Bags Packed, Wheels Up, Baby!

“You need a vacation.”

My Pilates instructor matter-of-factly announced it recently as we were working on my upper abdomen and shoulders. Apparently they’d become just way too tense than their usual tired self.

I was actually losing track of my activities, including bill payments, and I noticed my mood swung wilder than a premenstrual teenager’s. Guess I really needed a vacation.

My friend Lailai and I decided that a road trip to Bandung was called for. Initially set for an overnighter, it eventually expanded into a 2-night-3-day holiday. And boy, are we glad that we leisurely took the time. We had hearty meals and massages, strolled around and shopped some, even sneaked in a nap. And except for that scary Saturday night when angry Bandung footie fans vandalizing cars with Jakarta license plate we had a lovely time and now, having survived an overseas trip and a road trip, can safely say that we’re indeed friends.

Modern urban life means you’re no longer confined to holidaying with family, even after you tie the knot and produce progenies. Lailai and I both happen to be single, yet I’ve traveled domestic and overseas with my married gal pals who left hubbies and kids at home for a sojourn, or a rock concert, with ‘the sisters’. And every single time, no matter how long the friendship had lasted, I always learned something new about the friend. The learning could be endearing or annoying, which is why I firmly believe that trip can make or break a friendship. Or any relationship, for that matter.

I value any experience, yet I value friendship even more. You can still enjoy a holiday about your pals without the urge to packing them to Somalia afterwards, if you’re only aware of a few fundamentals.

1. Why going at all

One’s state of mind shapes the itinerary. There’s no right or wrong– it’s just about compatibility for the particular period. If you’re in the mood to party until dawn, don’t travel with a fatigued friend who needs to peacefully lie down by the pool or spa for hours.  If you’re keen for an art therapy to museums, a travel buddy in a dire need for retail therapy doesn’t make a good fit.

2. How to get there

People have different comfort level. It pays to inquire whether your pal gets seasick, gets bored on road or train trip, or insists on budget airline even if it’s a 26-hour-trip to Africa. Can’t find amenable solution? Meet them there. There’s no point starting a trip with mutual grumble.

3. Where to stay

Nothing is as private and consequential as how one starts the day. I don’t need over-fluffy bedding, blasting AC or cable TV, and can fall asleep with or without light, but I can’t stand dirty bathroom and, having gone on too many camping trips as a girl scout, I no longer desire to wander out for bathroom in the middle of the night. Differences can easily be resolved by opening windows, moving the reading light, requesting extra blanket, or packing sleep mask, socks and earplugs. As for bathroom etiquette, always observe the most conservative. Remember that while a friend is morally required to support you, they’re not lawfully obligated to embrace you for being such an unhygienic slob.

4. When you get hungry

People tend to eat more while holidaying, but they still have different biological clocks and dietary needs. What usually causes a rift is enforcement. If you get hungry every 3 hours, pack some snacks or be content to occasionally eat alone while s/he strolls about. Conversely, while you can definitely invite your meatlover buddy to vegetarian bistro for a new experience, going to vegan raw food restaurant with no cooked dishes on the menu might be too much.

5. How to preserve the memories

It’s normal to want to preserve the memory of great times or documenting amusing finds along the way, and people tend to take more pictures on holidays, but be sensitive on how your travel buddy likes to take in the experience. A friend once observed that during sunset in Bali all foreign couples held hands watching the sun gradually going down, while the Indonesians were busy snapping pictures using the sunset merely as a background. I’ve had fun traveling with avid photographers who recorded myriad of interesting objects we stumbled upon, but I get irritated by group picture at every single nook and corner. I remembered having just comfortably settled into a rattan chair, enjoying afternoon breeze, when suddenly friends hustled me into taking the 20th group picture of the day while we’d snapped the 19th picture fifteen minutes before in another part of the beach club. Group pictures are important to seal the trip, but taken too often I guarantee you’ll get nothing than the same harried people photoshopped onto different backgrounds. Banality ruins the moment.

6. On the wallet side

It’s tricky but shared expenses, from hotel bills to gas and toll fees, must be managed. While splitting evenly is most common, I once went with an accountant pal who decided to pick every single meal tab, asked us to mark our orders on the bill, then after the trip sent us a spreadsheet detailing our expenses including tips and taxes along with her bank account. It was brilliant and efficient, and required mutual trust. Me likey.

Bags packed? Wheels up, baby!

As published:

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