By Kimberly Kosta
The Vatican is BIG. I mean, you think you’re prepared for it, and then you walk in and one of your travel companions announces at the top of her lungs: “OH MY [EXPLETIVE] GOD!!! And the sound of it seems to ECHO! ECHO! Off every painting, and relief through the vast empty space and you wish you’d worn your “I’m SOOOO not with stupid shirt” and you make yourself as small as possible and pretend to be with the tour group to the left.
But what is a single faux pas among friends? (ECHO)! We didn’t get escorted out, and tried explaining that cussing in a church – particularly the Vatican (not to mention taking the Lord’s name in vain!), was like wearing one’s filthy shoes into a Buddhist temple. It didn’t seem to translate, but whatever. It was over and done with pretty quickly. No harm, no foul. Happy ending, right?
The little things quickly become the big things. You want to sit inside and enjoy a nice meal with some wine to avoid the sub-zero temperatures, and they want to forgo eating until the group has returned to the hostel, preferring to spend eight solid hours in the cold site-seeing or window-shopping without break. You want to fit in and look inconspicuous, they want to bring outside food into the establishment you’ve chosen, getting warm on your dime (which ordinarily, you’d be only too happy to do, if it hadn’t been for everything else). And you suddenly recall the day you decided to travel with said people and the knight from the Last Crusade springs to mind. You chose poorly, he whispers. Indeed.
We had a lot of bad luck on this trip, which began before we even left. Boyfriend bought Girlfriend’s ticket, but didn’t realize her name was spelled differently on her passport. Tickets had to be cancelled and repurchased at the new, higher price with the correct spelling. Plus, I think there was a cancellation fee. He didn’t think she’d be able to go as a result, (and therefore neither would he) so my common law husband and I helped him pay for the new ticket, covering a third of the price each. It was Christmas so it was quite a bit, but it made for a nice present at the time. She wouldn’t even have to know anything had gone wrong.
We thought we were going to have an exciting and harmonious vacation with friends we generally got along with. Instead we got to see how travel can bring out the worst in people. All Girlfriend did was complain and whine the entire trip. She complained it was cold. She complained about the line ups. She complained about the locals right in front of them, assuming they couldn’t understand English. We stayed at her friend’s apartment in Paris and she wouldn’t lift a finger to help clean up. She didn’t want to contribute to the money we left in an envelope as a ‘thank you’ for a week’s free stay and free tours. She wouldn’t hustle when we needed to SERIOUSLY make a run for a train, instead choosing to pout and dawdle on purpose to make Boyfriend suffer from whatever accidental drama he’d started THAT day.
He bought her a rose once, just to be romantic, and she complained he didn’t buy something ‘more expensive’ and we had to endure the awkward silent treatment that ensued between brow-beatings. We paid for every taxi and covered a few meals indoors so she wouldn’t feel left out. Hey – everybody has a different spending limit and it WAS cold outside. Yet the complaining continued unabated. This was the vacation I had my bag with over USD3,000 worth of stuff stolen on Day 1, and I had refused to ruin everybody else’s time because of it. I’m the idiot who put her bag down after all. Putting up with Princess Pain-in the-Ass made smiling through the shock, embarrassment and hurt that much harder, though. Boy, life sure is treating you, rough Buttercup, I thought behind gritted teeth, thinking of everything I’d lost. Oh yeah – she smart-mouthed the cops when we had to wait to make our police report, too, against our urging.
But I’d known.
In the end, the signs were there before we left, before we even bought the tickets, nice and big and pulsating in red: This couple would be some kind of karmic punishment for things I did in another life. Maybe even this one.
I could tell you if confronted by a similar situation to trust your gut, but you won’t. Because you’re too nice and still have faith it will work out. And the good news is, sometimes it will. Sometimes you’ll have such a good time with the people you’re with you’ll wish it would never end. Other times you’ll fantasize about what it would be like to spend a day in a room full of puppies on crack with a thousand latex balloons floating around just to get to a peaceful, relaxing place. (ECHO)!
Know thy enemy, they say. And know thy ‘friends’ even better. Especially as your finger hovers over that “enter” key and you make your ticket purchase. Ain’t no refunds for time wasted with people who are not on your wavelength, and if you’re being totally honest, never were. So: Ye be warned, fair excursioner. Travelling ANYWHERE with some people is like travelling off the edge of the map where it says: ‘here there be monsters’.