When an old college friend and I reconnected and I learned she was obsessed with travel (even though she hadn’t traveled at all yet) I became really excited. For a LONG time I have wanted to meet a cool girl who wanted to travel with me. My boyfriend/partner and I are excellent travel companions, but since we live and work together, on occasion we really need some space. Also, traveling with a girl means she pays for half, we can stay in a more average hotel-so long as it has enough space and a comfy set of double beds, and will probably share all meals… like girls do, so it ends up being less expensive.
A little background on my friend: We were friends in college and she was a lot of fun, vivacious, and hysterical back then. Now she is a divorced mother of two who lives in a small town in Louisiana. She was an entrepreneur and had a successful bakery and gave it up to go into the medical field.
We talked about where we might want to travel and made a proposal that we would plan a trip every couple months, visiting at least one different country every time. I was ELATED. What an amazing idea! Surely this would be the best thing since sliced bread, traveling with a girlfriend. Surely.
If you read my blog, you know that if somebody asked me, “what is the first city any person traveling to Europe for the first time should visit,” I will always say London. It’s easy enough to figure out why, isn’t it? Baby steps… they speak English, and more importantly, they like Americans. They won’t show it necessarily, but secretly, they do. I dated a Brit and of this I am sure.
So, you guessed it, we planned a trip to London. By “plan,” I mean I was the one who looked over hotels for hours every night, searching for the perfect hotel in our price range. Of course, the hotel room would need two double beds, since I am not really used to sharing space with anyone other than my man and my dog. I also am a light sleeper so the beds needed to be high quality, and the room should be reasonably quiet. My travel partner didn’t care much about the hotel and was happy to leave it to me, so it should have been easy.
After lots of searching, I realized the business hotel where I had stayed years before would be perfect. It was a 5-star hotel with excellent service, had super comfy rooms, a great lobby bar and restaurants. It was directly next to the DLR (what is this?) and easy to get to the tube, and it was right smack in the middle of Canary Wharf. If you know Canary Wharf, you might be thinking, “wait, that it is a ways from the center of the city.” And it is… but there is something very special about this area for a single American woman (i.e. my friend): Canary Wharf is literally swarming with eligible men! London’s financial district is THE place to meet handsome and successful men, and honestly, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel there. Actually, it’s the exact opposite of Atlanta, where I live. Atlanta is filled with gorgeous women and very few attractive men, so women seem to just settle here. Reverse it and you get the picture. Add to that a ridiculously low rate for a 5 star hotel, and we were in business.
When I asked for her thoughts and explained that she would likely be single no more, she seemed pleased and excited. This was going to be great! Unfortunately, not all great plans come to fruition.
Lessons I learned on this trip:
(1) Never loan a friend money for their ticket and hotel. You can’t understand how annoying it is when your travel partner brags about the boots she bought for the trip, but still hasn’t sent you a check yet. Even worse when you finally see the boots and believe me, they aren’t all that. (Did I say that? Smack my hand!) Oh, and by the way, when your friend says she is really broke because she needed to buy the new iPhone 6, just walk away. End the friendship there. A trip planned months in advance isn’t a surprise. The cost of London taxis isn’t a surprise, especially when you have told her MANY Times that cabs are the most expensive part of being in London.
(2) Coordinate your travel schedules. Imagine this: your friend knows you work late at night but still flies into your town at 8 a.m. and expects you to pick her up. And really for no good reason since your flight leaves at 10 p.m. that night. In the future I would recommend, “Hey, entertain yourself and take a cab to my house but not before noon.” We are all adults here. Thankfully, my boyfriend went to fetch her. As I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep while he was leaving, I was thinking, “at least he will come back with some Starbucks.” Not so, because instead, she had him running around to three different stores looking to buy a stuffed animal that she could take photographs of in London for her kids. Seriously. Red flags indeed, before we ever took off.
(3) Your clothes are your clothes. And they should stay that way. I realize this will sound beyond snobby, but when your friend arrives with a suitcase filled with outdated clothes (think Ann Taylor loft 2006), do not feel badly and offer to loan your clothes. She will not appreciate them anyway, and furthermore she might get a grease stain on your silk dress or lose a button from your Burberry trench! (Yes, I am speaking from experience here.) Worse, she will not apologize or insist on fixing the issues. My sister Tina advised me to never let friends borrow clothing since they will frequently ruin the clothes, either in spirit or actuality. True.
(4) Sorry Moms, I don’t know if I can travel with you. When your friend becomes a mom, I hate to say this but she may have become very boring. Think about this before choosing a travel companion. I have many clients who are moms, who are dynamic and charismatic women. I don’t know any small town moms, but I have to say, they seem to be mainly interested in talking about their kids. Because their whole identity is wrapped up in their kids… I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. But since I don’t have kids, about 10 minutes a day on kids is enough. Especially in London, where there is so much to do and see! Isn’t the point to get out there and live?
(5) Yes, there is such a thing as sleep etiquette. Find out whether the person you will be traveling with knows alarm etiquette. Sleep.. well it’s really important, especially when on a trip like this. Waking up to a phone alarm, and not the tinkly bells kind, but the fire drill kind, not one day, but two days in a row can make anyone, especially moi, grow horns.
(6) Do not assume that you have the same travel style. This is especially true when visiting a place where you’ve been many times, while accompanied by a first timer. My boyfriend and I definitely like to get in a sight or two on our trips, and sometimes we surprise ourselves by how much ground we cover accidentally, simply by walking and letting the day lead us. Because of this, my travel style is really a holiday mentality with very loose goals. To me, part of being in a city is getting to know its people, which includes cab drivers, servers, bartenders, and random people I meet on the street. Being with a person who is obsessed with finding a monkey stuffed animal from a toy store (which never happened) and souvenirs (which can be found anywhere in London) and snapping 100 selfies with every sight is just PAINFUL to a person with a more relaxed and organic travel style.
Next time. I will ask a lot more questions before planning a trip with anyone other than my boyfriend.
So the girls trip was not what I imagined. Not at all. It was London so it was still a great trip, but one positive is that in the hotel, I met an awesome guy from Atlanta who is in the music industry. He let me vent and I gave him (excellent) relationship advice. I can see him becoming a friend of ours in Atlanta. I would never have met him had I not been bored out of my mind, sitting in the lobby while my friend was walking up to the room with the dashing Irish banker she had met. In fact, I met a lot of people, so the good part of traveling with an incompatible travel partner, is that you could meet lots of new friends!
Did she have success with the guy she met? Yes! He was enthralled by her. Total score. He was planning when and how to see her again when we left! Quite an upgrade from the small town married man she was texting nonstop. (Yes, in London! Surrounded by eligible men! I don’t get it) To each their own.
So, to my ex travel companion: I hope you enjoyed your time. I hope that your photographs of sights made up for the fact that we never had a proper English tea! (Remember the emails I sent you about the top 10 teas in London, and recall that Tea was the one thing I really wanted to do while there.) I wish you lots of luck with Your Irish Prince Charming. He seemed like a family guy, so he will probably love hearing stories about your kids, and lots of stories at that. As for us, we tried it, it didn’t work. No hard feelings. Lesson learned, and on to the next adventure!