What do I do if I don't trust my travel partner? (half vent/half advice-seeking)

UPDATE 22/07/21I'm overwhelmed by the kindness and usefulness of these responses. I wanted to provide an update on what happened for the people who originally replied to this post and for anyone who might be or will be in a similar situation.This is what went down. This guy leaves for Munich with a stopover in Portugal. He goes a lot of places in Portugal, to the bars etc. He gets to Munich the day before I arrive and smokes at a hooka bar. When I get to Munich - at 1 am the next night (all of the Portuguese immigration officials decided to go on strike, so I waited 5 hours in line on what was supposed to be a 3-hour layover and missed my connection - long story) he seems extremely tired and doesn't wake up when I come into the room. The next day, he has a headache (he eats up my tylenol) and is in bed all day....In nothing but his underwear. I go out and explore Munich, have a great time visiting the parks, stumbling upon the Schloss Nymphenburg. By myself, of course. Munich is an extremely safe and friendly city and I wish I could've been there longer. I figure that I could get away with at least ignoring this kid.I go out with this kid to get sim cards and he's spitting on the ground every 5 seconds, making jokes about Nazis, making fun of german accents....extremely disrespectful. He's not wearing the right mask on public transit (he's wearing a surgical mask when on transit wearing a FFP2 is required) and he'd habitually pulling it away from his face. Incredibly unhygienic. I tell him to cut it out, to respect the rules and the culture (especially the spitting — is there really any place spitting is not disrespectful in the US/Europe? During a pandemic?), but choose to ignore it. We head to a town in the Dolomites. And.....He's in bed all day. All he does is wake up at night to go to the bar by the train station. And...He's wearing nothing but the same pair of boxers (playstation 3 boxers, if you want to know the vibe) he's been wearing for 3 days. I paid for half-pension and he doesn't even show up to dinner. The maitre d' eventually just sets the plates at my table for one. He starts talking about buying cigarettes and I crack. I realize he'd been lying to me about smoking — he'd said the previous day he'd quit (I didn't know what Hooka actually was!!). I tell him that what he'd been doing was disrespectful and unsanitary. He tells me that I'm trying to control him because I think it's fun. Lol.At 11pm that night (I'm in bed by 9, having hiked a beautiful mountain that day, alone) he starts searching through my stuff for the room key. So he can go to the bar. I argue with him, why didn't he just eat the dinner I paid for him etc. etc. Get called vicious. I decide to ditch him. I did not want this trip to be about him. I don't want to be on a babysitting assignment. I book a hostel in another beautiful, charming town in the Dolomites. Probably one of my favorite places in the world. I tell him to book his own train ticket to Verona, and he leaves at 6am. And then I wake up with a terrible runny nose. I figure I have a cold, the cold he seemed to have. We're both fully vaccinated. I'm almost certain I have a cold, but I sign up for a COVID test anyways. Just in case.I get to this charming, beautiful town and take the test. Positive. I can't believe it. I'm told it's probably a variant. The pharmacist is completely unsure of what to do ("so now you go home.....maybe???"). Vaccinated Americans seldom get positive COVID tests in small-town Italy. I shuffle to the hostel, shaken. I tell them the results and they put me the only place they can — a utility closet. But the woman running the hostel is incredibly kind and generous and brings me way too much presumably delicious food, checks in, anything I need. But unfortunately, I couldn't taste the food! The public health authorities contact me and tell me I will be moved to a government facility. I tell them about this guy, given that he'd literally been sleeping in the same room as me and he had symptoms (not to mention the number of bars/clubs he's been to...). I get taken to this facility in an ambulance, there's no wifi (until today thank goodness!), yada yada yada. But the food is good, my symptoms have resolved, and my taste is back! Not to mention how I have a whole quiet room to myself :).So yes, I'm being quarantined in an Italian government facility (a hotel on a military base!) until I test negative. Hopefully this will be soon. My mother rallied a bunch of her friends together to spam me cat photos (I love cats). She says I've been holding up with this quarantine situation better than she would. My relationship with her has improved a lot. She's completely okay with me traveling solo now, having seen me get through a series of "disasters" on this trip and come out unscathed. Today I found out he's been flouting the "close contact" quarantine requirements (staying in a hostel room with 8 people....), never got tested, etc. I've told the Italian public health authorities, give contacts of the places he's staying at, and my doctor at this facility about this. The mother of this kid contacts my mother, says how I'd been unhinged, telling these hostels about how dangerous he is and how I'm scared of him (an "interesting" interpretation of complying with public health authorities for sure). I really believe that justice will be served.I learnt about how seemingly non-refundable deposits can get refunded, how easily you can decide to go somewhere else the