). At the moment I go on a couple of breaks a year - which makes holidays a big deal, while she is a very frequent global traveler... I suspect she might just replace me with her boyfriend, who similarly is always on the road.

Any ideas on how to say thanks but no thanks gently, without offending someone appreciated!
posted by teststrip to Human Relations (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
any reason you can't do the truth? "Phyllis, I've been thinking. When we were in Paris, did you find our needs to be a bit incompatible? I felt like there were a few times when it seemed like we weren't ideal travel partners, as much as I love you. You're my awesome bff and I want to keep it that way. I think maybe you'll have a better time in Malta if you go with Bob. I won't be hurt and I'll want to hear all about it."

If not, any of the others you mentioned will do, but they seem like they might be setting up a worse situation when the untruth of it comes out, like when you go on a different trip or she hears that a mutual friend offered to help with the dog or whathaveyou.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:44 AM on April 20, 2015 [24 favorites]

If this is a friend you want to keep, I vote for some version of the truth. My cousin recently bowed out of a family thing with, "It would make me too crazy with all I've got going on." "Too much going on and I'm stressed out; I realized after we got back that going away again so soon is too much."
posted by BibiRose at 6:45 AM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

You need to address the root of the problem: your essential travel incompatibility. Don't start down the excuses path, because your friend will read that as "slow fade" and you want to keep her as a friend, right? Tell her you don't get a lot of opportunity to travel, so you are less flexible about how you spend time on holiday. I like fingersandtoes' reinforcement of your friendship.
posted by apparently at 6:50 AM on April 20, 2015

Best answer: I don't know, I am impressed by your lack of blamey-ness in this post, and I think you'd be just fine with a little white lie excuse like "I'm just too overwhelmed to travel again right now." I'd only say you need to address the incompatibility if 1) you seemed overwrought about it (and you don't!) or if 2) your friend does push to travel together more often.
posted by hought20 at 7:09 AM on April 20, 2015 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I agree with the consensus so far, and if you want to maintain the friendship I suggest going into the conversation with an alternative plan for a shared activity. Something along the lines of fingersandtoes script and then adding, but how about next month we do activity "x" my city (or nearby city), so that we can get-together and chat or people watch, or whatever it is that you two do have in common. And if you're feeling stressed by the suggestions here of having this conversation so close to this upcoming trip, it's fine to use any type of time-related excuse, but before you get much further down the road I think you need to find a way to shift the friendship away from these types of trips, now that you feel this way you'll just become resentful if they continue.
posted by dawg-proud at 7:10 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think timing is a perfectly reasonable screen at the moment, like BibiRose and hought20 suggest. You possibly should have the conversation about travel incompatibility in the future (maybe she's having similar thoughts and you will both gracefully avoid extending invitations to travel together in the future, but don't count on it), but I suspect that conversation would benefit from a little breathing room after this past trip.
posted by EvaDestruction at 7:29 AM on April 20, 2015

I would totally not be hurt if I were told I have different travel styles from a friend. I think fingersandtoes has a great script for this.
posted by jeather at 7:41 AM on April 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: My go to excuse is work and family commitments, as I come across this quite often. I adore my friends, but our travel styles are simply not in sync and that is not anyone's fault. We just have different objectives. I tell them the trip sounds interesting and I can't wait to hear all about it when they get back since I won't be able to go with.
posted by notaninja at 7:43 AM on April 20, 2015

If you want to maintain the friendship, it's probably most effective to be as honest as possible. Why? Because if you can't make this trip to Malta, she'll ask you on the next one. And the one after that. And the one after that. You'll have to keep coming up with excuses and that just sucks for everyone. Long-term, it's best to rip the bandage off now and say basically what fingersandtoes suggested: I like you LOTS you are my BFF 5EVA, and we like totally different things on vacations. That's cool! We are still BESTIES! Let's get together next week for dinner and axe-throwing!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:40 AM on April 20, 2015

When deciding how to approach this, I think you need to take your friend's personality into account. Some people prefer the truth, while others prefer hints and suggestions.

