Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Going on holiday with friends - boon or bane?

One good way to spoil a beautiful friendship is to go on holiday with your best pal. Trust me, I know and have learned from experience. Instead of rest and relaxation, you could end up with rows and recriminations, and a long friendship in ruins. But there is a way to have a really good time traveling with friends. You just have to figure out how.

Oftentimes, when I'm out with friends, we talk about what a good idea it would be to travel somewhere together. After all, don't we share the same interests, and spend hour after hour happily in each other's company? Unfortunately, on a few occasions when I've gone on holiday with a friend with whom I thought I had so much in common, we were barely talking by the end of the trip. It's not surprising then that research has shown 10% of people who have taken trips with friends said the experience ended their friendship for good. 25% admitted they felt differently about a friend after sharing a holiday and a third said they had decided not to travel with that person again.

According to Mark Vernon, author of The Meaning of Friendship, traveling with a friend can be more perilous than traveling with anyone else. Families relate to each other in all sorts of subtle ways and have invisible bonds holding them together. Even when they have enormous row, they can get over them very quickly, Vernon says.

You would think that traveling with a friend would be easy, especially when you normally get on like a house on fire. I thought so too, when deciding to take a much needed break to an island resort with a friend from work. For some reason, she turned really moody once we were there and kept telling me everything was fine when I asked her what was wrong. After a couple of days of her bad-temperedness and frosty silences, I got fed up and ignored her. Waiting at the airport for our flight home, we were sitting at opposite ends of the waiting lounge studiously avoiding each other.

In theory, traveling with a group of like-minded friends should be a hoot, but what is supposed to be a light-hearted, fun trip can turn into something different. On a girls' trip to Bangkok, two of the six of us found something to complain about, from the hotel room to the meals served and locations we were visiting. The rest of us just looked askance in horror as these two berated everyone in sight and expressed their dissatisfaction with everything. Although this holiday took place more than 20 years ago and some of us have remained friends, we still recollect the trip with a shudder. Maybe there were just too many of us!

I've enjoyed some really good trips with friends over the years. Some of the most memorable were road trips four of us took on motor treasure hunts, where we combined the mental challenge of solving clues and looking for treasures, with great meals and a nice hotel stay thrown in. Although there were niggly little irritations here and there, we had a good time and more importantly, remained friends afterwards. 

I've learned numerous things from traveling with people over the years, the most important being you should approach everything with a light heart. You can't rely on other people to give you a good holiday. If you accept that you alone are responsible for your own happiness (on holiday as well as in life), you should be able to maintain your friendship throughout the journey and even after.

Here are some of my tips on traveling with friends:

1. Don't assume that your best friend will be your ideal travel companion. Sometimes it might even be better to travel with someone you don't know all that well. Then you won't be tempted to take your travel partner for granted and be more willing to compromise, thus avoiding nasty bickering.

2. Keep your travel party small. When there were six of us in the group, there were too many opportunities for conflicts to arise and sides to be taken. Even if a friend of a friend wants to come along and it means savings for everyone, resist the temptation to include more people.

3. Share out the planning. Although there may automatically be a leader and a follower (or followers), it helps to take on different responsibilities. Otherwise the one relied upon for everything may start feeling resentful if things go wrong and blame is placed. When I went on a trip to Spain with a friend, she took care of all the travel and hotel arrangements while I sorted out the meals and sights, which worked out well.

4. Discuss frankly what you each expect from the holiday and plan accordingly. In Spain, my architect friend happily explored buildings and water features while I roamed museums and quaint neighborhoods.

5. Don't expect to do everything together. Since my friend and I had different interests, we gave each other space to do our own things, meeting up to have meals and share notes.

6. Don't argue about money. Be very open about what you each expect to spend, especially on meals and accommodation, so that there won't be any resentment about too much money spent or one spending more than the other. My friends and I normally contribute to a joint kitty and just top it up when funds run out.

7. Learn to compromise. For instance, one may prefer to sleep with a light on, the other with all the lights off. Learn what's important to each other and make allowances. If one of you is an early riser, stay in bed and let her have the bathroom first.

7. Chill. If you find yourself fuming about your friend's behavior during a holiday, remember that this isn't for ever. Remind yourself what it is about your friend that makes you enjoy her company in the first place, and enjoy your vacation together.

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