night before and go there, how you're never tied to someone who disrespects you. As soon as it was suggested to me, I read the four agreements. I kept repeating the mantras to myself, specifically about not taking things personally, that the poison someone spits at you is a reflection of the person spitting poison. It has helped me tremendously. Being stuck in a once-per-two-year strike without food and water in a 100 degree line for 5 hours doesn't bother me (the strike isn't about me!). The quarantine does not particularly bother me (public health isn't about me!). Being called crazy, unhinged, and best of all, "vicious," doesn't bother me (being insulted isn't about me!); it's actually really funny. I think I'll even name my memoir "Crazy, Vicious Woman." It has a nice ring to it. In short, I've become more resilient and am infinitely grateful for the kindness others have shown to me (including all of you!) and how much I've learnt about being strong through these experiences. ORIGINAL:I'm a 20 year old woman who was about to go on a trip alone for a month through Germany, Austria, and Italy. About 2.5 weeks before the trip, my mother found me a male "travel buddy" (an acquaintance's son) to protect me, in case men "check me out." I mean, that alone is problematic, but we can unpack that later.I have a bad gut feeling (or maybe just anxiety) about this "travel buddy." As it turns out, I will have spent all of an hour with this person, essentially only around his parents/my parents before this month-long trip, I'll be sometimes sleeping in the same room as him, and it seems like he has a totally incompatible travel style (partying at night, "drinking every beer in Europe," wakes up at 11am, seems to be broke, spends nights at home playing poker with his friend and showing up late to the one meeting I've had with him as a result; meanwhile, I'll be waking up at 5am to do my job, have never had a sip of beer in my life, and am definitely a planner). I've insisted on meeting up with this "travel buddy" alone before our trip but he's said that he needs to spend a few days celebrating his friend's birthday (presumably his poker friend). But more than all this, I feel deeply troubled about the idea that I need to be "protected" as a solo woman, and this protection needs to come in the form of someone who I feel, if anything, would make me feel less safe and doesn't seem to have safe habits. I've brought this up with my mother and she's told me things like "you seemed like you'd get along so well." This "travel buddy" is apparently a very sensitive person, and my mother has told me "if anything, I'd be afraid that you'd be a bitch around him." I know I should have said no to my mother, but I booked accommodation for everyone (in hostels, though I mostly put myself in the female dorms), and he has a flight too. I leave in a week.So, do you have advice on unscrewing myself?
Asking the obvious question: You’re a 20 year old who seemingly has their sh*t together. Is there any reason you have to listen to your parents here?Flights can be refunded in some cases. Accomodations too. It may cost more, he may have to figure out his plans separately. Trust your gut. If he’s sensitive and he drinks a lot, that also means he could potentially lash out if you are indeed a “bitch” to him (and that can be interpreted in a lot of ways, saying the wrong thing, turning down sexual advances, etc.). Not that I’m assuming he’s all around bad here, but if you go YOU will not feel comfortable and always be on guard. That’s no way to experience what could be an amazing trip. If you want to find someone you trust more, that would be an easy excuse too, not that you should need one.
Thank you SO MUCH for telling me about how refunding things isn't as set in stone as I thought it was, how ME being comfortable is what matters. This was floating around in my head when I made the decision to ditch (see my update for more info!)
This is all about your relationship with your mother. For me, the time from about 16-22 was an odd gray zone when sometimes I was still a child and needed my parents to parent me that way, and other times I was an adult and needed to be parents as an adult. Part of this time is teaching them how you want to be parented now that you're an adult. So, as an adult now, it's up to you to decide what you want your relationship with her to be. And, it sounds as though she might not be totally on the same page yet. And this may be a difficult time between the two of you. There may be consequences (financial or personal) to telling her you are going to take the trip alone (or ditching this dude when you arrive, or whatever you decide you want your plan to be) that you should consider whether or not you're willing to live with.For advice on navigating your relationship with your mom, I'd recommend the book The Four Agreements (I think I recommend this all the time on Elpha!) for a good perspective on yourself, your own power, your boundaries and your relationships with others. And as an anecdote, I traveled around Europe all on my own at age 17. I was going with a girlfriend who backed out, and it was my mom's idea to just continue with my plan alone. It was the greatest gift she could ever have given me. Not to say that's the right thing for every 17 yo, but it was right for me.
+1 to The Four Agreements! My mom actually recommended it to me when we were in said gray zone (lol) and it helped not only my relationship with her but also so many other areas of my life.
Brilliant book suggestion. Helped me so, so much.