Personally, when people give me excuses that sound like little white lies, I get really paranoid, because I imagine that they really hate me or are truly angry at me or something. If you make me read between the lines, I'll come up with an epic tragedy. I really prefer the straight truth, so that I really know what I'm dealing with. That's doubly true when it's phrased as kindly and reasonably as you did above.

On the other hand, I've known plenty of people in this world who actually seem to prefer to be lied to, who don't want to think about your real feelings at all, and are much happier reading between the lines and pretending that everything is alright. I personally don't understand that mindset, but it's pretty common, so it needs to be taken into account.

In order to figure out which approach would work best for your friend, I think your best bet is to look at how she herself deals with these sorts of situations. In my experience, people who would prefer a little white lie will tell a lot of them themselves, while those who prefer the blunt truth are more likely to be blunt too. Mirror your friend's approach, and I think you'll be alright.
posted by sam_harms at 8:42 AM on April 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

YMMV, but among the people that I know I think it's commonly understood that travel compatibility is not at all equal to judgments on personality or friendship. If you go down this path I would endeavor to keep it as strictly focused on travel/logistics as possible (which you've done in this post.)
posted by andrewesque at 9:06 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you make me read between the lines, I'll come up with an epic tragedy

This a million times. Don't make it vague, because vagueness lets people fill it with their fears.
posted by corb at 9:37 AM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

"Hey! Paris took more out of me than I expected. I am gonna have to pass on Malta -- why don't you take (Boyfriend's Name) instead?"
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:46 AM on April 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

I don't agree that you should tell her the reasons. This is a great example of when it's just easier to have a white lie than tell her that it's hard to travel with her - since you said you had a good time in Paris. Preserves the friendship. Just say you are busy and can't make it after all.
posted by pando11 at 11:30 AM on April 20, 2015

If Malta seems like a one-off thing, a white lie is fine. Something like "last trip left me totally travel-exhausted" or "partner's schedule is stressing me out and I really need to focus on being at home right now" or "work is too crazy" or whatever will be fine.

However, given your description it sounds like your friend might end up asking you to accompany her on more trips in the future. How are you going to feel about coming up with yet another fake excuse every 3 months? To me, that would both really stress me out AND feel like it was driving a wedge into our friendship with the continual lies. In that case, I would be honest and definitely keep the non-judgemental attitude of this post -- you love her, you really really value your friendship, but you feel like you do better in non-vacation-y situations. I feel like a lot of people would take this in a "you're a bad traveller/your travel style sucks/you're too high maintenance/etc." diretion, and you haven't so go you. :)
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:40 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

You could approach it as a suggestion that you both compromise on some of your travel preferences. Like, Malta you'll walk half the time, taxi the other half, or walk the whole time and eat paleo the whole time, or whatever you think is a fair division. And then you're opening up the conversation to (ideally) come to a consensus about whether travelling together in the future makes sense, and I think that method has less potential to be weird later--or maybe you will get a happy surprise that she's open to compromise OR would much rather walk and eat vegetarian than not travel with you!

This only works, though, if you are legitimately open to compromise and wouldn't still resent paying for a taxi half the time, or whatever. If you WOULD resent that, then you can still say, "look, I'm really prickly" [because that is kind of prickly, tbh--and it's fine to be prickly, tbh! lord knows I am] "and I'm only going to enjoy traveling if I can do x, y and z. Do you think we could try that on the next trip? It's totally reasonable if you say no and want to take TravelBoyfriend instead."
posted by tyrantkitty at 4:01 PM on April 21, 2015

I would phrase it as you value her friendship so much you don't want to risk losing it because you are incompatible travel partners. Much like most people wouldn't want to live or go into business with their best friend because if it blows up, you've lost your best friend!

If you've noticed your travelling style incompatibility, I'm sure she has too. Just tell her you love her too much, have a laugh about it and arrange to go out for drinks. Or whatever.
posted by Jubey at 11:37 PM on April 21, 2015

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