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Notes On Traveling With People You Hate

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to do list

To do lists can be great — to an extent. Photo courtesy of Mattox.

I have found out there ain’t no surer way to find out where you like people or hate them than to travel with them” – Mark Twain I’ve traveled with some true crazies during my time on the road. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also spent time with people I connected with and who were looking to have a similar experience (and didn’t curse me out for reading a book without telling them, but more on that later). You never truly know a person’s temper, tact and individual quirks until you travel with them. To provide you with some funny travel stories — and potentially scar you from ever wanting to hit the road with another person ever again — here are some of the worst experiences I’ve had traveling with other people.

The Need-To-Know-Every-Detail-Down-To-What-We’re-Having-For-Dinner-A-Week-In-Advance

As someone who enjoys traveling without making plans, being on the road with someone who needed every moment of the trip planned before we left America for Amsterdam was a difficult situation; however, I was willing to compromise. I don’t mind planning the essentials in advance like accommodation, tours and major attraction visits; however, she also wanted to know where we would be eating each day, what time we would be waking up and going to bed, and which nights we would be going out. It got even worse when we arrived and she would then need everything we would be doing reiterated the night before 20 times. “So we’re waking up at 7am, right? Then we’re visiting that fountain in the town center? I really want a picture of it.” “I know. You said that already.” “I just want to make sure. So 7am is the wake up time, right? And then the fountain? I just think it would make such a great photo.” “Yes, we can do that.” “Okay, great. I’ll set my alarm for 7am now just to make sure we get up in time to go to the fountain.” Let’s just say our plan to travel for two weeks together didn’t quite pan out.
loose change

I’ll do anything as long as I can pay for it in spare change. Photo courtesy of ajajulian.

The Cheap-Skate

I consider myself a hardcore budget traveler, so for me to call someone a cheapskate means they are going to extreme (and irritating) lengths to save money. I met such a person when traveling through Germany with a girl we’ll call Mary. Not only would she steal about six loaves of bread from the hostel breakfast to allot for the entire day’s “meals,” she would pick off my plate — that I paid for, by the way — when we ate because she didn’t want to buy her own food. She also refused to ever take the metro if the attraction we were visiting was less than six miles each way (I’m not joking). After walking 10 miles one day, I begged her to take the train. “Please, Mary. My legs are exhausted and it’s only 2 Euros.” “Why are you being such a wimp? It’s not like we’re running.” No, we were just walking 12 miles in blistering heat. Of course, I could have paid for her metro ticket, but the thought of this infuriated me. Any attraction or experience that wasn’t free was off limits. And if a hostel cost 25 Euros a night and was near the city center but there was one totally out of the way that was 15 Euros she would insist we book the cheaper one, because, you know, she wasn’t paying for public transportation anyway. Plus, as I was reminded hourly, she “was three years older than me, had more bills, and owned an expensive condo and I wouldn’t understand how much it cost.” I may have been 23 at the time compared to her 25 (oh, how old and wise she was), but I had five years of student loans, car payments, a cell phone bill and rent to make. The difference is, I saved in advance specifically for the trip. If you can’t afford a trip and aren’t going to be able to eat the food, go out and meet locals, have experiences or pay to get around, you might as well stay home, or at least travel solo to avoid annoying the hell out of your travel partner.
big mac

Big Macs provide a hearty dose of local culture (not!). Photo courtesy of TheD.

The Uncultured Traveler

One of my most mortifying travel experiences was journeying with someone completely uncultured. I was backpacking with a Canadian girl we’ll call Meg who thought the entire country of Austria was out to bother her by not speaking English and not offering the kinds of food she liked. In terms of food, her favorite “restaurant” on the trip was McDonald’s, where she could order a tomato mozzarella salad. On a particular occasion, the girl taking our order didn’t speak English very well, and instead of tomato mozzarella Meg was given a chicken Caesar. “THIS ISN’T WHAT I ORDERED,” Meg bellowed at the small girl, who put her hands up and backed up in fright. She shrugged her shoulders, confused, looking around for help. “Meg, it’s not a big deal. Just eat the Caesar,” I begged, aware of the fact we were now the center of attention. “NO! I PAID FOR A TOMATO MOZZARELLA SALAD (she was now adamantly pointing at the lit up salad board) AND I WANT IT.” Then, she turned to the counter girl and uttered the five words that make me cringe when in a foreign country: “WHY DON’T YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?” At that point, I literally had get my bright red face out of the fast food joint and walk up the street. Sure, I guess in the end Meg got her 4-Euro salad replaced, but was it worth it to embarrass the poor girl behind the counter, and even more, herself? Oh yea, and me, her travel partner. Please, whatever you do when you travel, don’t ask a foreigner in their own country why they don’t speak English. It only makes you look stupid.
screaming man

Try to travel with someone who will keep the drama to a minimum You won’t regret it. Photo courtesy of ross666.

The Screamer

It’s inevitable arguments will occur when you’re on the road with someone for an extended period of time. What really matters is how you handle them. If you and your travel partner can have a disagreement while still respecting each other there’s nothing wrong with that; however, screaming like someone just killed you cat and hurling insults and curses at your travel partner is not a smart way to make friends. Traveling through Peru, there were many arguments Julie* and I had that ended in her screaming at me. The most ridiculous, however, had to be the book incident. She was the type of traveler who needed to be attached to my hip at all times, including when we were at our hostel. And if I didn’t tell her what I was doing every second (I’m going to go pee now, Julie, is that okay?), I would feel her wrath. One sunny afternoon I decided to be “rebellious” and read my book on the patio — without telling her (dun dun dun!). When she found me, as I should have expected, she caused quite scene. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING OUT HERE?! I WAS LOOKING FOR YOU! YOU DIDN’T TELL ME YOU WERE GOING TO READ!” “I didn’t think it was a big deal. I just felt like relaxing and having some alone time outside.” “F*CK YOU! ARE YOU TRYING TO AVOID ME? I WOULD LIKE TO READ TO YOU KNOW.” “Please don’t curse at me. Also, I’m not preventing you from reading. Do what you want.” “WERE YOU GOING TO F*CKEN EAT DINNER WITHOUT ME, TOO?” “What?” And it went on like this. All the time. Unless she got her way and knew what I was doing 24/7. For my own safety and sanity, I cut this travel partnership loose as soon as possible.