There is probably no way to do this without upsetting your mom, but you know what they say - "You can't make an omelette without breaking a couple eggs!" You can't make this guy cancel his flight. He is welcome to fly to Europe and do whatever he wants. But you shouldn't feel tied to staying with him the entire time. I would say bring it up with the guy nicely and let him know that you would prefer to travel independently. Change all your accommodations to just be for yourself. Let the guy know that you're happy to hang out with him for the first day or two, but he will be responsible for figuring out his own plans for the remainder of the time. This is such an incredible opportunity to travel to Europe, you aren't a bitch for wanting to take full advantage of it and living your own life! You won't always live under the wing of your mother, or some random stranger, so why continue fostering that dependence? This is a huge step towards a future for yourself as a confident, independent adult who listens to her gut and makes smart decisions for herself.I backpacked around Europe by myself when I was 20 and it was amazing!! I went with a girlfriend, but we also had different traveling styles and decided to part ways, meeting up once in a while along the way to check-in and share about our adventures. But for the most part, I'd meet people in hostels or just in random scenarios and we'd end up traveling together for a couple days and having so much fun!!! I never felt alone. I did feel unsafe a few times, but I tried to be smart about the cities I visited, not walking alone in the dark, keeping my money and ID safely hidden on my body, etc. If you feel like you can't have a calm conversation with your mom about this before your trip, then don't. Better to ask for forgiveness after the trip, than permission before your trip. :)
I took your advice and changed the accommodations past the first week to be for just myself!
That's awesome!! I read your update and I'm so glad you've been able to turn this trip into YOUR adventure! I don't know if you're still over there in Europe, but I hope you recover quickly and have a blast for the remainder of your time. And I really hope they find that guy, who is irresponsibly risking spreading COVID to hundreds of strangers!!! WTF!
This! You can still do your trip. You are a planner -- you planned your trip to include him and you can plan your trip to not include him. (It feels like you're on vastly different travelling genres anyway.)
I agree on what has already been said! Be firm about the fact you're taking this trip for yourself, that you know that you and he have incompatible lifestyles, and that you are not open to traveling with him. Tell your mother that you will find other ways to address her safety concerns (like texting her each night, providing details of every place you will stay - since you mentioned you're a planner) but that this is a trip you will take alone. I would try avoid in the initial conversation the extra baggage around her fear of men "checking you out" comment and just keep it to the very simple facts - it's your trip, you both value your comfort and safety above all else, and he does not provide either (in fact he makes you decided UNcomfortable). That's it
Thank you for the reply, Cassie!
Yep. Agreed with what’s been said. This is 100% a mom problem. First off, no mother should ever tell her daughter she’s a “bitch” and side with a man. Ever. That is one of the main issues why patriarchy still exists. And I’m sorry she said that to you, you don’t deserve it. I also understand your situation. My own mom doesn’t understand boundaries and it seems like yours doesn’t either. For all you know, this guy could well indeed be the predator your mother fears you’d encounter. I know what it’s like to want to keep the peace with your mother. You feel like you have to do what she says even when she’s not going with you, and it’s hard to say no. This however is a red flag for you, as you grow older and start to have more experiences, your mom is not gonna change and you’ll encounter this problem again. I’ve had the same problem. I would work on you learning to say no to her (there are books on this or a therapist works too) this time you’ve let it escalate by agreeing to book accommodations so let’s work through your options, you can:1. Cancel the trip. this is radical given how much you’ve invested on this trip but I want you to know it’s an option. Europe isn’t going anywhere and you can always go another time. You are allowed to cancel and not give explanations. I once had a ticket booked, accommodations booked for New Zealand and I was gonna fly alone. At the last minute I ditched everything because I had a bad feeling. And I don’t regret it. Don’t ever feel obligated to do something you don’t want to do. 2. Rebook your accommodations. This can look like leaving your existing accommodations for the guy and just book something different somewhere else for yourself 3. Re-arrange your trip. If he already has a detailed log of where you’ll be, change it. As soon as you land and leave him. It seems to me you’re avoiding confrontation, and that’s understandable, but unfortunately you’ll have to face your mother sooner or later. If you ditch the guy as soon as you land he’ll tell on you and your mom will probably ask you to fly back and will be upset when you get back. And if you tell her that you will not fly with him before your trip, she will also be upset. The question becomes what do you want? (Tune out all the voices around you) if you’re gonna have to face your mom either way, might as well do it with a fantastic trip on the books. I’ve traveled to Europe, I’ve taken a plane alone to Brazil. I’ve done bold traveling for a woman and as long as you do conscious things (keep ID not visible, no after dark outings) I’ve never felt unsafe. Also chances are you’ll make friends along the way too and it’ll be easier ditching the guy. Find that strength. I think you know what to do and whatever it is just know we are all rooting for you!
Thank you for putting so much thought into your response, Vannessa! I actually copy pasted this into my note pad and kept referencing it when I was in a few no-wifi situations. It's so salient to hear about your personal experiences as a traveller.
