“I have found out there ain’t no surer way to find out whether 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 make you laugh — or potentially scar you from ever wanting to travel with another person ever again — here are some of the worst experiences I’ve had traveling with other people.
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 got there, and she would 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.
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 subway 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 subway.
“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 subway 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 as the time compared to her 25 (oh, how old and wise she was), but I had 5 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.
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, 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 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 to leave with 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 why they don’t speak English. It only makes you look stupid.
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 these situations. 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 your 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, we’ll call her 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 a 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 LIKE TO READ TOO, 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?”
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.
The Towel Freak
I’ll admit backpacking sometimes leaves 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 freshly clean 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 now dangling across my naked body, and pointed: “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.
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 “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.