Road Trip to a Stronger Friendship

By Emily Hopkins

What is the longest friendship you have had in your life? 5 or 6 years? Maybe longer?

A more important question may be; are you still friends with him/her today?

I met my best friend, John Lazzeroni Jr, in the third grade. Coincidentally, we both started on the same day, at the same school, mid-semester. We met on the playground; the only two third graders who were brave enough to toss a football around with the older kids. Long story short, we played, made jokes, shared secrets, and quickly became close friends. We are lucky that we have not grown apart, like many friends do over time. We got through the hardest and most complicated parts of life together; parents getting divorced, battles with siblings, deaths of relatives, and even breakups. Of course we had our rough patches; arguments, fights and disagreements, just like all friends do. We however, refused to give up on what we had.

But what does it mean to have a best friend? What exactly is a best friend? Maybe I can shed some light on these questions by exploring my personal experiences. Specifically, the experiences I shared with my best friend during one epic summer on the road.

John and I worked hard to keep our friendship as close as it could be; having “bro weekends” which were reserved for just him and me. Going to midnight movies, trying new foods, playing games until our eyes were blood shot and going camping are just a few of the activities that we partook in during those weekends. The best part, was that it did not feel like hard work at all, we both wanted to do all those things together and that made the time spent together very rewarding. When two people can spend hours upon hours together and not get bored, their friendship is probably more than the average friendship. So, when the end of senior year started rapidly approaching and this notion that we would be miles apart for the first time in ten years started turning into a reality, we knew we needed to make the summer before we parted ways the best one yet.

What we did not realize, is how much stronger our friendship would get and how much we would appreciate what we have in those few weeks.

We decided that there was really no better way to have an epic summer than to go on a road trip around America. There was minimal planning with this trip, mostly due to the fact that I hate long term planning and he is too lazy. We got together the basic destinations we wanted to hit and decided we would see what there was to see in between. As we were planning our trip out, we realized that it would take us about a month to complete our trip. Now, this seems like a lot of time for two people to be stuck in a car together driving and seeing America, but had we thought about that when we planned it? No, no we did not even consider how that would play out. We did not think that spending so much time together would be a problem or that we would not be able to stand each other for such a long time. Once you are best friends with someone, you do not worry about impressing them or thinking they will get bored with you.

Best friends are way past those stages of friendship; the “Oh, I got to be cool and impress this person so they like me” thoughts just do not pop up any more.

We stated our trip in Tucson Arizona (our home town) and headed East to San Antonio Texas. Yes, that was a 13 hour drive and yes, we drove all the way through with just the occasional breaks for bathrooms and food. While the drive was painful, being in each other’s company was anything but. This long drive made us realize that we do not ever have those awkward silences you hear a lot of people talking about when they spend one-on-one time with their friends. We do not feel the need to have constant conversation in order to be comfortable. We could listen and sing along to the radio, or one of us could read or eat while the other drove in science, it was normal. And for that, we were both thankful.

After a few days in Texas we headed to New Orleans, Louisiana. I was especially excited for this part of the trip because I had never been to New Orleans before. One of the most memorable, and scary, parts of the New Orleans stop was that we had unknowingly arranged to stay in one of the most dangerous parts of the city. John did not like the look of the place and I agreed. A quick Google search proved us right. Luckily for us we were able to put our heads together and figure out a better place to stay. That was one of the first times we realized how important we were to each other. We realized that not only were we able to trust one another’s judgment in order to keep each other safe but that we are not embarrassed or scared to share our thoughts with one another. We knew from then on, that we had each other’s back; no matter what.

From there we headed into Alabama, then into Tennessee, and into New York City. New York is an interesting place. To keep this short, in New York, we not only got confirmation that we got each other’s back not matter what, but also that sometimes friends get into shenanigans and they are forever kept as stories between those two friends. According to number 9 on Buzz Feed’s 32 Signs you’ve Found Your Best Friend for Life article, “there is that one thing that neither of you talk about and it will stay that way.” Yeah, that pretty much sums up the situation.

We realized that we never need to worry that one of us would go and blab to someone about our unplanned adventures because we never have and we have too much trust and respect for one another to do so.

Next on the agenda was heading back west. We left New York and went through Ohio, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Minnesota was one of my picks for the trip, we agreed on almost all the main stops except two; I wanted to see the world’s largest ball of string in Minnesota and he wanted to see the giant sequoias in California. I really did not want to spend a whole day looking at giant trees in a park in Northern California. And I know John did not want to go to the giant ball of twine, even though we only spent half an hour there mind you. I absolutely loved the ball of twine and I know he did too, even if he will never admit it. The giant trees were not so bad either. Plus the camping spot in California was really awesome.

I did not realize it then, but those two stops showed how much we really care for one another. We both knew how much the other wanted to see the string or the trees and because of how much we love one another, we were willing to sacrifice our time and energy just so the other person was happy. It did not even occur to us to argue about it. While that may not seem like much of a sacrifice, after about 7,000 miles on the road with one other person, it is actually kind of amazing that we were even considering the other persons feelings at that point.

After all that, our final stop was in San Diego. Half of the reason was to go to the zoo and the other half was because there was no way we were going to drive from Northern California all the way to Tucson. San Diego was one of my favorite stops. It was only a two night and two day stop, but they were the best. John, somehow, had not seen any Orange is the New Black. I mean, none of it… I’ll wait for you to scrape your mind off the walls after that big reveal. So, the night we got in, we hit Walmart to buy an HDMI cable and lots of soda and snacks, ordered pizza, and then proceed to binge watch the entire first season and most of the second. That is over 20 hours of television! What I realized in that dimly lit room, was that John and I did not need some crazy adventure to keep our friendship alive. Sure, we love adventures and they are a part of who we are and probably always will be, but the fact that we can lock ourselves in a motel room and just watch a TV show for hours on end and not get bored? That really proved to me how great we are together and how strong our friendship really is.

So what is the moral of this terribly long story about two friends on the road? Being someone’s best friend means that you and he/she value each other over all your other friends. They are not just another friend to you. They get you and you get them. It is the best friendship you have. That is something pretty special if you ask me. And it does not just happen overnight. It is a constant push and pull, give and take sort of relationship. Chelsey Fagan pinned down the basics of best-friendship wonderfully in her article What It Means to Be a Best Friend, she wrote; “it involves compromise, trust, and a mutual growth that allows certain friends to last through decades and incredible life changes.” So for me and John, what started as a road trip for one last hurrah before parting ways, turned into an eye-opening journey that made us realize just how special we are to one another.

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