A Guide to Traveling with Your M.I.L.F.
(Most Important Lifelong Friend):
13 February 2018
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 Victoria, followed by an illustrated vacation bonding guide on ways to cultivate deeper connections with your besties (curated by us), plus ways to save for + 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 with whom I’m interacting, chances are I will bring up her name along with a funny/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 must acknowledge that our friendship is an equal combination of natural chemistry and deep, intentional work. It’s so very rare to find one person with whom you jive so well. Others will often tell me that they don’t have a “Victoria” in their life, but more of a breadth of close friends all on an equal field. I’ll always respond with saying that before Victoria, I never had a friendship/relationship like what we have now. My life before her was riddled with some emotionally unavailable and avoidant people who left me in shambles and afraid of being abandoned. And then, she appeared. It’s luck, it’s fate, it’s destiny, or maybe it’s one big coincidence, Whatever it is, I feel so thankful.
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. iPhones because this is the twenty-first century and we’re **hip** and **up-to-date**) 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.
Even though the Osmosis Day Spa was in the middle of Northern California, it looked as if it could’ve been in Japan. The Japanese gardens were perfectly manicured and curated outside of each room. We were given cushy robes, our own private room, some lovely tea, and waited to be lead to the Cedar Baths.
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?
This process was deeply relaxing, and since both of us are quite driven and lead very busy lives, a calming experience was much needed. After we got past the robust giggles towards our naked bodies laying next to each other while being held in place by pounds of cedar, the deep relaxation set in. We had someone check in on us a couple times throughout the treatment to give us sips of water, cool compresses on our heads, and gentle reminders to relax.
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”).
victoria (@victoria.emanuela) -
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 ceases 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 womxn 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.
We’re so excited to share this video with you. It’s sloppy, the sound quality is shit, it was filmed with an iPhone, but we love and cherish it. It’s a great glimpse at our friendship and what a typical conversation between us is like. Fair warning that there is profanity, so if you’re particularly sensitive to that, proceed with caution.
Vacation Bonding Guide:
We reached out to our lovely communities soliciting questions around the topic of cultivating deeper connections and womxn’s friendships. We really appreciate everyone who took the time to be vulnerable and ask us these powerful questions. We did our best to answer them below:
Q. What if you have a friend who gets jealous if you do things with other friends? - Anonymous
In my experience with this type of situation, I usually talk about the root cause of the jealousy with my friend. It’s not an easy conversation, but it’s very necessary and usually leads to a deeper understanding. It’s very common that these feelings of jealousy come from a space of abandonment, or an unhealthy unconscious belief about themselves. I would ask your friend what you can do to reassure them, so they know that spending time with your other friends doesn’t decrease their value, or how much you enjoy their company. Sometimes people just need a very clear understanding of where they stand in your life, especially when it’s easy to throw the “best friend” label around to anyone we feel a connection to. However, there is a line I draw in these situations because jealousy, although normal, can become toxic and draining. It’s also up to your friend to hold themselves accountable in regulating their reactivity, or being mindful about how they act on their jealousy and affect you. Otherwise, unhealthy actions will cause perpetual conflict in your friendship and resentment on both ends. Jealousy is normal, but I think it’s important that your friend understands how you feel when her jealousy comes out in ways that weigh on you (if and when they do). You can’t take on the emotional labor of always making sure they feel secure, your other friends feel like you’re showing up for them, while also making sure you feel comfortable—that’s a lot of work. If your friend shows unhealthy signs of jealousy and is possessive over you, even after creating some boundaries, consider taking a break from the friendship and reevaluating what stress is necessary for you. Remember, people will only show up for you as deeply as they’re willing to show up for themselves. Often jealousy is projected from personal insecurities, belief systems, and so it becomes our responsibility to dismantle and find ways to cope when it shows up. In friendships we have to check ourselves regularly because two complex human beings coming together isn’t always going to be peachy. I think what’s helped me a lot is understanding my own and my friends attachment styles (there are online tests you can take together to find out)! If you and your friend are willing to have a vulnerable conversation about needs, boundaries, and how to navigate jealousy—that would be a great place to start. If you both can commit to being open with each other without shame or judgement, it’ll introduce a deeper sense of trust and intimacy within the friendship, which will help ease jealous feelings. Jealousy can be a very powerful tool or call to action in helping us create awareness towards our own insecurities, while also opening the door for important conversations about how we can better show up for ourselves and one another. Best of luck and sending you my warmest thoughts...
