A Guide to Traveling with Your MILF (most important lifelong friend)
Thanks to the amazing, amazing Osmosis Day Spa and AutoCamp at Russian River, our time together was memorable to say the least. Osmosis Spa was kind enough to offer us time in their cedar enzyme bath followed by a couple’s massage—which was very fitting considering we’re platonic soulmates. We spent the night in a beautful Airstream and fell asleep dreaming about never leaving.
Below is a play by play of our experience written by myself and Abby, followed by an illustrated vacation bonding guide on ways to cultivate deeper connections with your besties (curated by us), plus ways to save for and plan a friendiversary trip! We finish up with some Q&A around topics of womxn’s friendships, jealousy, and making long-distance work!
It’s hard for anyone to know me and not know Victoria. No matter who I’m interacting with, chances are I will bring up her name and a funny or sentimental anecdote within the first five minutes of conversation. As time goes by and our friendship progresses, I’ve realized how much of me is actually her. It’s nearly impossible to know my essence without simultaneously knowing hers. What started out as a friendship based on an immediate connection has transformed into somewhat of a conjoined spirit.
I often joke about how Victoria is my boyfriend, and there’s undoubtedly some truth in that. I allude to her constantly. I’ll simply refer to her as “my platonic soulmate” or “my most best friend” (even though I am aware at how grammatically incorrect that statement is). No matter what term of endearment or curious pet name I call her, it will always be followed by my beaming smile and a whole lot of joy.
The safety I feel in Victoria and my relationship is unmatched. The comfort we feel with ourselves and with each other is truly something special. She is the person who has seen me through some of the most challenging days, but still shows up and validates me more than anyone else. While a majority of our friendship is all sunshine, it is one that has required vigilant navigation during our lowest points. It’s hard and it’s beautiful. And I’m so thankful for her.
And as our friendship and spirits move closer, we physically move farther apart. We used to be neighbors in St. Louis (okay…a 10 minute drive, but now it feels like we practically lived next door!) until I moved back to my home city of Chicago. Between then and now, weekend trips to St. Louis were a staple in my life. We would pull out our metaphorical planners (i.e. cell phones because this is the twenty-first century) and see when our packed schedules would allow for a visit or two.
This past summer, Victoria moved out to Oakland, and then I moved to Paris. Now, I’m back in Chicago and while Chicago is geographically closer to Oakland than Paris, it is still a vast distance.
Last week, I was able to visit Victoria’s new home for the first time since her relocation in August. Ever since I bought my plane ticket on Black Friday (thanks, Spirit Airlines for your odd deals, little leg room, and carry-on restrictions!), I’ve been patiently awaiting the day I get to return to Northern California and the company of my most treasured friend.
While the trip didn’t start out in any sort of ease or splendor due to my stupidity of not double checking at what time my flight departed and therefore arrived to the airport 20 minutes before the gate closed (cue public meltdown), the rest of our time was pretty damn great.
The morning after I arrived, we set off for one of the reasons for this trip: Osmosis Day Spa. We were patiently waiting for this particular Thursday for quite some time, and were looking forward to an afternoon consisting of bathing in cedar and getting all of our back kinks worked out via some massage therapists. Although a cloud of fog and light rain descended over the Bay Area, we had a pleasant drive north nonetheless. One moment that is cemented in my mind is driving down winding roads surrounded with eucalyptus trees while listening to the serene “Perpetuum Mobile” by the Penguin Orchestra Cafe—a song Victoria had introduced to me on my birthday this past June. Oh, that and the middle-aged couple that was aggressively making out behind me when we stopped for lunch.
Before you picture a tub of water infused with cedar pines, let me correct you. This therapeutic body treatment originates from Japan, but Osmosis opened the first of its kind in America—in the town of Sebastopol, to be exact. The baths are a mixture of cedar pulp and rice bran, in case you were wondering. Osmosis describes the cedar bath as a “warm and fragrant treatment offering a myriad of health benefits, from improving circulation to relieving joint and muscle pain, and the living enzymes deeply and thoroughly clean your skin, leaving your entire body exuding a radiant glow.” Sounds like the best, no?
Our sedated state was set in stone after we brushed ourselves off (literally) and got ourselves ready for the even deeper relaxation of a 75-minute full body massage. If our platonic getaway wasn’t romantic enough, our massage followed the word “couple’s” and the predestined essential oil blend was appropriately titled something around sensuality (ultimately we opted for the blend with the least romantic title: “Lymph and Lung Decongestant”).
We had the joy of working with Leah and Micaela as our massage therapists, which we highly recommend their magical hands and energy if you ever visit Osmosis. As our time together came to an end, Leah and Micaela left the room, so Abby and I could slowly rise in privacy (we were nakey). I wish I could say that Abby and I rose from our massage tables like glowing goddesses, but we looked more like glowing drunk trolls, with our hair flying in every direction and eyes halfway shut from being so relaxed. Quite honestly, I think about that cedar bath and massage on a weekly basis, especially while driving into San Francisco in early morning traffic (cue road rage). The whole experience at Osmosis is something I’ll always treasure and the generosity they extended to us was incredibly kind.
