Check Your (Emotional) Baggage

Summer is finally here, and it’s finally time to take that trip you’ve been planning with your bestie. Before you grab your passport, you'll want to get on the same page to make sure your dream vacation is more Girl’s Trip, and less Brokedown Palace.

Luckily, our resident psychologist, Dr. Mina Santorsola Lockey, is here to give some advice to make sure you leave your emotional baggage at home.

What discussions should you have with your travel partner before jumping on that jet?

Dr. Mina: You should definitely discuss your own personal travel styles. Are you someone who wants to fit in as much as possible every day? Do you prefer to plan everything in advance, or are you more laid back? You should express what your priorities are while traveling; what are your must sees? Make sure that your travel styles are compatible before buying that ticket, and that you have the same expectations about the type of trip you’ll be taking together.

What is the best way to approach issues like money, sleep or food needs? Personally, I know I’m a light sleeper who turns into a hellbeast if not fed promptly every three hours. Should I warn my travel partner about this?

Dr. Mina: Communicating these expectations before you go can help to avoid dealing with conflict during your trip. Everyone has different sleep and food needs, so it’s important to be aware of what your travel buddy needs to be comfortable on the road. Some people prefer to save money and go grocery shopping instead of eating their their way through a new town for the ultimate foodie experience. Discuss a budget so you can figure out your priorities for how you want to spend your money.

This is a really great point; discussing how you’ll be spending money and time during your trip is something to cover before you’re on the plane. On a girl’s trip I took recently, each person put a set amount of money onto one shared prepaid credit card. Whenever we went out to a restaurant, it made it so much easier to use the “group” card to pay for our meals.

What to do when you don’t want to do the same things while traveling?

Dr. Mina: Discuss ahead of time what attractions are must sees and, if not you’re not on the same page, schedule “free days” to split up for some alone time. This can be really important for people who need space while traveling. This is protection for the social overload of being with the same person for days (even if you love them more than anyone in the world). For example, my husband and I have different approaches to beach vacations. I enjoy just laying in the sun doing absolutely nothing. While he enjoys time to do nothing as well, he’s not into laying out. Knowing this ahead of time allows us to not feel guilty about spending time apart. He can do his thing while I soak up the sun, and when we reunite, we have new things or discoveries to share.

Worst case scenario: one person catches a bad case of the travel crazies. What’s your advice for the best way to handle a blow up?

Dr. Mina: Have a plan for yourself to regulate your own emotions. Try to manage your frustrations before a blow up. Excusing yourself when you notice feeling annoyed or frustrated. Take a walk, practice diaphragmatic breathing, go for a run or exercise until you notice you are not emotionally activated anymore. Good cues that indicate you’re “activated” or “emotionally flooded” are shallow breathing, holding your breath, feeling warm, tense, sweaty, and a clenched jaw. If any of these things are present, it’s a sign you should remove yourself. When you’re “flooded” the rational part of your brain turns off and you become impulsive, more likely to say something you don’t mean, and less likely to monitor how you say it.

Once the “flood” has subsided, talk about it! Avoid blaming language and speak about how you feel, not what your partner is doing. Say things like “I feel...” and express your perspective, rather than using language that makes the other person defensive Remember, you can always validate someone’s feelings and experiences without agreeing with them. Validation does not equal agreement. It simply acknowledges that you hear the other person, and their their feelings are not ignored.

Another really helpful thing to remember is that conflict is okay, and even expected when spending so much concentrated time with someone. Even if you fight or say something you don’t mean, repairing the conflict is more important. You can always take a break, even after a fight, and press the reset button. Getting comfortable with an apology and being direct about how to move forward can be done at any point. Take ownership about your part in the dynamic.

Great! Now can we address my irrational fear of being falsely accused as a drug mule and thrown into a Thai jail with young Kate Beckinsale and no access to a fair trial (yes, I am Claire Danes in this scenario...and yes, I know my incessant viewing of 19 year old cautionary tale, Brokedown Palace, is concerning)?

Dr. Mina: I think we’re going to need another post to get into that.


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