Don’t touch my towel, or else! Photo courtesy of vierdrie.

The Towel Freak

I’ll admit that backpacking sometimes leave my hygiene less than admirable (you see how often you change your shirt when you have to sift through a top-loading backpack). That being said, there’s a difference between liking to be clean and being psychotic about it. When traveling through Argentina I was with a girl we’ll call Jane. We were sharing a room at a bed and breakfast, and when we checked in were given two identical white towels. The first night we both took showers, designating which towel was ours. The next day when I showered, I must have accidentally used her towel — she knew because she specifically remembers it being on the left of the rack — and dried my just freshly cleaned body with it. To Jane, this was a crime punishable by death. I’ll never forget the maddened look in her eyes when she went into the bathroom, quickly exited when she realized her towel was missing and was dangling across my naked body, and pointed, growling, “IS THAT MY TOWEL?!?!” “Ummm. Maybe. Sorry. I thought it was mine.” “DON’T EVER USE MY TOWEL!!!!!” “Relax. I’m sure the front desk will give you a fresh one.” “DON’T TELL ME TO RELAX!!!” Jane was more than upset. She was having a conniption. And while I can understand (sort of) why some people get weirded out by sharing a towel, I think a simple “Hey, could you be more careful about not using my towel next time?” would have sufficed. Yikes.

2am is an excellent time to repack all of your things and proceed with a 90-minute beauty routine (if you want your travel partner to hate you). Photo courtesy of frko.

The Up All Night Re-Packer

This one is also about Jane, who not only was a towel freak, but also had the oddest, most irritating habit of doing nothing all evening and waiting until 1am to shower, clean her face with a 12 step-process (wtf?) and unpack and repack her backpack — every night! When I asked her if it would be possible to maybe do her noisy routine a bit earlier, say, when she was browsing Facebook from 6pm to midnight, she glared at me and told me that I shouldn’t be one to talk, because I woke her up every morning when I got up at “the crack of dawn.” Seven thirty in the morning is hardly the crack of dawn, and maybe she would also want to wake up early with me if she went to bed before 3am. Ear plugs and a face mask couldn’t assuage the anger I felt every time I heard the recapping of her toner bottle and the zipping and unzipping of her pack. Have a story about traveling with someone you didn’t get along with? Please share in the comments below.

About Jessie Festa

Jessie Festa is a New York-based travel content creator who is passionate about empowering her audience to experience new places and live a life of adventure. She is the founder of the solo female travel blog, Jessie on a Journey, and is editor-in-chief of Epicure & Culture, an online conscious tourism magazine. Along with writing, Jessie is a professional photographer and is the owner of NYC Photo Journeys, which offers New York photo tours, photo shoots, and wedding photography. Her work has appeared in publications like USA Today, CNN, Business Insider, Thrillist, and WestJet Magazine.

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  1. Amy on at 2:01 pm

    Haha. Sadly, I can relate to a few of these. One of my most annoying travel companions was a girl who was petrified of everything the whole time…and we were in Ireland! Not exactly a scary country. She wouldn’t talk to anyone or even order her own drink in a pub. I had to speak for her the whole trip. It felt like I was traveling with a little kid. After 4 days or so I was done and I sure won’t be traveling with her again.

    • jess2716 on at 3:37 pm

      @Amy: That’s terrible! I actually had a travel partner like that once. It was in Ghana, so more understandable than Ireland ha. What I did was MAKE her do things like hail a taxi, order food etc. By the end she had loosened up a lot!

  2. omg lol the people you traveled with are horrible! I can’t tell any of my stories because I’m afraid someone might see it – but those were great!

    • jess2716 on at 3:36 pm

      @Rachel: It’s funny. When I wrote this I was thinking “I hope none of them see this.” None are luckily great friends of mine, so even if they do it’s worth being able to share my humorous horror stories with you all 🙂 ha

  3. DJV on at 11:45 pm

    I actually had the travel companion from hell but luckily it was a very short trip. She borrowed money from me for the trip and expected me to be her tour guide, but the instant something went wrong and I made a mistake would give me the biggest attitude. She made countless mistakes but I never said anything because there was no point in souring the mood until I finally couldn’t take her attitude anymore. To add to it, she was cheap (sat down at a restaurant without ordering anything, didn’t drink but had no problem sipping other peoples drinks, never had money for shared taxis, etc) and she never left her problems at home so that when I wasn’t being her tour guide, I had to be her therapist. She felt homesick on a ridiculously short trip (less than a week!) and complained about everything. We haven’t talked since because I realized the type of person she truly is (it went beyond just being a bad travel companion) but luckily it hasn’t turned me off traveling with others and I’ve had a great time. I’m just happy I wasn’t stuck with her on a longer trip.

    • jess2716 on at 5:36 am

      @DJV: Ugh, I’m so sorry to hear about your experience — although these kinds of things definitely lead to important lessons (and funny stories). I can totally relate with the cheap companion roommate. The girl I traveled with through Europe would do the SAME thing. It was infuriating to me when she would eat off my plate and tell me it was okay because I had more money than her because I didn’t own a home and have a mortgage. WHAT?! lol

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