island, blogger, hawaii

​This is how to survive an island adventure with a complete stranger

Words: Erin Sullivan
Photography: Elisabeth Brentano

​Guest writer and badass adventure blogger @erinoutdoors has your dream job and she explains how to survive a 10-day trip abroad with a complete stranger and not lose your shit.

Weird topic, right? I know. My life is full of weird topics. I’m an adventure travel photographer and writer. I write a lot about life stuff - about the gritty situations we get ourselves into. So that’s where I’m coming from. And that’s how I got myself into the passenger seat of a Jeep Wrangler for 10 days in Maui with a girl I barely knew.

​​Last summer I met a photographer named Elisabeth at a trade show, and we chatted for a few minutes. I liked her because I got the sense she could laugh about herself. Hence, internet friendship: INITIATED. We kept in touch. And one day, we realized that our schedules were pretty free in February. We agreed that Hawaii wouldn’t be a sucky place to be for a few days. So we looked into airline miles - and we had ‘em. We looked into getting work from hotels - and we got some. And ultimately, we didn’t have a good reason not to just go for it. So after knowing each other in person for 30 minutes at a trade show six months before (and that’s generous), Elisabeth and I took off for 10 days of adventure together.

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Spending every waking moment with someone you love is challenging, let alone a complete stranger. But if you’re intentional, you can make sure the chances of killing your adventure buddy are minimal, or even nonexistent. Here are my tips on how to leave your adventure buddy exactly how you found them.

No 1. Don’t do it later if you can do it now

Fill up the gas when you see a gas station. Go food shopping when you see a grocery store. Use the bathroom when one is available. And TAKE THAT FREAKING PICTURE when you see the shot you want, because you never know if you’ll get the opportunity again. Everyone involved is set up for success when you are prepared and when you take care of things when they need to be taken care of, rather than procrastinating. And it leaves you with few things to argue about or play the blame game with.

jeep, island, adventure

© Erin Sullivan

No 2. State your needs and practice boundary-setting

Need a minute to yourself? Need to set aside time to answer your emails in the morning? Need to make sure you’re drinking enough water? Whatever it is, your adventure partner will understand, I promise. Ask yourself what will bring out the best in you. Ask them what will bring out the best in them. Setting clear boundaries equals effective communication, and effective communication results in a more harmonious relationship.

No 3. Avoid hanger at all costs

Hanger, you know it: hunger + anger. Hanger usually makes things go from bad to worse. It makes you unfocused and short-tempered. Staying well-fed makes you a more tolerant and enjoyable human, and it equips you to discuss problems and solutions should anything come up. Back-up snacks are never a bad idea. NEVER.

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No 4. Be flexible

It’s about balance, baby. You are expected to be you. But you’re also expected to compromise. If you go into the trip with a teamwork attitude, you’re going to have a better time. Laugh at yourself when your inclination is to get mad. Go with their suggestion if you know they really want to do something. Use it as the perfect opportunity to try something new.

From volcanic craters to lush jungle landscapes, Maui is a pretty magical place.

A post shared by Elisabeth Brentano (@elisabethontheroad) on

No 5.  Repeat after me: I love being patient

Spending 24/7 with someone for an extended period of time is not easy, even if you really like the person. Whether you are with them by choice or by accident, trust that they aren’t trying to make your life miserable. You get to choose how you respond to someone else’s actions. And on a trip, this is especially important. So take a deep breath. Take several. And practice patience.

hawaii, jungle, adventure

© Erin Sullivan

No 6. Make their life easier and make them feel special

One summer while guiding an adventure trip, I had an especially awesome co-leader. And it wasn’t because he was the best leader - it was because he made me feel like I was valued. He used to hide Snickers bars in my shoes. He’d write me encouraging notes when he went on his day off and left me with our group. And it made me appreciate him and our relationship. So make your adventure partner feel valued. You’re far more likely to get the best out of them when you do.

The final word

I didn’t kill Elisabeth on our trip, and she didn’t kill me. In fact, we had a great time. We took our space when we needed it. We asked for support when we needed it. And we tried to improve each other’s experience - even when we were carsick, even when we were hungry, and even when we were shivering at 3 a.m. on the top of a volcano. So listen well, get patient and stay open-minded. But most of all, have fun!

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