Q. How do you handle a situation where there is a woman you know, respect, love and very much want to be her friend...but these socialized ideas of competition, distrust, etc. with other women keep manifesting for her in a way that makes being friends with her very hard? - @tripthelight
Situations like this are unfortunate because womxn have quite a lot of unlearning to do when it comes to the way we’ve internalized misogyny. I’m sure you know what that means, but in case anyone who is reading doesn’t, it’s the unconscious misogynistic behavior acted out by womxn towards themselves and other womxn. I think in these situations you just have to draw a line in terms of when enough is enough. You can’t build a foundation with someone who plays cat and mouse, or refuses to lean in. At the end of the day, we are all accountable for our own behavior and unlearning the ways we’ve internalized oppressive systems of power that keep us locked in power struggles. I would take a step back from this friendship and see how it benefits you (if it meets your core needs, values, supports and empowers you, etc). It’s perfectly okay to weigh out the pros and cons of any relationship because it sounds like you’re doing a lot of emotional labor trying to get this person to trust you. I said it earlier, but I want to mention it again, people will only meet you as deeply as they’ve met themselves. She may have some healing to do if there are unconscious belief systems or unhealed wounds coming in the way of her making genuine connections with other womxn. Have you ever read about the Mother Wound? I suggest reading about it, and if you’re close, sharing it with her (as long as it’s appropriate). If you’re willing to keep putting in the work, try creating a dialogue with this person and discuss some parameters around your friendship (needs, boundaries, goals, how to approach conflict, love languages and both of your attachment styles). Not everyone feels safe in relationships because of many factors like their upbringing, trauma, and personal insecurities. Creating a clear dialogue around expectations and what you want out of your friendship can make things less threatening. All of this can serve as a template for how you carry out the rest of your relationship, avoid power struggles, and grow. However, you shouldn’t have to carry all the weight of balancing a relationship, so it will definitely be something you will both have to hold yourselves accountable towards making work. Best of luck and sending you all my love...
Q. Are there small signs I can look for in myself to ‘catch’ myself being competitive with other sisters? - @katherinesauer
I feel like for me, the main way I can catch my competitiveness is how I react when I see certain women achieve something. If it comes from a genuine place of excitement, it’s a good sign, but if I immediately become competitive, then I know it’s problematic. Whenever I notice this creep up on me, I make sure to mentally give conscious and genuine compliments about their achievement, or acknowledge how hard they worked to get to that spot. Another sign to spot is whether or not you try to one-up them in conversation or start to engage in a power struggle (in which you make an effort to be on top).
I totally agree with Abby! It’s so great you want to be mindful of that. I think it’s also important to check in with yourself and think about any feelings of lack. In that moment, when you feel competitive, pause and ask yourself what that sister’s success reflects in you? Does it trigger an insecurity you’re aware of, or does it come from more of an unconscious space? Often times, as womxn, we’re conditioned to internalize a scarcity mindset because of patriarchy and gender oppression. We’re sort of wired to fight and manipulate systems of power to get where we want. It’s when we do that at the expense of other womxn that we act out our own internalized misogyny and uphold patriarchal power. Another thing I like to do is check in with myself about what belief systems. Especially the ones I’ve acquired along the way about myself and other womxn that’s causing me to compete with them. An example of that could be realizing that you felt the need to compete with siblings growing up or were rarely recognized for your achievements. It’s totally okay to allow another person’s achievements to inspire and empower you to work harder towards your own, so long as you recognize that there’s space for the both of you to thrive. Every person that evokes something within us is our mirror, so what are they trying to reflect to us?
Q. My boyfriend + I just broke up and it seriously feels like a divorce where the half that he took included all of my friends (mostly male friends) and now I’m realizing I need to actively make new friends/deepen the existing friendships I have with girls to get back to my social life. But, honestly, approaching people and telling them how much you think you’d vibe with them is super difficult when you’re out of college. - Anonymous
I completely relate about the difficulty of making friends after college and so much of “meeting strangers” is now left to dating apps. Breakups are hard and losing people you connected with because of your partner is like losing family. I don’t know if there’s a simple way of doing this besides just jumping in and taking a risk, but something I’ve had luck with is Bumble (yes, the app!). Bumble has a “BFF mode” where you can swipe right or left and go on friend dates. I’ve actually met a ton of cool lady friends that way and we all had one thing in common, it was freaking hard for us to meet new friends (cue instant bonding)! I also reach out to people via Instagram, if they live in my city, and ask them out for coffee. And I’ve met a couple awesome people on Meet-up, when I attended a monthly writing group and just point blank asked them out for drinks after. Making friends is definitely a new frontier when you get older, but we just have to be creative and remember that we’re definitely worth getting to know! I’ll be rooting for you!