*What Abby didn’t tell you, however, was the special moment we shared while being submerged under pounds of cedar. Although we couldn’t move, we still managed to find a point of contact. I could only wiggle my pinky finger and started digging a little hole, to which I then discovered Abby’s pinky finger! There we laid nakey, under the warm steaming cedar, with our pinkies interlaced. Amidst the absolute preciousness and awkward laughs, I’m very thankful it was her pinky finger I found and not something else!
After our amazing couple’s massage, we stumbled downstairs into the changing room and said goodbye to our robes. Osmosis provides its guests with these luxuriously soft, oversized robes, and we shed a couple tears upon letting them go. Once we had our clothes on, we took a stroll through the zen garden Osmosis had on its property, eventually finding ourselves in the quiet oasis that was the meditation garden. As a meditation teacher and longtime practitioner of meditation (aka how I keep sane), I was low key freaking out from excitement (not very zen). Upon taking a few deep breaths, I calmed myself down, and took a gentle seat on the meditation cushion. Abby sat on one next to me and we meditated together in front of a serene pond, which was oscillating from the delicate raindrops falling onto its surface. I remember how fresh and earthy the smells were and how quiet it was, you could almost hear the rain falling through the air. It would’ve been the most perfect opportunity to propose (hint to all you lovebirds out there looking for ideas), but instead of proposing, we walked back to my car and took off to AutoCamp at Russian River.
AutoCamp is the equivalent of a design hotel, but with restored vintage Airstreams that have a gorgeous, minimal, and chic aesthetic. Abby and I were both drooling over the camp’s aesthetically pleasing surroundings because we’re minimalists and huge design enthusiasts. Don’t get me started on the feng shui of an interior space and don’t get Abby started on type fonts, you’ll never leave and we’ll most certainly talk your ear off all night. The main gathering space at Autocamp is incredibly well designed and has a modern fireplace with a Scandinavian look that feels something like a hip Norwegian cabin. It’s a great place to go hang out, play a board game, share a bottle of wine, and gaze at the roaring fire. The surrounding town is also quite lovely and quaint! Abby and I ventured out to explore and ate at Boon Eat + Drink—the food and wine were the bomb dot com. AutoCamp is also nestled in the forest and the smell of pine takes over the air, it’s honestly magical and we slept like babies. The bed in the airstream we stayed in was very comfortable, but I’m only saying this specifically because I want to tell you another story about Abby and I that relates to beds…
During our annual friendiversary trip last year, we went to Copenhagen and decided to hop over for a couple days to London. Abby had never been to London and I lived their in my early twenties (study abroad), so I was massively excited to show her one of my favorite cities. After a long night out and navigating through crowds of people, I got some essential things stolen out of my purse, like my phone. Abby and I had separate flights and the thought of traveling without being able to reach anyone made me very anxious. That night, we rode back to our Airbnb and I couldn’t manage to shake the disappointment from the evening’s unfortunate situation. Even though we constantly profess our love for each other with words and occasionally strokes of the arm, Abby and I aren’t really the cuddling type in our friendship. But that night, my body clearly needed some tender support, and in my sleep I koala hugged Abby ALL night (like low key cuddled the shit out of her).. I completely tied myself around her body, and of course I have zero recollection of this, but what makes me laugh the most is picturing Abby just laying there like a pencil unable to move. It goes to show how much she loves me that she let me gently suffocate her all night because I felt so anxious.
Despite the anxiety of theft, Abby is my favorite person to travel with and the stories we rack up on our adventures are enough to scar our future children for life. We both love to adventure and live to travel, hoarding every penny we save to go on trips. We vibe so well while navigating new spaces together, mostly because we act like our lives are a comedy stand-up show and never take ourselves seriously. When Abby and I take on new cities, we love making lists of all the best concept stores, well designed coffee shops, design hotels, and restaurants we want to be inspired by and experience. We then walk around for miles on end visiting each one and soaking in their energy—even if that means just spending a few moments in a stunning lobby. If you ever want to check out some of the places we’ve been, Abby illustrates gorgeous city guides that include our trips to Copenhagen, London, and Barcelona.
One of the things that bonds us more than anything is our shared sense of humor, which I mentioned a bit ago, we quite literally could banter for hours on end. One of my favorite things in this world is making Abby laugh—honestly, I live for it. I look forward every year to planning our annual friendiversary trip because we talk about the memories forever after (and by memories, I mean all the painfully awkward situations we get ourselves into). Abby never seizes to amaze me with how much she constantly shows up for me and supports my growth. We’ve been through quite the ride together, deep dives and high climbs, but it’s truly been a blessing. We’ve put our friendship through the test of dismantling internalized misogyny and the ways women have been conditioned to relate to one another (and yes, there’s always more work to be done). Luckily, I can say with a full heart that we’ve set quite the foundation for a very solid connection, which has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have no shame around being my best self because she sees me, supports me, and loves me unconditionally—she gives me wings, and that’s exactly what friends should do for each other. We passionately work towards creating a secure center within our relationship, by creating a secure center within ourselves, and that is key because people can only meet you as deeply as they’ve met themselves.
