Keeping a balance when travelling with friends
October 23, 2017 11:02 PM   Subscribe

Two friends of mine and my boyfriend are coming to visit me abroad for 3 weeks. Three of us are similar in terms of travel style, but I'm afraid there will be some incompatibility in travel style with the other friend. Is there anything I can do to make things easier on all of us?

I'm spending an extended period of time abroad, and in a couple of days two of my best friends and my boyfriend are coming to visit me for two and a half weeks! I'm so excited! We're going to visit a number of cities and I'm hoping to have a lot of fun.

Normally we all have a good time together, but in the process of planning our trip I am starting to suspect that there may be some incompatibility issues in terms of travelling styles. One friend in particular, A, seems to have an extremely different idea of what we should be doing. My boyfriend, B, and the other friend, C, are both interested in walking around a lot -- not necessarily with a strict itinerary, but having some things to do in general every day to keep us busy. That's in line what I was expecting to do as well.

A specifically told me that he thinks he's going to be bored at a lot of the stuff we're hoping to do (e.g. museums, parks, etc). He largely wants to eat a lot of food (totally fine!) and then sit around a bunch. Maybe do some shopping. He also wants to be able to return to the hotel regularly and doesn't want to walk around a lot (he doesn't have any mobility issues; he just doesn't like walking).

I told him that we could just split up if he's scared of being bored and having to walk around too much, but he also told me that he's not at all comfortable with being alone at any point. I understand in some ways I guess - it can be scary wandering around alone in a foreign country (though he knows just as much of the local language as I do) - but he's not leaving a lot of wiggle room here? I basically told him that he should expect to be bored sometimes if he's not willing to go off on his own. Of course, it's not the most fun when someone's not enjoying themselves during an activity, so even if he does suck it up it might end up being a bit of a drag.

Another minor issue is that the other friend, C, is a very independent traveller and plans to go off alone at points (which is great!). Though I'm not planning on being overly coupley and schmoopy, I'm also kind of worried about third wheeling A if he's not willing to go off by himself.

Ultimately I think it'll be a good trip but I could see some potentially frustrating moments if my friend isn't 1) willing to walk around?? 2) interested in seeing a lot of local sites, while still wanting to be around us the whole time.

Do any of you have stories about travelling with difficult friends? Things you did or wish you had done to mitigate the frustrations? Any recommendations about how I should deal with this? I'm already obviously feeling kind of annoyed but I also don't want to be stone-cold about this since everyone has different travelling expectations. Thanks in advance!
posted by thebots to Human Relations (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When I was reading that I got the impression that A sounds childish. What are you, his personal entertainment crew?

Schedule a bit of down time together. Other than that A has to embrace Uber or whatever local equivalent and make friends with other hotel guests if he doesn't want to be alone when he wants to sit round and effectively do stuff he can do at home.

Absolutely schedule some couple time away from them, give them a heads up but again, A can't expect a couple in a LDR to spend all the precious visit with him.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:21 PM on October 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

When I've had trips with friends go well, the groups have definitely split up but not necessarily doing things alone; more that a couple of people will be interested in hiking so they go do that, and a couple of people are more interested in lounging on the beach so they do that, and then everyone meets up for lunch, or an afternoon tour together, or something like that. Enforced togetherness or forced marching through museums when you'd rather relax in a cafe isn't a good feeling for a vacation, but neither is feeling rejected on your special trip that you planned only to visit a friend.

It sounds like you're in the area longer term and your friends are visiting you there, so there may be some confusion of intent between 'see the place' and 'see the friend' that you maybe want to dig into a bit more. If he's coming to the place to see you hoping it'll be like hanging out back at home was, that might be a pretty big mismatch of expectations; if that rings true to you then maybe you can find a few local things you think A'd like and either recommend them or do them together, or just plan to hang out and relax in the evenings.

You could also try to arrange a little time each day for everyone to spend together - meals, or one common event you can enjoy each other's company during, or some time hanging out together at the hotel or at a local bar or coffee shop in the evening. Then you can tell each other about what else you've done and get some satisfaction of seeing each other even if you don't want to do the same local activities. There's a lot of time in the day when you don't have work or school in the way, you could easily go and do things separately in the afternoon and then still meet up and have good 'togetherness' time after dinner.
posted by Lady Li at 12:16 AM on October 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think that while the other answers have good suggestions, ultimately this is a question of communication.

You can’t rearrange everyone else’s experience to make A happy. Well, you can but it would make everyone else unhappy and resentful.

you‘re going to have to tough love it. Tell him THIS is what the trip is going to look like. His options are to either join you or do his own thing and join you for X, Y, and Z. If he starts complaining that he doesn‘t wanna, if he makes what is his own problem somehow your problem, tell him you understand that his travel style is just very different. Tell him you‘re willing to compromise (for instance by letting him be your tour guide one two of the days.) But ultimately this is what
the trip is going to be like.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:28 AM on October 24, 2017 [5 favorites]

A sounds like a complete nightmare of a travel companion. I think the only way to handle it is to tell him you think he's being unfair to both complain about the things you and the others want to do AND refuse to spend time alone - he only gets to do one or the other of those things but not both.

If this isn't the usual way he acts I wonder if this is coming from fear of travel rather than just selfishness? Tell him that you and your other friends will probably only have one chance in your lives to see and do the stuff on your itinerary and ask him if he can see he's putting you in a difficult spot here. Also tell him that you're going to want to spend some time with your partner alone and surely he can understand that?

