Welcome to Ask an Outsider. We are here to answer your most pressing questions about enjoying time outside, like how to make outdoorsy friends, tips on going No. 2 in the woods, or how to reconcile a different risk tolerance with a partner. Our advice givers are experts from both inside and outside the co-op who draw from their own experience and knowledge to help inform yours.
To answer this column, we tapped REI Co-op Member Sidney Baptista, who founded the Boston-based PIONEERS Run Crew in 2017 to create community and later created PYNRS Performance Streetwear. He shares his response.
We’d also like to hear how you’d approach this situation—scroll to the end to weigh in.
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I have a good friend I love to backpack, hike and camp with. We’ve known each other for a long time and have gone on many outdoor adventures together. He tells funny stories, surprises our group with gourmet treats, and is always the first to lend a hand when something goes wrong.
There’s just one problem: He’s flaky. He’ll commit to a group trip but show up late or not at all. Sometimes, he’ll ask to join in at the last minute after our plans are set. We accommodate him because our outings aren’t the same without him. But, increasingly, I’ve become resentful. What should I do?
Val M., REI Co-op Member since 2020
Hello! Thanks for writing in and sorry to hear about your camping conundrum. This is a challenge I have dealt with personally, and I am sure many others can relate.
My first piece of advice may seem obvious, but sometimes the simplest solutions are easy to overlook: Try talking with your friend about the situation. Based on what you’ve written, it sounds like your friend is a really great guy. He has good energy, is super helpful and people like to be around him. Even when he is late or canceling plans, the group is genuinely excited when he does show up. Because of this, it’s possible he’s oblivious to the disruption that he creates, or doesn’t realize the full extent of it. He may even have grown accustomed to dropping in and out of plans at this point.
An honest conversation could go a long way in opening his eyes and helping him be more thoughtful about making—and sticking to—commitments in the future. No one wants to feel like a burden or a nuisance, so bringing awareness to the situation is a great first step.
Try broaching the topic while experiencing the outdoors together. Start by highlighting how great a time you are having and that you want to continue doing joint trips with him. Then ease into the topic of planning. Tell him that it can be stressful when people cancel plans or join a trip at the last minute. Talk about the importance of having everyone on the same page for both logistical and safety reasons. This will allow you to provide your friend with some insight into your own perspective, and also give him a chance to share his.
My other piece of advice would be to check in with yourself to figure out where your boundaries and your tolerance for this kind of behavior lie. There is a real possibility that even if you do have a conversation with your friend, he may not change—or may not change as much as you or the group would like. This could just be how your friend operates.
You mentioned that you have already begun to feel resentful. To prevent this from growing to a point of no return, think about how, when and what you invite him to in the future. For example, you could choose to only invite him on trips in which the plans would not be dramatically altered by whether or not he shows up. You could do your best to bypass circumstances that involve splitting costs evenly among participants and avoid putting him in charge of bringing crucial supplies that the group will be relying on, such as food, survival gear or a shared tent.
Set planning deadlines and hold your friend to them. If he confirms but backs out after the deadline has passed, you could consider leaving him off the invite for your next excursion. If he tries to join late after the deadline has passed, let him know that it unfortunately cannot be accommodated this time but that you will be sure to let him know about your next adventure. This may feel unnatural in the short term given that it is outside the scope of how your relationship currently exists. However, in the long term, it will give you more realistic expectations of your friend, make planning more predictable and help keep your resentment at bay.
Hopefully, these tips bring about some positive changes for you, your friend and your group trips. Best of luck and happy trails!
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