Once a year for the past 5 years I have gone travelling with my best friends.
Our first trip was an intense two weeks interrailing around Europe, before which we had had little experience of either navigating unknown cities alone or of being in such close proximity to each other for two solid weeks. Reading over my old diary entries from that fortnight, I often got annoyed at the others for trivial slights which I don’t even remember now. However, with the experience I have gained over four subsequent trips, I have a LOT more expertise of how to travel happily with other humans.
I have gathered some of my tips and anecdotes for you below:
Understand You Will Annoy Each Other –
If you spend extended periods of time with people, you will annoy each other, it is unavoidable!
At some time you will be hungry, lost, tired, bored or disagree about something and you will feel irritated by your travel companion who probably hasn’t done much to elicit this .
The absolute best thing to do is to brush it off, change the subject and don’t let a small disagreement or irritation cast a shadow over your time together.
At the end of the day, having friends you like enough to travel with is a very precious thing and you will one day look back at this time together fondly, so don’t ruin things for your future self!
Do Your Own Thing –
Nowhere does it say that if you are travelling with people you must stay together 24/7. It is perfectly acceptable to do your own thing, whether splitting up to wander through a market, visiting different areas of a museum or simply sitting in your room without talking to each other.
(In respect of this point, if you are going to split up for any amount of time, it is very important to agree on meeting spots for safety and time saving considerations.)
Similarly, remember to communicate in order to ensure that you all get to do what you want evenly. If one person decides on the activity or meal for one day, someone else should make the decision of what to do the next day.
Choose Friends Carefully –
Even if you and your friends are as close as family, have known each other for many years and have never disagreed on anything, this doesn’t mean that you are necessarily suited for the daily stresses and decision making involved in travelling together.
I think a successful holiday partnership involves a mix of personalities. For example, I know I am good at organising things and always wiling to attempt to talk in different languages, but I have no ability to navigate and have a tendency to panic in panic worthy situations. This is why it works well for me to travel with a friend who is very calm in a crisis and great at map reading, but not very interested in the minutiae of holiday organisation or in communicating in foreign languages.
Make Sure You Want The Same Holiday –
My friend’s parents once went on holiday with their closest friends of over 20 years and once there discovered that while they wanted a chilled out beach holiday, the other couple had planned on a non-stop, fun-filled trip. The resulting holiday was so unenjoyable for both groups, that they didn’t speak for a long while after.
If this teaches us anything, it is to ensure before you plan a trip that you both want the same thing out of it. If you want to go trekking in the countryside 10 hours a day and your friend is researching luxurious city spas, you should have a chat. Also, make sure you agree on a rough budget for the trip before planning anything.
Bring Snacks –
Once, when a a 7 hour flight delay and ending up two hours from our hostel in the middle of nowhere at 11pm left us all on the brink of despair, my friend produced four chocolate bars. We were so relieved at this one glimmer of happiness in a bleak situation that we cried with a mix of laughter and some tears.
For times like this, always keep sweets and snacks on you. They are ideal for a quick energy boost, to quell hunger pangs, as a peace offering after those irritations mentioned earlier, or just as an excuse to take a break. Or for the times you are stuck at a bus stop somewhere in Bologna in the pitch black night…
Hopefully my tips have helped you or at least given you something to think about.