I love Abby, so much, she deeply inspires me and is an amazing human being that I get to spend my life growing alongside and learning from. Abby reminds me of my mom in many ways, and through our relationship, I’ve been able to heal many of the wounds from childhood that I experienced with my mom. Why? Because there was enough distance and yet a familiar ground. I felt safe to process vulnerability, forgiveness, create boundaries and ask for my needs to be met. The framework Abby and I created in our relationship helped my mom and I create a stronger framework within ours, which I’m very grateful for. This is exactly why humans need each other because we serve as mirrors for one another, and sometimes, the ones who change our lives for the better, are the ones who show us exactly where we need to heal the most. They’re the ones who show us that we are not hard to love, but still hold us accountable in our pursuit to become the best version of ourselves.
Friendships, just like romantic relationships, take work. They are only cultivated through radical presence, owning our insecurities, and healthy communication. In any friendship, you get two very complex human beings with their own set of belief systems, baggage, and needs. It’s two people, like Abby and I, coming into a space where we must navigate trust, intimacy, conflict, and love in ways that meet our needs and support each other’s growth.
It ain’t no magic carpet ride, but if two people have the genuine intention of making it work, then it’s absolutely worth it.
So. damn. worth. it.
Make sure you exchange schedules months (maybe even a year!) in advance, so you can both be prepared.
Don’t know where to go? On a budget?
You don’t have to plan a fancy excursion to travel with your friends. Here are things you can do locally:
Visit Glampinghub, Hipcamp, or Airbnb and find a cool apartment or cabin to split! You can find something in your downtown area and have a weekend “staycation,” or take a roadtrip a few hours outside of your city to a rad little cabin.
Try Secretflying for cheap flight deals! You can get deal to many amazing destinations from major cities, like $380 round trip tickets to Paris, or even Venice during certain parts of the year.
If you want to celebrate an annual friendiversary and take a trip, try starting a friendiversary savings account. We both have a travel savings account for our annual trip that we dedicate a small weekly amount to until it builds to cover many travel costs. Remember, you’re splitting costs! If you both commit to putting $10 a week into your travel savings for a year, that’s almost $1,000 you can use towards travel expenses and an annual trip.
Depending on where you end up going, especially if it’s abroad, be sure to do some research on public transportation and how to best navigate it.
CURATE A CITY GUIDE
- Create a list of what restaurants, museums, shops, and places you’d love to see together!
- Start a Pinterest board in advance to get excited for your trip.
- Get the most out of your trip by planning out what you’ll do each day, so you can see everything you desire without wasting time or stressing.
- Allow time for rest and space. Be sure to check in with each other about needing alone time, space, or stillness. Just because someone needs space, doesn’t mean they don’t want to be around you. We’re both huge introverts, so we don’t take it personally because alone time means we can recharge and be more present with each other.
- Curate a playlist with your favorite songs and theme it — i.e. Friendiversary London 2018
- Sing at the top of your lungs.
- Record Videos.
- Pictures are easy, but sometimes the best footage is recorded. Try recording experiences while the other person isn’t aware, so down the road you can surprise them with little moments they didn’t know you captured.
- Get Weird.
- Play games like “what are the odds.”
Ask questions to understand each other on a deeper level. Who knows, you might learn something new!
- Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
- What would constitute as a “perfect” day for you? Describe it.
- If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
- What do you value most in a friendship?
- What does friendship mean to you?
- When do you feel the most empowered?
- If you were presented with two buttons, one that allows you to go 5 years into the past, the other 5 years into the future, which one would you press? Why?
- What’s something challenging that happened to you this year and what did you learn from it?
- What’s a memory of us you often revisit that brings you positive feelings?
Relationships can’t grow to their utmost potential if we resist vulnerable and uncomfortable conversations.
People change and so do their needs.
Check in and ask each other these following questions to strengthen your relationship:
- What are your needs in a friendship?
- How can I help meet those needs?
- How would you like me to approach a conflict with you? (Discuss conflict/resolution styles)
- What do I do that makes you feel most loved?
- What do I do that makes you feel most validated?
- What do I do that makes you feel most appreciated?
- What situations recently or the past gave you anxiety about our friendship?
- How can we take better action to create less tension if something like that comes up again?
- Is there something that I’ve done that has deeply hurt your feelings that you still have a hard time letting go?
- How can we heal and move forward?
- Discuss the balance of emotional labor in your friendship, or who tends to be the one who has to be there for the other more, or hold space more frequently. It’s important that we create balance, so both people can feel heard, seen, and held space for. Friendship wouldn’t work for us if it was always the “Abby Show” or “Victoria Show.”
- Create goals for the year ahead.
- Think of ways to be more present in each other’s lives: more brunches, shared new experiences, monthly video chat dates, random gif wars, care packages, or whatever is sustainable.
- Acknowledge how you can better show up for each other.
- Help hold each other accountable towards a personal goal.
- Day dream about your next friendiversary and where you might like to visit next!
“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt