Need a Senior Travel Companion? How About Your High School BFF?
We walked to high school every day. Now we are recently retired with children grown and husbands gone. This week we’re going on a big walk together, in the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier. A girly road trip in the wild American west. No reservations, just adventure. Move over Thelma and Louise!
We’re going on this trip together, 50 years after our friendship began. After Labor Day… because we can! Life has its moments and this is ours. A new travel companion who’s an old, dear friend.
But now comes the tricky part. You know how hard it is to travel with another person, right? You have stories to tell, right? You laugh about things now that weren’t so funny at the time. So, let’s see how we can do this right.
Navigating Your Friendship and Your Trip
We navigated our trip on a paper (!) map. Yes of course we’ll use GPS, but a paper map is ever so lovely for getting the gorgeously big picture of the American west. We also had to navigate our friendship. It begins with navigating the objectives and desires of the trip you’ve decided on. What is your vision for the trip? Is it a relaxing or adventuresome? Do you want to drive a lot of miles, or meander slowly through backroads? Share and agree on your vision quest first.
The Big Issue – Money
Make sure you’re on the same page regarding budget and whether you’re going to rough it or go 5 star hotels. We agreed on roadside motels on the back roads of Montana and Wyoming, with the occasional splurge at a resort town like Big Sky or Flathead Lake. And mostly, we agreed on no reservations. We didn’t want to be in any place on a schedule.
Next is the always delicate issue of how to pay for things. We agreed that will split 50/50 for car rental, gas, accommodations, park admissions and anything else will be shared equally.
How to do this with no strife? We’re each bringing a travel journal in which I’ll dedicate a few pages for finances. We’ll record whenever one of us charged to her credit card one of the above mentioned 50/50 items. At the end of the trip we’ll tally what we each charged, and split that equally. I’ll either be writing her a check, or she’ll write one to me.
Next up – Food
Food, we decided to pay for by cash, and by consumption. Now, I’m not one of these people, who when I go out to dinner with friends, quibbles over a bill in a restaurant about who had what. However, this is a two-week trip and food preferences and costs will vary and add up in different ways.
First we had to acknowledge our eating styles and food preferences. Will we snack on granola bars and fruit for lunch, or stop in foodie meccas? What’s the biggest meal of the day? She insists on breakfast. I don’t care about breakfast. Our ideal plan turned out to be breakfast at the motel (usually included), a simple lunch on the road, either picnic or diner. Dinner can be fancier – but only if we wish.
The payments for food will be in a cash and by consumption. Yes, we’ll have to do the math, but that’s what mobiles are for, right?
Respect Your Travel Styles
Will you take carry on’s, or full size suitcases? Maybe even two of them. This issue must be discussed to stop the resentment of taking up space in the car, or having to offer to carry your friend’s suitcases. It’s the little things than can ruin a trip.
Are you a shopper? Do you have to stop in every interesting gift shoppe? Discuss this up front. I’ve learned to give her 15 minutes of peace, whilst I get a cup of tea and sit on a bench and people watch. She’s happy, I’m happy.
Sleep and nap style
Are you an early riser or do you need to sleep until at least whatever o’clock. Are you a napper? Do you need a 15-minute break at a certain point in the afternoon to refresh yourself?
Are you willing to pee in the woods or must you drive to the next rest stop? If you’re not hungry, is your friend willing to eat dinner alone that evening? Life is in the details!
Personal Issues – Or Pick Your Battles!
Jeanette and I are very different. She’s slim, I’m curvy. She eats slowly – you can’t imagine how slow! I eat faster. Not fast, but just not as slow as she does. She walks very fast. I walk slowly due to some arthritis from years of playing tennis. She’s timid, I’m bold. She farts loud, I hold it in. In other words, we drive each other crazy! But hey, we’re friends of 50 years! Like sisters. We love each other! We’ll laugh and figure it out!
We’ve traveled together a few times, and even though we’re so different, we travel well together. It’s because our core values are the same. We like good, but not outrageous hotels. We can rough it if we have to. We love to eat. We love nature. We love museums and theatre. We let each other go off to do the things the other one doesn’t want to do.
As in marriage, everything’s negotiable and you have to pick your battles. You talk things out. You can compromise. You can let it go in the name of, oh well, that’s who she is, and let each other be. However, a friendship can be more fragile than marriage, where there are legal ties to that bind. A friendship can dissolve in an instant. So tread carefully here.
Try to talk out things when you’re out of the moment and can laugh. Be gentle. Have solutions ready if you’re going to complain about something. And finally, just let go and have a blast.
We certainly will. I’ll be posting about the trip on Camp Liza. Follow along with us!
Have you ever traveled with an old friend? How was it? Give us the pros, the cons. Any tips you can share with us? We’ve all had trips with bad travel companions and we have our stories to tell. Now’s the time in the comments box below!
Elizabeth Dunkel is a writer and novelist who has lived in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico for 25 years. She is the Creative Director of Camp Liza www.campliza.com, a personal blog about stylish and creative living. “A thoughtful life is a luxe life.” Elizabeth is the proud founder of the Merida English Library. She discovered a second career as a CELTA certified teacher of ESL and is Merida’s first, only and best college coach www.superenglishmerida.com.