Washington - "It's going to be our own indie movie," I quipped to a couple of strangers inside the Alaskan, a vintage former brothel that doubles as a hotel and a dive bar in downtown Juneau.
The premise was a stretch, even for fiction. I flew from Portland, Oregon, to Juneau, Alaska, for an impromptu road trip from Northwestern British Columbia back down through Washington state. My camping buddy would be a Grindr one-night stand from three years ago. I had seen this guy only twice since our hookup, both times platonic with months in between.
My friends thought I was crazy. And I was. I didn't know him, and he didn't know me. But that mystique intrigued me. I figured that an intense amount of time together would make for a closer friendship; for the most part, science supports that theory. If we were going to be cooped up in a Jeep or sleeping under the roof of a plastic tent, we would certainly feel like family by the finish line.
Boy, was I wrong.
I slept for most of the six-hour ferry ride from Juneau to Skagway, Alaska, which connected us from the island to the mainland. I learned that this upset my counterpart when we attempted our first hike near the Liard Hot Springs. The fluffy trails were brimming with snow. But when we spotted wolf sheddings on the side of the trail, I anxiously suggested we turn back. Growing belligerent, my friend started to question why I joined him on a trip heavy with hiking trails, especially since I was wearing tennis shoes. As he grew even more antagonistic, our hike started to trigger memories of feuds between me and my exes.
As the days wore on, the mood between us wavered between high and low. I had no return ticket outside of his Jeep, so keeping the peace between us was important. Still, I wondered how much disrespect I could stomach.
On our last full day, we encountered a surprisingly mellow outing in Vancouver, B.C. That evening, we stayed with a friend of mine in Bellingham, Washington, who gave me a crash course in good connection. Its two secret ingredients: respect and communication.
Alone before bed, my road trip buddy and I hit a local bar. On the walk back to my friend's house, I told him that my friend could provide us with a bed and the living room couch. Since it was a Saturday night, I suggested one of us might want to sleep on the floor of my friend's room as her three roommates were home, partying in the living room.
The very suggestion that my companion would take the floor after driving for nine hours set him off. After I offered to flip a coin, he professed that he couldn't wait to get back to his "actual friends" in Portland. He even implied that he had texted quotes of things I had said to his friends for a quick laugh while we were perusing Vancouver.
After he abandoned our unfinished argument by slamming my friend's bedroom door in my face, I did the one thing that felt right throughout the entire trip: I bought a Bolt bus ticket back home.
The next morning, I told my friend that we weren't good travel companions. I wished him the best and left.
For years, I have tried to make it work with men who were controlling. In any of my relationships – platonic, romantic or familial – I used to apologize or argue back until whoever I was with was happy, even if I'd never done anything "wrong." It wasn't uncommon for my dad to laugh if I stood up for myself. And my partners weren't much better – they often gave me the silent treatment if I had a change of heart over some trivial component of a loose agenda. In many instances, my opinion couldn't match up to someone else's entitlement; I was given a trial with no jury. This time, I knew exactly when I had to cut and run.
Suddenly, I didn't try to apologize or back out of a disagreement. I knew how much I could handle. All that time in the car didn't bring the two of us together; instead I ended up feeling alone, and much closer to myself. I realized that trips can unexpectedly take me to places I've already been. When that happens, there's nothing stopping me from taking a detour.