While I like to keep my travels and vacations totally separate sometimes the lines get blurred. In August 2019, my best friend planned her bachelorette party in Croatia. Now can there be anything more exciting than being with your besties in a totally new country? We had a lovely time together and the decision to travel together was a good one for us. However, it was also our first long travel together and the first one ever outside of India. I can confidently say that I learnt a lot about myself and now have a better idea of what one must consider while planning a trip with friends.
I have traveled alone for most of my trips abroad and I love every bit of it. While solo traveling has its own set of challenges, for me personally, the benefits of it outweigh the difficulties involved by a large margin. Every time I plan something with my friends or family, in my mind it is a vacation and the main intention behind it is to spend quality time with my loved ones. This is just easier for me to process because internally I do not gear myself up for hardcore adventure or serious exploration. I am then more than happy if we end up playing board games or become beach furniture all day.
But of course, being abroad is a different ball game. You cannot not explore the local culture, food and way of life, when you are in a different country. So, this trip to Croatia taught me a few things and I thought I will make a list of the ten most important things it taught me
1. Packing is so much easier.
I have insane amounts of things when I travel. Being a photographer, traveling light can unfortunately only stay a dream. With the camera, lenses, laptop and I pad, my backpack is already too heavy for most things. This was the first time when I could divide the boring things like chargers, adapters, soap, shampoo etc. with my travel buddies. This of course means extra space for a book or another pair of shoes.
2. Expenses can be shared.
The way I travel, I barely spend on food and accommodation. But that also means that I have little control over the quality of both. Traveling with friends allows you to share accommodation and meals and that is a huge relief. Most of the times the portions in Europe are too large for me and I hate wasting food. We never had such problems in Croatia since we always shared the bill and the meals.
3. It does not get lonely
Traveling solo is amazing in so many ways, but I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t get lonely at times. When you experience something spectacular, which you often do while traveling, it is a luxury to not have to translate the experience in words to share it with your loved ones. Also having someone remarkably close to your heart right beside you at times like these is such a beautiful feeling! We had many such moments that brought us all even closer.
4. There is a safety net
No matter what anyone tells you, do not make the mistake of believing the rosy picture most travel influencers portray. You can make the world’s most perfect travel plan and you will still have glitches. Trains and flights get delayed, buses get cancelled, weather does not play along, many places are shut during particular seasons, there are thousands of things that can go wrong. This is extremely infuriating when you are all alone. I have of course learned to negotiate such situations by myself now but having someone to shoulder the weight of such nightmares can be a real blessing.
5. Chose your travel mates carefully.
Thankfully, our group was well aligned with the overall idea of the travel we generally wanted the same things. But I saw how important it is to have similar expectations. It makes a lot of sense to consider this while choosing your travel companion. You could be the best of friends otherwise, but when you must share accommodation and be with each other 24*7, the dynamic can change drastically. I think it is important to consider common interests, body clocks, travel budgets and ability to openly communicate even awkward or unpleasant things.
6. Decision making takes longer
Especially in a big group reaching a consensus can sometimes be long and annoying. We were just five of us and still sometimes it took us a long time to come to a decision. But no matter how irritating this gets, it is particularly important to be patient and still do it together. You don’t want anyone to feel left out or bitter because their points got ignored. What worked for us was, that we divided the cities among us and each person planned stay and activities in their city. We made the larger plan together but divided the work of bookings and basic planning equally. Also remember that no matter what decisions you make, they don’t have to be set in stone. Sometimes things don’t go according to your neatly laid plans, and that is absolutely ok. Just know that no matter what happens, it’ll open other doors that can be very exciting, so don’t marry your plans.
7. You do crazy things
This is sort of true for solo travel too. I have often done things that I wouldn’t normally when I am not around people I know. Somehow when you’re alone, you don’t have the pressure of fitting into an identity others are used to. This changes a lot of things for me. However, being a female solo traveler also means having your guard up all the time. I rarely go clubbing or drinking when I travel alone for example. But being with friends means you can let your guard down and do crazy things if you want to, because you know there’s someone to take care of you if things get out of hand.
8. You can dress up
This point maybe totally irrelevant to most of you. But when I travel, I work for people, which means I work on farms, or on construction sights sometimes I also cook, clean or take care of children. It would look rather strange if dressed up for any of those occasions, wouldn’t it? Besides when no one around is taking pictures of me, I also don’t care too much about looking good. So this is in my books definitely a worthy enough point to be counted.
9. You do not have to take selfies.
Ok, this maybe a silly point for you, but for someone who hates taking selfies, it is an important one. Literally all good photos travel of myself are from this trip because for the first time I was also in front of the lens occasionally. I know it sounds a bit stupid, but while I have three hard drives full of travel photographs, there are barely any of me, and I hadn’t realized until now, that I like having some of those too. 😊
10.Lastly it is important to give space
Every night we all spent some time catching up with our partners and families, or just doing things by ourselves. We never planned for that, but we always had that implicit understanding. It is also important to constantly recognize what others want and letting them know that you’re listening. Sometimes in fact, if you want to do different things, it is also ok to do them separately and meet again. When you spend so much time together flexibility is particularly important. And even if small tiffs or fights happen, remember that that is also totally normal. Have faith in your friendship, know that you can always talk it out with your friends, and it is only normal to have bad days.
If you are mindful of these things, I think traveling with your besties can definitely be a lot fun. The time we all spent together in Croatia is without a doubt one of the most memorable experiences we have shared together.