In our previous post, marriage expert Alisa Bowman expressed what Italy taught her about happiness. Sharing the adventures with her girlfriend Deb only made it sweeter. Alisa says “Not only was Deb instrumental in saving my marriage, she is also a fellow writer (check out her medical writing blog), a great friend, and a wonderful travel companion. We have a lot in common: we both adore food, naps, wine, espresso, experiences, purses and shoes. There could not be a more perfect friend for me to take to Italy than Deb.
Following is Deb’s account of traveling with Alisa.
It was when we were lost somewhere in southern Tuscany—no map, no working GPS, no freakin’ clue as to where we were—that the difference between traveling with a good friend and traveling with my husband hit home. Were I in the car with Keith, my husband of nearly 20 years, I knew I would have been tense and angry by now. Not because it was Keith’s fault that we were lost; not because we had to be anywhere in particular. But because my normally sanguine husband gets very tense when we get lost, which makes me tense, and then asks me questions about where we are that I am, of course, incapable of answering, which makes me angry. Pretty soon, I snap at him, he gets angry, and voila!
That didn’t happen with Alisa. Instead, as it became apparent that we were, as Alisa put it, totally f*%$!!ed, and as the needle on the gas tank sank lower and lower, the whole adventure became funnier and funnier.
The old man Alisa accosted off his tractor who didn’t speak a word of English?
“What did he say?” I said when she got back in the car after a five-minute conversation.
“I want to have a threesome with you two.”
The condescending counter girl who babbled at us in Italian when I asked how to pump the gas?
“What did she say?”
“You are incredibly stupid Americans who should be shot.”
The hunky gas station attendant who kindly tried to show us how to feed money into the machine before pumping gas?
“What did he say?”
“I want to have a threesome with you two.”
You get the picture.
When we went up and down the same road three times looking for the A1 (the expressway) we found it hilarious. When we tried to read the map and realized we were an hour of north of where we should be, we laughed until we cried. The next day, when we realized that Abruzzo, the town in which we’d landed, was actually the capital of the region and a destination in itself and we’d been right there and hadn’t even stopped for an espresso, well, not quite so funny but there you go.
The fact is, I laughed more in the nine days Alisa and I spent together than I think I’ve laughed in years. And talked. And talked. And talked. About everything. The dreamy Italian waiter who was morose (I said it was because he knew that if he looked us in the eye and engaged us in conversation he would fall madly in love with us and since we were Americans on holiday he knew it was hopeless).
About the tourists who came to our villa for only a night or two on their way to “do” some other part of Italy (we found them all pathetic). About why there were no fat Italians (no Ho-Hos). About the challenges of freelancing, our doubts as to whether we’d be able to stick with it another 10 or 20 years. We talked about our mothers; our kids; our husbands and our dogs (and no, according to Alisa, it did not make me a bad mother because I missed my dogs more than my teenaged sons).
I could nod at something with my eyes, she’d look, and without a word an entire conversation was exchanged. Or she could simply roll her eyes and moan after eating a bite of lasagna and I’d know exactly what she was saying: “I’ll never eat lasagna in the States again.”
This is not to say that Keith and I don’t talk and laugh. We do. He is a fantastic husband, one I would never trade in. We’ve traveled together numerous times in the US and Europe, including two trips to Italy, and always had an incredible time.
But this trip was different. It was different because I was traveling with another woman. This is something that, with the exception of the occasional spa weekend with a friend, I’ve never done. I married young (first marriage at 22), had my first child at barely 24, and have been married, with a one-year break in between marriages, ever since.
Traveling with a girlfriend, though, is like traveling with another version of yourself. In many ways, it is easier, because you don’t have to explain as much (like why I worried that the walking shoes I bought in Montepulciano looked silly with the pants and white socks I was wearing and why I found it astounding that neither of us had worn makeup the entire trip). You can browse slowly past shops, wander in and out of them and know that she will be right behind you. You can examine the needlework on dozens of purses without ever hearing that deep, “can-we-please-go-now-why-the-hell-do-you-need-another-purse” sigh, and you can bet that when you feel the need to pee in the middle of nowhere, she does, too.
Traveling with a girlfriend also forces you to take on more responsibility. I realized midway through the trip that I was growing on this trip (emotionally, not just in the waist and thighs) because I didn’t have Keith to fall back on, to handle things as he does so well. Instead, Alisa and I had to struggle with the language barriers, the money issues, figuring out how to do everything from finding the car rental place and reserving the GPS to turning on the light and flushing the toilet in trattoria bathrooms (not as easy as it sounds) to pumping gas into our car. In other words, I had to step up to the plate, whereas if Keith were there I would have remained in the stands.
So when people ask me about my trip, what comes to mind first isn’t the food or the scenery or the wine. It’s Alisa, the friend who made it all possible, who understood my need for a nap every afternoon, who didn’t judge the vast quantities of wine I imbibed, who didn’t mind the one day I said I really didn’t feel like leaving the villa, and who turned a trip into a life-changing experience.
Have you traveled with a friend? Was it heaven . . . or hell? Tell us about it.