Forget perfect: Adventure is unfiltered. In a new blog series, G Adventures is asking a few people to share memories from trips where things went a bit sideways, but it made for the best story — and the most unforgettable experience. Today, writer Anne T. Donahue on how a misguided — and queasy — trip to a shampoo factory resulted in some lifelong friendships.
I am a micro-manager on my best days and Tracy Flick on my worst, so when I was asked to join a press trip to a shampoo factory in Cincinnati, I should’ve said I appreciate the offer, but out of respect for the people I’d be travelling with, absolutely not.
But I am an idiot.
Because travelling makes me nervous, I was already anxious when I got there. So, like anyone who suffers from stress-induced stomach issues, I stress-ate a steak in my hotel room and assumed the abundance of meat would make me sleep like a baby. I was wrong: as the night melted into morning, I lay in the dark with a small buffet of stomach drugs, driving myself bananas by counting down how few hours/minutes I had left to sleep. Finally, with about 45 minutes under my belt, I got up and prepared myself for a day of learning about shampoo.
It was in the lobby of our hotel when I first met Alex and Ashley, two women I already knew loosely through social media, who were the trip’s only familiar-ish faces. I decided they were my allies. I rushed up to them with the grace of a woman who’s been asked to please leave a Starbucks bathroom she’d fallen asleep in, introduced myself formally, and then let them in on how very likely it was that I’d throw up by the end of the day. We became fast friends.
Though, in all fairness, Alex and Ashley didn’t have a choice. I made sure I was close to them at all times, whether this was while putting my head down on the lunch table in hopes of quietly passing away, or in a room populated entirely with human hair, trying not to throw up. And when we changed for dinner and headed to a restaurant — now on my millionth hour of being awake — things got truly real, as I became anxious to the point of nearly crying over pasta.
Now don’t get me wrong: we’d had real talk on our way to and from respective shampoo factories. We’d talked about families and relationships and friendships and Ashley’s upcoming wedding. Out of sheer fatigue, we opted for being honest over trying to be cool — which was good, because any facade of cool I had dissipated as we sat down to eat. By that point, I was so tired and so anxious and so nauseous that I looked at Ashley after she ordered her cocktail and said (fully fighting back tired tears), “I’m going to leave.”
“You should,” she said, like a kind mother who cared about me and only me. “You don’t look good.”
And it’s true, I didn’t. I looked very bad. But real friendships aren’t forged through Instagram likes or Twitter follows — they are forged through anxiety and digestive issues and making peace with the idea that even though you may pass out in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, if you have to sit up for more than two minutes, there would be someone (two someones, actually) right there to catch you. And they are forged through breakfast hangs the next day when the tables turn and you give your hungover pals ginger tablets to take with their coffee. They are forged while waiting for a plane and on drives through a city that will always remind you of taking your weight in Imodium.
In short, they are forged. And while I've learned I should always opt out of a shampoo factory tour when running on less than three hours of sleep, I also learned that had that trip never happened, I'd never have met two of the coolest women I know.
How do you do #AdventureUnfiltered? Whether it's not being able to find a bathroom in India or sampling crickets at a night market in Beijing, we want to see photos of your weirdest, wildest, most wonderful adventures. Click here to share your #AdventureUnfiltered moment.