Whenever I'm travelling with one other person, something funny happens to me at around the 72-hour mark: I can't bloody stand them anymore.
Whether it's my mum, sibling, best mate, or partner – and whether it's a relaxed long weekend on NSW's South Coast or an intensely planned two-week trip to Greece – if they breathe on that third fateful day, I will despise them for it.
I still remember the first time it happened to me. I was a couple of days into a fortnight-long New York trip with my sister, who I adore, and she asked me to repeat what I just said while waiting for the subway at Coney Island. I lashed out at her.
She did nothing wrong. But I resented her and continued to do so for the trip – not the whole time, but enough to make me feel like a horrible person. And it's something I've experienced time and again in the decade since. (It's kind of like that feeling you get when your mum gives you a present that you hate, but you know how much love went into the choice. You feel like Satan.)
It's been a confusing thing to get my head around, especially when there was a time I couldn't be more excited about taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip alongside someone I liked.
But, after much torture to myself and those who have travelled with me at one point, I've figured out why this happens and what I can do to avoid it.
I'm spending every living, breathing second with this person. Most people become financial tightwads when travelling to save and spend money where it matters, which, for me, means that I'm also sharing accommodation with this person. A room, a bathroom, a balcony.
The only other time I've done this is when I have a long-term partner living with me. But even then one of us will venture off to work before that 72-hour threshold is met.
Alone time is so important for processing, reflecting and actually allowing space to miss and appreciate a friend, parent or partner again, no matter the timezone.
There's a reason COVID-19 lockdowns were stressful for so many relationships – everyone was spending more time together than ever before, with no real option to be alone unless someone actually tested positive and couldn't come out of their room.
The other inability sometimes faced – both during lockdowns and while travelling – is the option to add a different personality into the mix. When faced with stay-at-home orders, the only way I could inject someone else into the fold was through my computer or phone screen. Not so dissimilar to being abroad.
Expectation is also massive while travelling. Travel destinations are chosen from Instagram and self-discovery storylines like Eat, Pray, Love niggle away as we hope for a real-life replica. And as part of that, consciously or subconsciously, this expectation turns into pressure on my travel partner to make the fantasy become reality.
Psychologists say that if expectations aren't met, the result can be disappointment, frustration and resentment. Suddenly my hatred makes sense.
Expectation comes from either past experience ("Oktoberfest was amazing the last time I went! It's going to be so much better with Bryan this time around!"), or a projected fantasy ("I'm going to feel reborn after meeting with a healer in Ubud, we're going to have the best time").
Travel hiccups and unforeseen circumstances can get in the way of my any holiday expectation – I'm aware of that – but my mind has a surefire way of blaming the travel companion instead. They are there. May as well take it out on them in some roundabout way!
Sometimes it actually is their fault, like when they forget their passport, I have to spot them cash because they forgot to notify their bank they'd be overseas, or I'm waiting for them at Mama Shelters's rooftop in LA for two hours while the door line judges me for taking up a mostly empty table during sunset.
These things can be annoying on any given day, but when travelling, they're amplified because of what I mentioned earlier: lack of alone time, isolated pressure to be the experience-provider and my own internal expectations of what this trip should look like.
I'm not saying you should never travel with someone else. It's always nice to have someone to share experiences with. So naturally, because I love travelling with people when I don't hate them, I've found a way to put this situation to bed. The solution lies with breaking up a three-day long, consistently one-on-one stint.
This is what I remind myself of:
Find time for yourself. If this means you're going to walk up and down San Sebastian beach tomorrow morning while they grab brekky when you usually don't eat until lunch, great! Do it. What a great time to reflect on what a pain in the backside you've been, or prevent that from happening altogether.
If it's a much longer trip, consider doing something on your own for at least a night or two. There's a good chance there's something scheduled that at least one of you don't want to actually do, so use this as an opportunity to meet those expectations you've set for yourself.
You can also find ways to add other people to your trip, even if it's just for a morning or night. The free city walking tours or pub crawls are a great way to do this, taking away the pressure of being friendly and social with each other every minute of every day.
As for the expectation and pressure? It can be a hard one to combat. But spending more time alone will at least ensure that this responsibility sits with you more than the other person.
Three days of travel isn't the issue, it's how you choose to spend them.
Trust me – I have the failed relationships to prove it.