We all know what a joy it can be to travel with a friend. Sunshine, great company, maybe a cocktail or two — what can go wrong, right?
As many of us can likely attest, everything can go wrong. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about traveling with a friend that can go from wonderful to worst nightmare faster than you can possibly imagine. I’ve had it happen to me, and, well — it sucks.
I should probably point out that I’m not the easiest person to travel with. I absolutely adore traveling — I’m a natural explorer, I’ve been all over the world, and I’m pretty fearless when it comes to trying new things. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more and more determined to stick to my guns when I’m on a trip.
This honesty can be a good thing and a bad thing. On one hand, it’s awesome that I’ve (finally) learned how to stick up for myself. If I’m not having a good time on a trip, I’ll say so. After all, I’ve paid for it and taken time off work, etc. On the other hand? It can be pretty brutal to tell a friend, “Hey, this whole thing? Not working.”
Trust me when I say that neither party ends up happy.
Four years ago, I was living with my parents in small-town Indiana, bored out of my mind. I’d just finished the most exciting period in my life, grad school in the United Kingdom, where I’d had countless amazing back-to-back experiences.
One of my best friends from England flew out to visit me, and — after a week of stomping around my hometown in Indiana — we headed south for a road trip. Indianapolis, Nashville, and Atlanta were all on the itinerary with a private cabin on a lake in South Carolina as the final destination.
It wasn’t until we reached Nashville that I realized something was off.
Thirty minutes after we arrived, I realized that I loved the city and wanted to explore it like a local. My friend and I met some fellow travelers at our hostel, and we decided to split up on our explorations since we each had different travel styles. While this might sound weird, it was a freaking godsend. I have a Master’s degree in history, but I’m not actually a fan of visiting museums when I’m traveling. I want to explore the heart of a city and get a good feeling of its pulse, and I don’t think I can do that if I’m enjoying air conditioning while looking at country music memorabilia. I wanted to hit the streets, so I walked all over the city and experienced the non-touristy side of Nashville. My friend and I reconvened whenever there was something we wanted to do together, and it was perfect.
Until we started fighting.
In hindsight, I can’t even pinpoint what happened. Was it the heat? Was it my own stubbornness? Was two weeks simply too much time to spend together?
Probably all of the above. Too much of a good thing is very real, and after so much time in each other’s company, we were bound to bicker. But as a 23-year-old, I didn’t really have the life experience to realize what was happening. I was too hot-headed at the time to think about it rationally.
So, I cut the trip short.
I decided that since I’d spent all this money and taken time off work, I shouldn’t have to feel miserable on my vacation. Instead of continuing on to Atlanta, where we were scheduled to meet with my friend’s parents, I changed my bus ticket to head back to Indiana, and told my friend what and why I’d done it.
It was one of the worst and best decisions of my life.
My friend and I split angrily, both of us in tears, and I realized I was stranded for the next eight hours.
The hostel wouldn’t watch my luggage without charging me for another night, and since I didn’t want to haul a suitcase around town, I called someone I knew who’d been living in Nashville and asked for help. He connected me with a friend of his, a mutual acquaintance from several years prior, and I called this relative stranger for help.
Magically, he answered. He was just up the street, and — even though we’d never quite gotten along in the past — he volunteered to pick me up and carted me along with him for the evening.
Within an hour, I found myself sitting in silence in a different stranger’s living room, alone, my phone charging on the wall, when this cute guy walked in the front door.
“Hey,” we both said awkwardly, neither of us really sure how to handle the situation. I freaked out, gripping my phone, and told him, “I don’t live here.”
“I know,” he replied.
He walked out back, and I started thinking of how stupid I sounded, how I’d ruined my friendship, and what the hell I was going to do about it.
Readers, I’m marrying that man in a month. It was his house.
It’s funny how making a wrong decision, albeit for the right reasons, can have such a profound impact on your life.
I finally learned to stand up for myself, to say what was on my mind instead of being the doormat I’d been my entire life, only to shatter one of my closest relationships in 30 seconds flat. While it’s one thing to speak your mind, it’s another to let anger drive you to extremes — which is exactly what I did.
But honestly, I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. One of the things I’ve learned over the course of my life is that, sometimes, things happen that drive us in the direction we need to go, whether we’re willing to do it or not.
In my case, I never would’ve met my now-fiancé if it hadn’t been for a stupid fight on a trip with one of my best friends.
But even if I hadn’t met him, I’d still be grateful for what happened. I learned a lesson that was rough and uncomfortable, but completely unforgettable.
Maybe it had to be that way. Maybe it had to suck for me to get to the good things waiting for me.
That isn’t always the case, unfortunately, but I think it’s still worth keeping in mind. No matter what happens, maybe we shouldn’t let ourselves sink and stew in shitty feelings at the time. We can’t see four days, four months, or four years into the future, but if we could, would we even learn the lessons that life teaches us?
Perspective is a bitch like that.
In the end, I’m lucky.
I could’ve lost a friend that day — but after a year and copious amounts of groveling — I managed to repair the friendship I’d tossed out the window. I also ended up meeting my future husband.
So that’s definitely a win, even though I probably didn’t deserve it at the time. We make hard decisions — we even make bad decisions — and we let the chips fall where they may. Something can feel terrible, but it might end up being the best damn thing that will ever happen to us — we just can’t see it right now. So, fingers crossed.