Traveling with friends? Tips before you book.

It's true what they say: the true test of friendship is remaining friends long after your trip has ended.

When you plan a trip, everyone starts out excited. You all can't wait to book the tickets, find the best deals, search the most value-for-money hotel/hostel there is, and plan your itinerary. If life were only that simple and people got along fantastically all the time, there will be no bitter stories about friendships ending after taking a trip together. Because traveling involves a lot of arrangements, what was a simple “let's waste our VLs together!” becomes something more complex- it removes you from your usual non-committal chikahan-only mode and puts all of you in a “Domestic Partnership” status. Come your actual travel days and that domestic partnership can descend into an “It's Complicated” relationship. Some friendships survive, others don't.

Last May, my friends, Lira, Anjie, Jasmine, and I embarked on an adventure we called “Biyahe 2011” (B-2011). We're celebrating 10 years of friendship this year (we're corny like that) and we thought, what better way to celebrate than to finally embark on a backpacking trip we've been talking about since our UP tambay days? We pegged our territory on the map: Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur and Penang), Cambodia (Siem Reap), Thailand (Bangkok and Chiang Mai), Vietnam (HaNoi) and Laos (Vientiane and Luang Prabang). That's three weeks, 8 cities, 3 overland border crossings, multiple plane rides and several airports, vans, overnight buses, countless strangers and stories – whew! On the days leading to the travel, we started to get anxious about whether our friendship is strong enough to withstand each other's quirks and living habits.

Three months later, we still love each other to bits. In fact, we're a lot closer now and have plans to travel more. Here are the 11 basic rules we observed. Eleven for B-2011!

  1. You can call out an “alone time” if needed- if you feel the onset of a topak, feel lonely and want to be alone, don't feel like joining something. No offense will be taken.
  2. You are free to suggest a travel itinerary you wish to be included (Lira wanted to watch plays, I wanted to check out museums).
  3. You decide as a group on the maximum amount you're willing to shell out on tours, mode of transport, shows, food.
  4. If someone is hungry, we all eat.
  5. You are free to order whatever you like from the menu.
  6. You're not squeamish about sharing food or the water bottle (some days, you're forced to scrimp).
  7. Be mindful of your friends' allergies (no shrimp, no problem) and addictions (coffee before 12, please).
  8. Don't deny a companion her right to urinate (find a toilet if we have to or go on the road together, dammit!).
  9. Someone will be in charge of directions, preferably someone amazing with maps, and you'll control the urge to argue about which way to take. Lucky for us, Anjie is a walking GPRS (a talent we never knew she had) and we never got lost or ripped off.
  10. Don't take offense on splitting any common expense to the last centavo.
  11. Lastly, we were always on the look out for each other- each other's stuff, level of comfort/ discomfort, moods, baggage (physical & emotional, beybeh), etc.

My take is: only travel with people you genuinely care for, those friends of yours who you know you'll have a good time with, regardless of the weather. Trust me, a stormy night, a 2-day typhoon, basically, bad trip weather, can and will happen on your trip, especially if it's gonna last for weeks. You wouldn't want to destroy your chances of making the most of your leaves by getting stuck with someone who, pre-trip, you already found mildly obnoxious or couldn't stand. That “mild obnoxiousness” stops being cute when you're stuck with it for days and on foreign territory, at that. And of course, be ready to go a little out of the way for your companions, i.e. nursing them to health when they foolishly catch LBM, and, when it's your turn, be willing to accept their help and concern. Once you travel together, especially if it's long-term travel, you cross over from being friends to being each other's family.

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