by Stephanie Fong | Submitted Photos
Wonder if your friendship can survive through thick or thin? For friends Kristen Preszler of Dickinson and Anna Busta of Medora, international travel has proven their friendship can survive just about anything.
In 2008, the adventurous duo took a four-week group tour through Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey. They added an extra two weeks to visit Bulgaria and Romania. The next year, the friends journeyed for nearly three months to Australia, Malaysia, Borneo, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Stephanie Fong visited with the traveling friends about their adventures and their friendship.
Stephanie: How was your friendship strengthened or challenged during your travels?\
Kristen: (Laughing) We never fight, except for when we travel! It was more the frustration with certain situations or discomforts, not necessarily with each other, that came up. Those environmental comforts you’re used to are gone. You’re a little more on edge because you’re hot, or hungry…
Anna: …or can’t find a bathroom!
Kristen: …or lost. The first place we ever went together was Egypt. The first three days we were on our own before joining our tour. We probably made more mistakes those three days than all our travels combined.
A: Yeah, we’d see something from a distance in Cairo and decide to walk there and it would end up being miles.
K: We were also on a budget; we didn’t have much money. Even though a cab ride would cost only five dollars, we were cheap and thought we could walk. We’ve learned when to pay the five dollars!
S: How did your personalities factor into your planning?
A: Kristen’s always the planner!
K: I’m ‘Type A.’ Actually, our first trip [Egypt through Turkey] was pretty much laid out by the tour, except for those first three days…
A: …and I thought that [unplanned time] was exciting, just winging it!
K: (shakes head) Not me!! We did also experience kind of a rough time in Romania…
A: (grins) Romania was my country to plan. I didn’t plan! We winged it. And we had quite a few things that could have been disastrous. Like hitting a pothole and losing the hubcap off the car; it bent the rim so the tire deflated. We limped back into Bucharest, and parked near a hostel. We asked if they had a room. They didn’t, but they had a shed, so we’re like, ‘We’ll take it, whatever you have!’
S: Any tips on how not to irritate each other and keep friendship intact?
A: I think that planning is probably a key to that. Then you’re at least on the same page rather than trying to figure it out when you’re standing in the street. And go with the flow as much as possible.
K: It’s a give and take. You have to figure out what’s most important to that person on the trip. I had no interest in Transylvania, but Anna was really excited about it. Know the priorities of the other person because they may not be the same as yours. Value that for them, so you’re not ruining it for them.
S: What safety tips do you give other women travelling internationally?
A: We did every single thing together. I didn’t even go to the bathroom myself.
K: I know there are women who would love to travel by themselves, but I’d advise to travel with a friend or a small tour group. Being alone as a female in a lot of places in the world makes you vulnerable, especially if you look like you don’t belong or don’t know what you’re doing. Don’t pull out your map on the street. Duck in somewhere or ask for help or stop in a bathroom and then get your map and get reoriented. You have to learn the customs of where you’re going.
S: What are your favorite memories?
K: I’m a planner, but I liked welcomed surprises. When we were part of a tour, we didn’t have to plan anything, so every day was a complete surprise. Seeing Petra was one of those in-the-moment surprises. And riding camels to the pyramids the day after we landed was just really fun and surreal.
A: We went to an elephant festival for five days in rural Thailand. I don’t even know how to explain it. It was amazing. Everyone brought their elephants into town. Elephants used to be a big part of their livelihood so they celebrated them. It was awesome.
K: I honestly don’t think we’d be as close today if we wouldn’t have travelled.
A: It’s a definite bonding thing. You find out if you’re compatible as friends.
K: If you can survive travel together then you’ll probably enjoy life together.
Stephanie Fong lives and works in Dickinson. She is lucky enough to run into Kristen and Anna from time to time and reminisce about years they all spent working in Medora together.