Before going travelling together, Sophie* and Poppy* were best friends. The pair knew everything that was going on with the other, and would voice note daily.
But a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Vietnam changed all that, and the pair haven’t spoken since. ‘I haven’t really thought about reaching out to her,’ says Sophie.
When you picture jet-setting halfway across the world with your bestie, road-trips to the beach, wild adventures and cocktails at sunset in the foreign heat spring to mind.
And, with nearly two-thirds of Gen-Z planning ‘revenge travel’ this year – going on big trips to make up for time lost to the pandemic – it makes sense that your Instagram feed is full of close friends with their arms wrapped around each other in the Heathrow departure lounge.
From selfies in Wetherspoons to soon-to-be dreamy backdrops of Italian beaches, we’re left anticipating weekly photo dumps of buffets of exotic fruit, sunset beach-walks and fluorescent glitter-bombed full moon parties.
But if all of this sounds too good to be true, sometimes, it is. The reality of co-travelling can be a lot less appealing than the highly-saturated, carefree snapshots we enviously scroll through on our lunch breaks at work.
Last month, 24-year old Aussie, Katie Treasure, posted a four part TikTok series revealing the questions you should ask friends before travelling together, based on her own experience of travelling and living abroad.
From ‘What time are we waking up?’ to ‘How are we going to split the costs?’ – the questions are caveated with a firm warning from Katie: ‘Just because you’re good friends with someone does not mean you travel well together.’
This was the sad realisation for Sophie and Poppy, both 20, who took a trip around southeast Asia together, starting in June 2023. They didn’t have a definite return date, but expected to be away for most of the summer.
Before going travelling together, Sophie and Poppy had been best friends for years. ‘We knew the ins and outs of what was going on in our minds and were so up to date with each other’s lives’, Sophie says.
But after the first few days hotel-hopping around Vietnam, Sophie says she noticed the pair had entirely different intentions for their trip, and as a result, she started to get ‘the ick’. While Poppy threw herself into meeting new people with a ‘punchy, fun energy’, Sophie was more reserved and preferred more ‘spontaneous, meaningful conversations’. Sophie says the social clashes brought out the worst in each other and Sophie ended up in Poppy’s shadow.
There was also a mismatch of financial flexibility between the friends. While Sophie embodied a ‘you get this, I’ll get that’ approach to spending, Poppy wasn’t as easy-going.
‘There was one time when we were in a group of new people we just met when Poppy asked me to pay the bill for her because I ‘owed’ her money. It was really quite awkward’, Sophie says.
The friends also experienced itinerary squabbles. While Poppy wanted to go on group tours and sight-see as much as possible, Sophie enjoyed a more casual, relaxed approach to exploring a new area.
Everything came to a head after just two weeks, when the pair decided to go their separate ways. While there was no big bust up, Poppy was the one who addressed the elephant in the room. They agreed that neither of them was enjoying the other’s company, and decided to continue their travels separately. Sophie says she’s ‘glad it worked out that way’ as she had a ‘much more enjoyable experience’ travelling alone.
Despite the break-up being civil, Sophie and Poppy haven’t spoken since. ‘Some of the things she said really hurt me,’ says Sophie.
Once friends have decided to go on holiday together, it’s important that discuss what they want out of the trip as soon as possible.
Relationship Therapist, Nicolas Rose says: ‘For some people, travelling is a time of freedom where they want to make new connections and see new things and have new experiences,’ Nicolas says. ‘Whereas for others it can be about withdrawing and time to themselves’. In Sophie and Poppy’s case, they didn’t realise until they were in Vietnam just how different their intentions were.
Next, friends should discuss the potential financial, lifestyle and personality clashes that might arise during the trip. Psychologist and friendship expert, Irene S. Levine says: ‘You need to be alert to large economic disparities, different travel styles, different energy levels, and different sleep patterns and be proactive to make sure they don’t turn into incompatibilities’. Problem-solving this early on can avoid resentment building, or friends getting the ick later on.
Another thing friends can do is set boundaries around how much alone time they might need throughout the trip. ‘You should talk about how much time you want to spend together and how much time you want to spend apart, Irene says.
‘If you both want to see different attractions or do different things, will you both feel comfortable doing them alone?’, she adds.
But even planning ahead isn’t always a sure fire way to avoid problems. Beth*, 26, recently went travelling to Mexico with her close friend, Freya*. The pair planned to stay out there until they ran out of money.
Before they left, Freya asked Beth if they could meet up with one of her old school friends, *Paige, who would be in Mexico at the same time as them. At first, Beth felt anxious that this would result in her feeling ‘left out’. She voiced her concerns to Freya, who assured Beth that this was just a brief catch-up and they’d continue on travelling as a pair.
But when Paige joined the duo for one night in their hostel, one night became two and soon enough she became part of the clan. Beth’s doubts materialised and for the next two weeks, she felt like the ‘third-wheel’ in Freya and Paige’s friendship.
‘I just became really conscious that I was the odd one out,’ Beth tells Metro.co.uk. ‘I struggled to engage with them as easily as they were engaging with each other.’ Fellow backpackers even noticed the imbalance of interaction between the trio, and pointed it out to Beth at the time. This made Beth feel worse, even embarrassed, about the less-than-ideal situation.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, Beth had to fly home early, so didn’t get the opportunity to resolve this issue with Freya – who is still in Mexico travelling. All things considered, Beth feels their friendship will never be as strong as it once was. ‘Even if I was able to stay out travelling, I would’ve left after a month or so,’ Beth reflects. ‘I wasn’t having a good time at all after Paige joined us. Freya really let me down’.
Nicholas Rose encourages travelling pals to carve out time for a ‘bi-weekly check-in’, with the intention to openly discuss how the trip is going. Whether it’s over a cocktail at sunset, or an early-morning stroll, both friends should commit to regularly making sure they’re on the same wavelength. This creates an open space for communication, where both parties can get things off their chest.
Since posting her TikTok series on questions you should ask a friend before you travel with them, Katie Treasure’s videos have received a multitude of comments from followers about their stories of friendship break ups while travelling in a pair. In response, Katie has started sharing practical advice on how to overcome challenging situations during the trip to avoid the ending of a friendship.
In a recent TikTok video, she highlights that often the biggest challenges arise when you pretend like there’s no issue. In Beth’s case, for example, not communicating her anxieties to Freya at the time.
Additionally, Katie says that when clashes and disagreements do arise, it’s important to be mindful as to how you communicate your feelings. ‘If you’re being positive, upbeat and interested in the enjoyment of your friend, there’s less of a chance they have any reason to be pissy with you,’ she says.
So, if you are planning a trip with your bff, do the work beforehand. Take the time to sit down with each other, and discuss the ‘ugly’ stuff. Discussing the ins and outs of incompatibilities and disagreements might not be as fun as planning quirky Instagram captions or what outfits to pack, but they’re certainly more consequential. Travelling as a pair has the potential to damage a relationship – but when done right, it can make your bond even stronger.
*Names have been changed.
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