As a life-long solo traveller, this summer I was lucky enough to have the chance to travel with a small group of friends for the first time (and not just any trip, but the classic American road trip). Yes, I’d been on the odd stag-do holiday with a group, and travelled with one or two people for a few days or longer during my backpacking years, but actually spending the whole time with a group of friends was a novelty. Travelling with friends is a fantastic opportunity and one I couldn’t pass up. Although inevitably there are potential pitfalls, but some can definitely be avoided with a bit of preparation.
Many people never travel alone, preferring to share the trip with someone else or not go at all. There is certainly a lot to be gained from this aside from the obvious companionship; you’ll never have to find someone to take a picture of you, costs can often be lower, and you’ll always have someone else around to get a second opinion if an area seems a bit on the dodgy side. More often than not you’ll also have a lot of fun.
The down sides are that there can be a lot time wasting. If you’re the kind of person who gets up at the crack of dawn to get out exploring every morning, just remember your travel buddies may not share your enthusiasm. Decisions always take longer the more people there are. It might sound obvious, but when you’re stuck in a group, (especially if it’s cold and wet) and unable to decide where to go, what to do or how to get there, your head can spin with the many different points of view people can have…
If you are planning to travel with friends, especially with a large group, make sure you talk (a lot) to each other before you head off and find exactly what each person wishes to get out of the trip. Establish whether everyone is thinking along the same lines – is it an activity-filled adventure fest or a leisurely “let’s see what happens” sojourn? Do you want to mix with the locals or do you prefer to stay in your comfort zone with the people you know? Sacrifices will inevitably have to be made – I’d suggest listing a few things you were dead-set on seeing or doing, which in your eyes are not open to negotiation, then just relax the rest of the time and be open to whatever the trip sends your way.
The money issue
One of the biggest issues to discuss is money, as this tends to be one of the main arguing points, especially if people in the group have disparate amounts to spend. By talking about it before you go, clashes over someone being able to afford to do something when others can’t, can be avoided. Feeling left out or feeling restricted can lead group friction and is best avoided.
If possible I would recommend travelling in a group of three. That way if one person wants to do their own thing, the other is always left with someone else to talk to. Sharing accommodation is also easier with a smaller group and you’ll avoid the potential complications that comes with travelling in a larger group.
Overall my personal experience of travelling with 6 friends for a week and then 4 for the second week was fantastic. I loved it – both the ups and the downs. I look back at photos now and feel so privileged that my friends were there to share the trip of a lifetime with me (those drunken nights in Las Vegas will also stay in your memory a lot longer with friends to remind you of what happened…).
I tried restaurants I would never have discovered, had encouragement and motivation to hike for a ridiculously long time in a single day and shared jokes that only about 4 people will now ever find funny. I also became even closer to people I already regarded as my best friends. I managed to do this without sacrificing too much of what I originally wanted – and besides, you’ve got the rest of your life to travel independently if you wish. So what are you waiting for?