My worry is that if he's bored but goes along with you anyway and complains about everything it will suck the joy out of the trip for everyone. I guess its too late for him to cancel his ticket? If not maybe you can find out more about why he feels uncomfortable being alone and work out some safe places for him to hang out while you do what you want to do - such as the hotel bar or a cafe near the hotel or a shopping mall.
posted by hazyjane at 2:41 AM on October 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

It sounds impossible for everyone to have fun all the time on this trip given the conflicting requirements but a couple of ideas for compromising:
Would A be OK hanging out by himself at the hotel? Can you either drop him off there (hopefully on your way between activities) or send him there in a taxi? Can you and the others take turns to do a bit of hanging out with him in a cafe or somewhere while the two remaining get to explore a bit? And maybe if he gets more comfortable through the trip he might be OK doing that by himself? Would he be OK waiting in a cafe in or near the museums you're visiting?

On preview of hazyjane's suggestion if his ticket can't be cancelled (or you aren't comfortable suggesting that) could it be transferred for different dates so you, A & C can do the active sightseeing holiday then B can come another time for a relaxed visit with you?
posted by *becca* at 3:09 AM on October 24, 2017

I would hand A a selection of takeaway menus from good international restaurants that deliver and tell him you've saved him a fortune and a few friendships. Seriously, he might as well stay home and do that. He's not interested in spending time with his friends or experiencing a new culture and he can sit around at home and eat foreign food just as easily. If he comes with his current attitude, he'll ruin not just his own trip but everyone else's as well.
posted by Jubey at 4:44 AM on October 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

If you care about A, it's worth digging in a little more to see what's going on here.

I mean, I personally am on Team Forced March, so my first instinct is to bash A here, but that ends with a rupture of your friendship, so let's see what the alternative is. As someone suggested above, when you guys hang out at home, how do you hang out? If he's coming to see you and hang out with you, and your way of doing that at home involves chill time with snacks, then that's probably what he was hoping to do with you.

What I'm saying is try to see things from his point of view, even if it means reaching the conclusion that the trip isn't a great idea.

Because: very possibly his trip ought to be rescheduled. Honestly group travel can be stressful enough even with compatible travelers. Your situation, with one romantic relationship that inherently excludes the others to some degree, and then the others being quite incompatible, sounds like more downside than upside. Maybe if he comes to visit on his own, it can be a cozier, slower paced time that reinforces your friendship rather than challenging it in this way.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:37 AM on October 24, 2017

I am not a walker and i was with friend A until the part where he doesnt want to be alone ever. Is he a very inexperienced traveler? Maybe once he gets there he'll calm down and be okay with taking a cab alone and hanging out in nice meeting spots reading a book while you all go sightseeing.

In a world where money is unlimited you could ask him to bring along a travel companion. This hypothetical companion would also be on the food shopping and chilling end of the travel spectrum, so it would be easier to split into groups for different activities.

I'm really having trouble understanding why he thinks he would be bored by museums but not by sitting around? What kind of things dont bore him? Maybe there are a couple things he would be interested in that you all could do - sporting events combine sitting and eating with tourism! - so that on days when you do the "boring" stuff he would be more inclined to come along for the company?

Maybe ask yourself what you would do with him if he were the only one visiting you. If your answer is that he wouldnt be visiting you at all, prioritize his preferences accordingly and let him figure out his own deal.
posted by Mizu at 6:38 AM on October 24, 2017

I am A. My wife hated travelling with me.

I generally hate travelling, and do it for the company. I'm lazy, so hate planning. And I don't like thinking, so no interest in figuring out meeting times, transport arrangements etc...I just want to tag along. I like eating, but don't care to see museums and parks and whatnot, because I can get the same experience off youtube or whatnot, whereas tasting food is different. So what excites me are Unique Experiences That Cannot Be Duplicated

Your best bet is to get A involved in planning the trips, possibly by:

-stating the locations you're headed to, and getting him to plan the good food breaks around the area
-asking for recommended food breaks, with the condition that there needs to be something interesting around the area
-asking him to research and find interesting things to do (some of the things I *have* wanted to do include massages with knives, eating crickets, etc) that will sufficiently stimulate him, and which you may find interesting too.

He may find a good start :)
posted by appleses at 8:13 AM on October 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

I feel like people are being harsh on A. I mean, it's OK to want to be with the people you're travelling with, and also not want to traipse around museums if that's not your bag. It's also okay to be fearful about being by yourself in a country you're not familiar with. I'm guessing his fear will probably diminish on the ground.

Things that might make this work for everyone:

* Ask A to pick some places he particularly wants to eat; plan some destinations around those locations.
* Give A the option of meeting you for lunch by taxi and then going to whatever museum.
* Give A the option of sitting in a cafe and waiting for you guys after lunch while you go to whatever museum.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:20 AM on October 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the suggestions everyone!

It is too late to reschedule/rearrange the trip, unfortunately.

It's probably right that he's actually coming to hang out with me rather than to come see the city - man, that's a lot of money to spend just to hang out for a bit. I guess I'm just having trouble relating to that mindset, but I think that's probably along the lines of what's going on.

I am totally sympathetic to wanting to people-watch rather than look at art or old buildings, and I'm super down with doing that every once in a while, but none of us want to do that every day. I should have clarified that he doesn't seem to want to be alone ever - like, not even just chilling at the hotel or a cafe by himself. That's the most frustrating part, I think, but you're all probably right that he'll likely chill out once we're there.

We actually started a group spreadsheet so everyone could add what they'd like to do, food they'd like to eat, etc., so that everyone could have a chance to do some things they'd like - he hasn't contributed yet. I think I'm just going to have to be very clear about his options (stay home alone or not be a total drag when we're out and about) and internalize that someone else's fun is ultimately not my responsibility. Fingers crossed!
posted by thebots at 6:47 PM on October 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

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