Q. My BFF lives in Chicago + I’m in L.A. We used to take turns visiting or traveling to meet up. Now she has two very little boys (she just had the second a month ago). She + I have always had really different lives. I’m so excited for her family, but with the distance between us, I’m not sure how to maintain a strong relationship and show my support. We’ve tried to continue to plan trips but can’t coordinate like we used to. - Anonymous
While it is certainly hard to coordinate frequent trans-continental trips, it can be much easier to maintain a relationship outside of that. Love languages immediately came to mind. Do you know hers? Do you know yours? (If not, take the test here and send it to her as well). Upon learning which of the five ways she most needs love, be cognizant of it when reaching out to her. If she likes words of affirmation, let her know when you’re thinking of her, or tell her you’re proud of all she’s done (perhaps send a handwritten letter!). If she loves receiving physical gifts, send her things every so often, or sign her up for a recurring subscription box (I bet there’s one out there for new moms). You could also reach out to her and coordinate a set time every week or month, where you get on the phone and catch up. Maybe she takes her kids somewhere every week and has time to talk while she’s dropping them off, or has time to talk during her grocery trips, which could be a creative way to make time for a catch up. As for coordinating visits, you could regularly touch base with her and look at your calendars for the next year and choose a few different dates for a potential trip. Since she has family in Chicago, you could always offer to fly out to meet her and you two could potentially split the price of that ticket. You could also send each other small care packages with two or three treats, plus a handwritten note, and stay connect that way too!
Q. I feel like as women there can be pressure to hide or minimize our professional achievements because of not “wanting to show off” or make our friends jealous (especially those in the same industry as us). How do we navigate recognising our own worth whilst uplifting our communities as a whole?
Similarly, how do we deal with our own jealousy (mine tends to be triggered around relationships and sexuality) whilst really showing up for our friends? I.e. recognising when something has hit a nerve is us, but it’s not their fault so we shouldn’t take it out on them? - Anonymous
I think there’s a big difference in wanting to share and celebrate your accomplishments versus bragging about them. As friends, we should all want to share and bond over that excitement! Whenever I achieve something in my professional or even personal life, my friends are the first to know (likely because they’ve been following along with my journey to get to that point of achievement). Even so, I make sure to let them know I’m sharing exciting news so they can offer the appropriate response. After the hypothetical confetti between you settles, it’s definitely okay to move on to something else. It’s also important not to excessively bring it up unnecessarily. More than that, if they have also accomplished something big recently, you want to make sure to celebrate that too, and not try to minimize what they’ve done by not validating their hard work. As much as we want our friends to be our number one fans, equal attention to one another’s accomplishments is also crucial. In fact, during those moments, I often consciously give more praise and excitement than I normally would because I want them to know that I am over the moon happy for them. Friendships feel a lot safer when we can cheer for each other without minimizing achievements, which is why words of affirmation are very important to me. I try to share many kind words with those I love because we are reflections of one another. I’ll purposefully praise them specifically or sometimes propose a celebration plan just to let them know they are seen and appreciated. A little goes a long way!
In response to your second question, jealousy is completely normal and I feel like we’re conditioned to throw negative connotations or shame onto it. But jealousy is just an emotion and it’s not so much feeling it that’s the issue, it’s how we act on it. Jealousy can be a call to action in that it can give you insight into yourself. Sometimes it’ll show you that you have strong values around something, and the thought of a situation threatening those values, creates jealousy. Other times it’ll show you a window into belief systems that you’ve picked up along the way and whether or not they are limiting you. Personally, I just sit with it and allow myself to experience jealousy without much judgement, including every sensation and where it manifests in my body. If it’s coming from a place of insecurity, I give myself some validation (“I am enough”), compassion, and take tender care of myself (bubble bath, walk, deep breathing). Depending on a particular trigger, I also transform the feeling of jealousy into inspiration because sometimes if I feel jealous about someone’s success, it’s usually because they’ve achieved a goal I personally have. This is such a great question, so glad you asked it!
Q. How do you maintain a relationship with women in which you can share without gossip and tearing down other women when you are together? I personally have a difficult time getting close to my fellow females because I cannot handle how most of the time you either have to gossip, or have people think you’re boring? - Anonymous
If the people in your life harp on you for being boring if you don’t engage in gossip, those probably aren’t the most healthy people to be around. Anytime you are around those who are gossiping about a mutual acquaintance, speak up and challenge their judgements. And make sure you’re not coming from an aggressive or accusatory place (unless they are bigoted or politically problematic, call them out, and by all means, be any of the aforementioned if necessary). Kindly ask something like “what forms your opinion of that?” and point out the situation from the other person’s point of view, or try to explain to them what the other person may be feeling. You could even mention how gossip or shit-talking makes you feel uncomfortable, and steer the conversation in a different direction. It’s okay to let these friendships go too, or create better boundaries on what you’re willing to discuss when you’re with them (maybe let them know?). There are definitely womxn out there who don’t invest in this behavior and won’t bring this kind of negativity into your life, regardless of their own personal insecurities.
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