Youíve been friends for years. Great friends. Youíve eaten enough dinners out together and seen more shows and concerts and movies than either one of you can remember. Youíve taken countless shopping trips and had enough cafť lattes and Pinot Grigios together over the years to fill an Olympic-size pool.

You know each otherís deep, dark secrets, neuroses, personality flaws, bra sizes, and garage-door codes ó enough personal information that you might as well be their emergency contact on every health form.

But thereís one thing you still havenít done ó one place your relationship still hasnít gone. Itís that place of true intimacy, where few friendships can go and survive. Where our true selves are finally exposed, for better or for worse.

Iím talking about taking the leap from spending an afternoon together shopping at the mall or side by side on a yoga mat or on a day hike. Iím talking about packing your bags and actually going away together. To a place where youíre stuck together, in the same place, for as long as you both shall travel.

Traveling with friends can make or break a relationship, itís as simple as that. Because as far as we delve into our friendsí personalities and histories and idiosyncrasies over a shrimp scampi dinner or during an afternoon hike, thereís absolutely no way of knowing whether or not your compatibility will extend from a short, finite amount of time ó like a meal or walk or a play date with your kids ó to a multi-day trip away, where true personality quirks canít be as easily concealed or overlooked. In other words, youíre stuck with each other for the night or the weekend or the week. Youíre in it to win it and thereís no turning back once the hotel room keys have been issued.

Sitting here on the return flight home from my first real trip away with my daughter ó plus her best friend and her best friendís mom ó it occurred to me how badly our otherwise lovely five-day trip to Florida could have gone if we hadnít been so travel compatible. Fortunately for us, we were.

Now being best friends, the girls have, of course, spent insane amounts of time together over the years. And while her mom and I have been great friends almost as long as the girls have, this trip was a baptism by fire for both of us, launching us by catapult to the next level of our relationship.

And it was darn lucky for both our sakes that we ended up meshing like chunky peanut butter and grape jelly. Darn lucky. Because our experience traveling together couldíve easily torn our friendship apart if we hadnít been in such great sync with each other.

See, thatís the thing about traveling with friends; to the naked eye, you may have what appears to be a completely harmonious relationship ó one that gives the illusion of being fully transferable to suitcases and an itinerary.

But looks can be deceiving. Just because you enjoy each otherís company over raw oysters or a cool lime refresher does not guarantee that you can cohabitate in a timeshare or a hotel room for a weekend. And thatís because people only see a very short glimpse of who we really are on a walk or over a drink or over dinner.

The real fun begins when we go away with someone and weíre forced to share a space or collaborate on decisions or make concessions. Thatís when things often go horribly awry. Thatís when peoplesí true egocentricity often takes over and they reveal themselves to be impossible travel companions.

I mean letís face it, the average person can usually control their impulses and urges and selfishness to a point. And that point is often the length of a movie or the duration of an afternoon shopping spree. But hogtie two people together for a few days and everyoneís true colors come spewing out. People start imposing their opinions and preferences and then, ever so subtly, the inflexibility begins.

Almost without warning, the person you boarded the airplane with doesnít want Chinese food anymore. Doesnít like to get up before 11 a.m. anymore. Orders three mixed drinks at dinner and crŤme brulee to your Pellegrino with lemon and still wants to split the bill straight down the middle.

The unfortunate reality here is that thereís legitimately no way of knowing if you and your friend are trip compatible. Itís kind of like when you send your kids away to overnight camp for the first time. They may be the poster child for day camp but crash and burn once theyíre dropped off at overnight camp for a month, away from their family and totally on their own. You just never know.
So I guess the takeaway here is simply this: Some people are good travel buddies and some people arenít. And thatís OK. Because at the end of the day, we all have a pretty diverse roster of friends that we can count on in many different ways. And thatís exactly the way it should be.
We have lots of different people that we spend our time with in lots of different ways. Itís just important to remember that a square peg isnít supposed to fit into a round hole. And that even though it doesnít itís still a great peg. It just works best under the right circumstances.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at itiswhatitiscolumn.wordpress.com. She is also the author of ďLIFE: It Is What It Is,Ē available on Amazon.com and select Whole Foods Market stores.