I sometimes think back at how bold some of my trips were. At the time they didn’t feel bold just something I wanted to do. I’m glad it helped. I’m glad it ended up being a great learning experience. Each trip has its own challenges. This guy sounds awful! He probably (definitely) has issues. I’m also happy you feel better!
Ugh, I'm so sorry!Your totally-unwanted-but-arranged-by-mom travel buddy's sensitivity is not your problem. Your mom's concerns about men "checking you out" are not your problem. And, your solo vacation is not your mom's problem to fix - or a problem in the first place.If you don't want to have this dude with you on your trip, you shouldn't have to. A month is a long time to be stuck with someone you don't like and who makes you feel unsafe.It doesn't sound like your mom is going to listen to anything you've got to say or recognize your concerns ("I'd be afraid that you'd be a bitch around him" - what?!).What would make you feel safe and what would you like your vacation to be like? Do that thing.
Thank you so much, Kiersten! I needed this affirmation so much when I wrote this.
I haven't read what everyone else is saying, because I noticed this post on the way out the door already late, but I wanted to say two things:- solo travel is some of the most important things you can do for yourself.- if you need anyone to talk through the time, feel free to reach out to me here at any time.I've done years of travel, mostly alone, starting at around 18. Crappy company is the worst. It will do harm for longer than just the time now.Say no to your mom, say no to people, learn how to say no to everyone. You need to protect yourself, and maybe that's your first test, haha, to protect yourself from your mom's idea and this person. Also you posted this on my birthday so I was doubly compelled to answer.Good luck!
First of all, happy (super belated at this point) birthday! Secondly, thank you so much for offering to let me reach out to you.
Happy birthday 🥳
Trust your gut. This doesn't sound like a great travel partner (or even one that would 'protect' you) and you can do this. You sound like you have your wits about you. You'll be babysitting this other person more likely. Why should you do that? What a waste of a trip.Agree with the below comments, don't take on your mother's issues. I have a similar situation with my mum and combated it by operating on a need-to-know basis & not telling her all the details (but give full details to another trusted party like my sister for safety). You could also agree to call each night or something to quell her anxiety about you traveling, especially if this is your first trip, or opt to join a tour group. However, you are growing into your own person, you don't need to be accountable to anyone but yourself. Good luck and hope you have a great trip :)
Yes. Trust. Your. Gut.
My quick advice since everyone else as given more thoughtful insights around your mom: traveling solo as a young woman can be dangerous (I did tons in my early 20s), but you sound like you have a good head on your shoulders and a good gut instinct. A bad travel partner will ruin your trip. Ditch him and enjoy yourself, carefully! You'll always meet travel partners while there too, especially in the hostel dorms. Connect with other cool women and don't let your mom/this dude dictate what you should do.
Thank you, Heidi!
The red flags are jumping out! Please don’t travel with this dude. Cancel the entire trip if you need to but this can’t happen.
Hehe, I didn't cancel the trip but yes, the red flags did jump out.
This will be a journey of personal growth for you, in more ways than one. Lose the loser you’ve been saddled with-sounds like more of a babysitting assignment & level with everyone why you believe your travel styles are incompatible. Make sure you register your travel with the State Department’s STEPS program, download that app. There are also several emergency apps that you can choose from. Download one or more of those & get a cell plan that covers Europe. My daughter studied abroad in Rome & had an app that had an SOS button & also notified her of any possible issues in areas she was traveling in (we still ended up in the middle of a Gillets Jaune uprising in Paris, but that was on us). My daughter often traveled alone all over the EU every weekend, stayed in hostels or 2 star hotels & I felt she was safer there than if she was traveling alone in the US. This is YOUR trip of a lifetime & you want to travel light, with no extra baggage, literally & figuratively. Tell your mom you’ll be happy to share your itinerary & thoughts about each city with this young man when you return but right now, this is something you need to do on your own. It will not be easy to disrupt these plans but your mom is allowing you to be taken advantage of-exactly what she thinks she’s avoiding by sending this deadbeat with you. You’re making everyone happy but yourself. Feel free to reach out to me if you need any more information from me. Good luck & Bon Voyage.
Suzanne, registering for STEPS was a fantastic idea. Also, packing lightly (physically and emotionally).
Hi thanks for sharing this! What is the name of the app that sends notifications of issues in the areas you are travelling in?
I’m trying to remember the exact name of it & will circle back if I can recall. But the US Department of State Smart Traveler app appears to be very similar & is free.
Unscrew yourself out of the situation immediately!! What is the value of traveling for a month with bad company? How does this align with your core values as a human being? It would be a waste of your time and effort, and you would be distracted managing the situation rather than learning, experiencing and enjoying new things.
THIS UPDATE OMG . I think you did great and travel is always an incredible growing experience! Please write that book. I'd read it 🙌🏼