All Packed

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’ve been planning a trip, starting in India and landing in Bali, for more
than a year. It’s my big retirement gift to myself. I’ve planned very
carefully where I want to go and what I want do while I’m there. I
know relatives and friends who will be travelling in Asia at the same
time. That’s allowed me to plan my itinerary with a nice balance of
companionship and alone time. One of my more casual social friends
just announced that she’ll be in Bali at the same time as me. She was
tickled and expected me to as well. As she rattled off all the benefits
(to her!) of our spending time together, I felt my tummy clench. To be
clear, I like this woman as a friend. But having travelled with her
before, I’ve vowed not to do so again. Her bio-clock is very different
than mine; she’s unwilling to participate in activities that are baseline
for me when abroad; and she has a fragile memory about expenses,
especially when I’ve laid out money for both of us. Is there a polite
way to just say No? If not, how can I limit the negative impacts on my

All Packed

Dear Packed:

Assuming you want to remain friends with this woman once you return
from Asia, you owe it to both of you to get the ground rules clear
before you leave. Step one: Say you’d planned X amount of time in
Bali, and were planning to spend much of it on your own. Say that
you’re happy to share some time and activities with her. Then offer
what you’re willing to ante up and hold the line on the rest. If there
are particular activities you prefer (from cooking classes to surfing
lessons), be clear that they’re non-negotiable. Ditto with everything
from class and location of lodgings to your daily schedule. Say you
want to keep close tabs on monies spent because of your travel
budget; then follow up with daily accounting.

Don’t be a pill about it. Be kind and enthusiastic about expanding the
range of things you share with your friend. Get yourself psyched to
look forward to the experience rather than dreading it. But don’t
compromise on what really matters to you in travelling. And reserve
some of your alone time for the end of your trip, so you have the
plenty of emotional space to reflect on the big changes in your life that
you are also embarking upon.