Everyone always talks about why you should travel alone. You see the blog posts weekly: “Top Ten Reasons You Should Travel Solo” “How learning to travel alone will change your life”. And its true, in many ways learning how to spend time with yourself in foreign places and make friends with strangers is a very important skill and step to take to understanding yourself more. But no one ever talks about why travelling with friends can also teach you a lot about your self.
So here is my list of reasons travelling with friends is just as important to self development:
1) It teaches you a lot about patience. When I am excited about life I can hop out of bed in the morning, I don’t need any coffee and it takes me no time to ready. However I was travelling with friends who could not function properly about coffee, which is fine (this is me at work or school) but it also meant a lot of time spent waiting for them to get coffee. It sounds like a small thing but when you are itching to be first in line for a museum or attraction waiting in a crowded coffee shop watching the minutes tick by can be incredibly frustrating. Just as frustrating, I am sure, as when my friends are tired at the end of the day and want to go home and I won’t stop taking photos.
Under normal circumstances many people would either a) snap and yell or b) bottle up all this frustrations and turn it into a long-winded rant you unleash on another poor friend later: neither of which are very good options. When you know you are travelling with the same people every day for awhile you instead learn to find patience and build an understanding of why your friend spends time doing what they do. Maybe for instance your friend knows that them having their morning coffee will the day so much better, not only for them, but also for you in that they will be more enthusiastic about all your plans. Maybe taking a million photos is really important because they want to remember this trip forever. Travelling with friends pushes you to take a deep breath and develop a greater understanding of what makes other happy around us.
2) It teaches you a lot about compromise. Similar to above, not everyone likes to spend their time and money doing exactly the same things and that is okay. When you spend normal amounts of time when your friends during the year usually you know who is always down for brunch, who prefers to hike and who would never be caught dead in the wilderness and you are able to plan what you do with who. But when you planning an epic trip together there is going to be a lot of compromise. Obviously most people chose travel buddies based on aligned interests but that still doesn’t mean you will always agree.
For instance I really like walking, like really really like walking. I could spend entire days just walking around cities, exploring side streets and stumbling upon new cafes and stores. However, averaging 20,000 steps is (understandably) not for everyone so learning how to adjust my expectations with those (arguably more realistic) expectations of my friends while still feeling like I was making the most of my trip was a really important step.
It was incredible seeing how all of us began to pick up on each other wants and needs over the trip and how we continuously compromised to support each other in having the best possible time. Its things like seeing your friend who doesn’t love hiking agreeing to wake up super early to be first on the trails, or your super energetic early bird friend agree to sleep in and take a slow day when you are beginning to feel exhausted. And watching how you and friends learn to do this without speaking and without demanding concessions (there is no ledger in friendship) in return is an incredible lesson in developing compassion and empathy.
3) You learn an incredible amount about your friends. Like more than the usual amount you would learn if you didn’t share a small Airbnb bed every night for 50 days. You learn how your friends respond to conflict, how they communicate things like frustration and tiredness without saying a word, you hear how they talk on the phone with their boyfriends/families ( there is no privacy in a studio apartment) and you learn what they prioritize. And while many people could argue that this lack of privacy and endless time together could harm your relationship ( too much of a good thing?) in my experiences if it is a true friendship it will bring you closer.
You will learn how to find joy in the things that bring your friends joy ( French revolutionary art anyone?), you will learn what you can do to lift their spirits when things are rocky ( running late to an incredibly early flight) and you will see how they react when life isn’t always sunny ( 7 hour train rides. Not finding a place to eat until 11pm). And for the most part how you and your friends react will reinforce and strengthen your friendship as you learn to accommodate and work with others in a way most people only work with their close family.