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How to travel with your best friend without killing each other

As many of us learned in college, just because you’re friends, that doesn’t mean you can live together. The same goes for traveling: Here you are, signing up to spend every waking and sleeping moment together for a week or three, often in a place neither of you has been before.

It’s a risky proposition; you might have the best time when you’re together in a familiar setting, but that in no way assures you won’t be plotting something injurious once the jet lag kicks in.

The author (right) with her No. 1 Adventure Homie, relishing a hard-won empty hot pot somewhere in Iceland. Photo: Kim Stravers

True adventure homies are precious creatures. When you find this rare person, hang on tight. Trips with mine are typically at least half-chaotic, never spending more than two days in the same place and dropping from exhaustion each night from just adventuring so dang hard.

Over the years, we’ve developed some sideboards that keep our expeditions minimal on stress and maximal on kickass adventure time. They’re especially helpful when it comes to road trips (Iceland, two weeks) or in countries where you have no hope of even pretending to speak the language (Japan, 12 days).

Below, some sage, hard-earned advice about traveling with your best friend.

Set baseline expectations

If you won’t take the leap, you have to take the picture. Photo: Jeremy Bishop/Unsplash

Be as spontaneous as you like while on the actual trip, but beforehand, be sure you’re on the same page about basic travel preferences. Are you comfortable sharing a bed? Can you both drive stick? Is she afraid of heights? Are you an early riser?

Discovering that you are the Odd Couple after you get on a plane will swiftly ruin a costly trip. Take each other’s comfort zones and skill levels into account before you book even a hotel room and find compromises.

Definitely take photos together

We out here. Photo: Rawpixel/Unsplash

I loathe selfies; she does too. Both of us even kind of hate being alone in photos at all. But you’ve got to let go of your “Does this make me a narcissist?” BS and get each other in front of the lens once in a while.

There’s no reason your entire camera roll from the trip has to be empty landscapes or close-ups of your hiking boots on some breathtaking precipice. You were there, together; this is a way to more clearly remember that when you’re 85.

Share veto power over the playlist

You should be doing this because there’s sage in the air, not because you hate reggae. Photo: Averie Woodard/Unsplash

In theory, letting whoever is at the wheel listen to what she wants sounds fair, especially when she’s piloting you through the dark wee hours of the morning. If you care one shred about music, however, being held captive to a band or even an entire genre of jams that make you want to pierce your own eardrums isn’t going to lull you to sleep or calm your nerves.

If you’re lucky, you and your friend have a musical Venn diagram with a pretty wide intersection. Trade off with playlists, and allow one another to skip a track they just can’t love. With at least 32G of storage on your phones, there’s plenty more you can agree on.

Whoever wakes up first makes the coffee

Tomorrow, this cup will be for you. Photo: Julian Bialowas/Unsplash

I honestly feel that one of the most loving things you can do for another human being is make them coffee in the morning.

At camp, this goes without saying; even if it’s freezing, get out of the tent. If you’re staying in an Airbnb with a coffeemaker (or were smart and brought your own travel version), save yourself from the hell that is un-caffeinated other people and buy some beans before you check in.

This way, no one has to grumpily pull on mismatched clothes and wander into town to find a cup before she’s meant to be interacting with strangers.

Split the big stuff, but never the treats

This — this can be the difference between a hangry argument and a friendship-preserving dollar. Pony up. Photo Thomas Kelley/Unsplash

Accounting during a trip, especially to a foreign country, is a pain in the ass. While it might feel responsible to keep a sharp eye on every expenditure, you’ll both feel much better if you keep it a little loose.

Split the big stuff and pay individually when you can. But when it comes to the smaller treasures — gas-station espresso, midday pastries, honor-system donations to hot springs — just trade off and cut it out of the running tab.

Respect each other’s need to hold up

“Holding up” can be a literal thing too. Photo: Anastasia Petrova/Unsplash

It doesn’t matter where you are — driving in the middle of nowhere, hiking a glacier, strolling lost through a confusing city — if either of you needs to stop, you stop, no questions asked.

Yes, this is about pit stops in the traditional sense, but it also applies to the following: coffee, photos, fatigue, hunger, stupid rock in your stupid shoe. It also may include just wanting to watch the wind rustle the leaves of a splendorous Japanese maple near a shrine for a few minutes.

You mad? Say so

Spill it before all that unspoken resentment has you plotting at the edge of a precipice. Photo: Josh Felise/Unsplash

So maybe one of you forgot the above rules. Maybe you woke up in a bad mood; maybe she is homesick. Either way, tension’s thick and someone’s about to snap (or already has).

It’s alright. Really. But now you’ve got to talk it through. Letting unspoken frustration fester leads only to misperception or resentment, so get it off your chest and be honest about how you’re feeling — and what you’d like to do about it.

If that means taking a walk by yourself while she naps in the park, so be it; if you stay at the cottage while she checks out a museum, no worries at all.

You are in this together, but you don’t have to be in each other’s hair all the time. Hold some space for the emotional experience of traveling together and don’t let one terse word top the times you stood somewhere new, with your best friend, and didn’t have to say anything at all.

More tips on adventuring with others from GrindTV

How to be a better adventure partner for your better half

10 tips for the best road trip ever