How to successfully travel with your friends
As we grow through our teenage years, there aren’t many of us who don’t dream about embarking on an adventure with our best buddies. In fact, whether it’s staying up all night on warm moon-drenched beaches or running for the next train through European cities, travelling with friends is often seen as a rite of passage – and one that celebrates the newfound freedom of early adulthood.
The downside – and what the dreamy coming-of-age stories and gap year advertisers don’t tend to tell us – is that travelling with our friends isn’t always straightforward. While rewarding, wonderful and often unforgettable, travel can also be pretty stressful – and even the most steadfast of friendships can crack a little under the strain. Swelter for a few hours waiting for a crowded bus under the baking sun, argue over where best to go next, or even just spend a little too long in each other’s pockets, and you may find that tempers begin to fray.
However, there will come a time when steady jobs, monthly bills and the pitter-patter of tiny feet will make arranging a trip to the coffee shop a Herculean task, let alone three months in Bali. So grabbing the opportunity to spend this carefree time with the people who make you laugh the most really is a brilliant idea – you just have to follow a few simple tips to ensure that you all come back on speaking terms!
Prepare to be flexible
When you have more than one person on an expedition, it’s inevitable that you are going to have some differing ideas about how the trip should go, as well as conflicting interests and schedules. Some common areas of conflict include:
Even if you all have roughly the same budget, there may be one person in your group who is keen to count the pennies, while another hasn’t even planned how much they should spend each day to make the money last. Tensions can also arise if some members of the group have more to spend than others.
One of you wants to share a villa rental; another is insisting on checking in at the local hostel; while the other has had a few too many and doesn’t understand why you all can’t crash on the beach, seeing as it’s such a lovely night. It may seem like a simple question, but answering “where are we going to stay?” can be a surprisingly fractious undertaking.
Beckey might have her heart set on Barcelona, but Simon has got the number of a girl who’s travelling down to Seville and believes following her there might be the linchpin of his life. Even if you’ve all planned ahead and agreed on the trip, things inevitably change while you are travelling, as people want to spend more time in the places they like, or get so tired that they want to skip some others entirely – so it’s important to allow some wiggle room in your itinerary while still establishing ground rules.
With all this in mind, being aware of where conflict can arise and talking it through in advance can make things far easier in the long run. Decide on the sort of accommodation you would all prefer, discuss everyone’s non-negotiable “must-sees” and explore the thorny issue of money before you leave. By knowing what people don’t want to change and where you are all happy to compromise, everyone can afford to be flexible without impacting too heavily on how you envisaged the trip turning out.
This also helps you run through any potential sticking points well ahead of time, rather than on a station platform seven minutes before your train is due to arrive. While there are always going to be issues that crop up unexpectedly, and you should allow some room for spontaneity, by settling on a broad understanding of your combined plans things should go far more smoothly.
Try to accommodate everyone
It may not always be possible, but as a group it’s really important to try to accommodate everyone’s interests – especially if a member of your crew isn’t very good at asserting themselves. When we are having a fantastic time, it can be easy to forget that not everyone may be as enthused by our plans as we are. Also, if one person’s interests go against the general consensus, their preferences can become drowned out by the group.
An example of this phenomenon in action is found in the story of a gang of gap year students travelling around New Zealand. As the only driver on the trip, one traveller had spent weeks patiently ferrying her surf-mad friends from beach to beach, only to be met with resistance when she wanted to head inland for an activity that she was interested in.
While everyone quickly realised the injustice of their behaviour (after some inevitably choice words from the girl doing the driving!), you can avoid situations like this by being mindful of other people, and making an effort to be fair.
Communicate calmly, even if you are annoyed
Let’s face it: we’ve all got it in us to be pretty irritating at times, so there are going to be moments when we both aggravate and feel aggravated by the people around us. Small irritations can be safely ignored and go unremarked upon, but if you find that certain behaviours are winding you up beyond all measure, try to talk about it calmly before you blow your lid.
Travel can involve so many stresses on our patience that it isn’t safe to assume that you’ll be able to bite your tongue continuously, which is why it can be helpful to discuss ongoing grievances. It may be that one person unfairly dominates proceedings; or someone keeps nicking your travel pillow; or another somehow always skips out on the bill. Whatever your annoyance, if you can’t put it to bed in your own mind, it will have to be talked about.
There’s always the potential to cause an argument in this situation, so try to approach the issue when everyone is in a good mood, and in a non-confrontational and non-blaming manner. Simply highlighting the problem in a joking way could be enough, but you might also want to take someone aside and address it with them, taking care to be as considerate as possible.
If someone should come to you with an issue of their own, actually listening to them and taking it in good grace will avoid any bad feeling and spiralling conflict. You should be free to express yourself if you disagree, but try not to go on the defensive, and remember to not take anything that isn’t meant unkindly to heart.
Remember it’s OK to have some time apart
If you are going travelling with your friends for the first time, it’s likely to be the longest you’ve ever spent in the company of anyone who’s not your immediate family – and that can be a bit of an eye-opener. One way to immediately reduce the possibility of creating strained relationships between you is to immediately abandon the idea that you’ll spend all of your time together.
You may all want to go out as a group in the evening, touch base at the hotel or share your meals, but keeping everyone happy becomes far easier if you are able to spend time apart. It may be that a couple of you really don’t fancy the sticky mountain hike everyone else has planned, in which case it’s more than acceptable to hang out at the pool. Or it might be that you aren’t really a beach person, so decide to wander around the town instead, visiting museums and taking photos – as long as you stay safe, it can be refreshing to spend time on your own.
This post was written by Top Villas, travel experts who craft unforgettable experiences through their vacation homes in locations across Europe, the Carribean and the USA, including Encore Resort at Reunion in Orlando.