Who you travel with…

Makes all the difference.

New York skyline. New York, New York, United States. February 2015.
New York skyline. New York, New York, United States. February 2015.

So, I’ve been thinking about travel… And with a blog like this, this shouldn’t be a surprise… at all.

What I’ve been thinking about, however, is that throughout my 24 years on this earth, I’ve been lucky enough to travel around quite a bit and, in this time, I’ve only been blogging (or really writing about much of it at all) for just over a year and a half and then only really covering travels from the last three(ish) years. This means I’ve never touched on most of my road trips across the Continental US (and a trip to Hawaii), or my trips to Italy, Japan, or Australia (possibly because I’m really counting on heading back at some point for better posts!).

For better or worse, this also means I’ve also traveled in varying circumstances: places to transport to group size and dynamic. Which brings us here to this post.

While I could go through the kinds of traveling groups you’ll probably find yourself in at one point or another, giving you pros and cons (which will inevitably happen) on each, I feel much more interested in talking about why I’ve loved/like/hated these kinds of trips and why you should consider each before jumping into your next set of travels.

Family Vacation…

There is an undeniable reason why there is are so many films, books, ect. about this kind of trip (including the National Lampoon saga sharing that title): Family trips are crazy!

For the most past, these are the first and most common adventures people are going to go on and I’m pretty sure that I’ve been on too many to count from RV trips with the grandparents, to cramped car road trips, to much wider travels half-way across the world and filled with aunts, uncles, parents, siblings, you name it.

As I’ve said, I’ve been lucky.

While I really do love these trips for many reasons, they get complicated pretty quickly depending on who you are having to deal with.

Just a quick contrast (because this could easily be a book of its own):

My trip to New York last March had me trapped between the adult group and the kids group. This basically meant I played a whole lot of teenager-sitter, which I didn’t mind, except when that meant that it was my (unpaid) job to make sure one cousin checked his diabetes at frequent intervals and another got up the require hours early to get herself ready for the day—yes, I said hours.

Basically, my time in New York, while enjoyable, was more like a long plane ride to babysit while teenagers’ parents got a break and I felt guilty for forgetting to do stuff. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy myself—there were great moments between the hectic 5 days we spent in the city before I hightailed it back to London. But vacation? It’s hard to call it that.

In contrast, my month long trip with my mom and youngest sister was entirely different. I didn’t mind the pace or early rises or running any interference between parties that needed it. This isn’t to say there wasn’t some drama (talks about the future with a soon to be graduate with ideas but little strategies, gets touchy when a parent wants concrete plans!)

While my sister really counts more as a best friend than a sister (cause, once again, I really lucked out with all my sisters!), being able to read each other and help negotiate the family tension – moments when they got to be too much – made the whole thing better (she did this in New York as well, but different circumstances with different people).

Friends….

Besides traveling with my sisters (which again felt more like friends), I haven’t really done much travel with friends until this year. What I’ve loved about this kind of travel is just how much you get to know about each other through traveling.

Yes, living with a friend can define a relationship, but living with them out of a suitcase while running around new, strange (to you) places? Whole new level of getting to know you.

With friends, there is an obligation to be together, but also the ability to say that you want to do something off on your own for the day and having it be okay. You tend to be more off the cuff with plans, but having that other person there also motivates you to actually get off your butt and go do something!

The thing I suggest for traveling with friends is to be really frank: talk about what you are able to spend, what you actually want to do and see, when you need to take a break,  and, when you are feeling crabby, that it’s okay for them to go ahead without you (or when it’s not). If you are traveling with a friend, a real one, they’ll get it! Just don’t forget to take all of that information into account from their end.

After all, travel living pretty much dictates living out of each other’s pockets—there is no room to be shy here!

Groups (as in Touring Groups)…

The summer (2004) I spent in Australia (though sorry, mates, still not going into much detail), is probably the closest I have ever come to going on a full out tour of a country. It was me, 39 other students, and three mentors/teachers from America’s People to People Student Ambassador Program, Southern California edition, as well as two Australian natives—our guide and out coach driver.

I still consider this a tour—one of those pretty rigorous ones, because, while we got to have some off the beaten path experiences, everything was schedules, including our free time. If you missed something, there was no going back. You paid for what they were giving you and you kept to the group.

While this was fine, especially for a 13 year old who hadn’t traveled without family before, I quickly learned this wasn’t for me.

I’ve covered pros and con for tours before when looking at day tours (pros: everything is taken care of for you, just show up on time, meet new people, greater access to areas you couldn’t get to by yourself, tend to be language oriented, ie. the guide, at least speaks your language; cons: everything is already planned for you, tend to be more expensive, limited by the time allotted to you by your group, you HAVE to meet new people—you get the picture), but for the purpose of this post I want to look at the meeting people option.

The fact is, when it comes to tours, you have no idea what sort of people you are going to end up with—or have many options for getting away if need be—until all of them show up. You can find out all about the guides, the companies, the places, but the big X factor are your fellow travelers, which can range from the nicest people you will ever meet, who have an actual interest in what you are doing, to the rudest, loudest, worst travelers who are on the tour purely so that they didn’t have to plan out activities for their family vacation.

Going Solo…

Shifting to the other end of the spectrum, flying solo while traveling means the only person you truly have to deal with all the time is you—which, technically, you have to do in every other option as well. For the more outgoing, this can be trying as you’ll want to be out all the time so you can interact with people (not always a budget friendly option). For the more introverted, this can mean less motivation to get out there and do anything—which pretty much negates the point of traveling to begin with.

Again, I’ve touched a bit on this when writing about my solo travels this year.

Back in February, I traveled to Lyon by myself and absolutely loved it—as anyone who has been reading along will undoubtedly remember.  Getting to get up in the morning and decide where I wanted to go with no concern for anyone else’s wants or needs was amazing and let me just explore the city.

One thing I absolutely insist on for this last travel type, however, is a willingness to know yourself, push yourself, and be smart. Lone wolfing it is undoubtedly freeing but it’s also scary and, if you’re not careful, dangerous.

Still, I wouldn’t give it up for the world!

My opinion?

If you have the opportunity, try them all. All travel teaches you something about yourself, the people around you, and the world at large, and mixing it up in how you travel, and with whom, lets you experience even more.

Again, these groups aren’t exclusive and a single trip can overlap across any and all of them, but go out and explore. And if you are feeling up to it (I know this was a long one, so congrats if you made it!), let me know about your favorite people to travel with; where, how, with whom, and anything else you feel like sharing from horror to comedy.

And as always, until next time:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

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Who you travel with…

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