This one time, I took a trip abroad with my friend. It was my first trip out of the country. She wanted to go to all the fancy malls and all the designer type stores in them, I wanted to eat fried things on the street. She wanted to go to casinos, I wanted to go to the jungles.
Needless to say, it wasn’t the big girl getaway I had envisioned. Solo travel, especially for women is yet to catch on in India. Forget travelling alone, even a trip with a group of girls involves begging for parental permission, various tactics to persuade the parents into thinking this is a good idea, and in some unfortunate cases also having to ask your husband’s permission. I’m glad that I can travel alone, my parental permission strategy is to plan the trip, book tickets, and then tell them, get yelled at and still go.
Luckily most of friends are getting married and preparing to breed, so I don’t see myself travelling with any of them in the near future. Having said that, I also believe that travelling together can be the best things for your friendship. Sharing experiences, whether good, like the time me and my best friend spontaneously caught a rickety old bus at 2 am to go up into the hills from Delhi, or bad, like the time when at a Poets of the Fall concert (my most favourite band in the world) my friend who intentionally wore heels and then intentionally got too drunk to stand, has the ability to cement friendships. Unfortunately, with heels and booze it was not meant to be, but my friend who helped me hold my phone to charge it on the sparky plug point in that rickety old bus in the middle of the night, is going to tell exaggerated versions of these stories and more to my granddads, or you know, my cats.
Anyway, just in case these people have the time and inclination to travel with you, here are some trips for travelling with those wretched group of people you call friends:
Pick a friend whose company you enjoy in any type of situation,like the friend you can sit for hours by a hospital room with, and not the hot guy from the bar who listens to the same crap as you or something like that. Day to day nuances of travel can sometimes bring out the worst in a person, or you might have to endure them talking about how incredible they and their whole family are for the 625th time.
What do you both want from the trip? What is your vision for this trip? Work? Relax? See all the things? A good mix of all of these? Discuss what you want to accomplish from the trip and communicate that to the other pilots before takeoff.
One person can’t have their way all the time, but their girlfriends can and that is the story of how one my friends had to carry his girlfriend up and down a trek in the Aravallis. Yes they are still together. Anyway, remind your friends of the time you got kicked out of the class so your could hang with them, the number of times you lied to their parents for them, or the time you had to tolerate their rubbish boyfriends, or the time you pretended that they worked at your company, etc.
Work out a budget
It’s not fun talking about boring financial details when you’re planning a fun adventure but best to get this out of the way fast. Things you might be comfortable with, your friend might not. Like going to the fucking skybar for the “view” and some lousy drinks and pictures, when you’d rather spend your money on things like elephant print pajamas on the roadside. Decide and talk about how much you’re actually comfortable spending on the trip and what you can afford to spend on food, entertainment, transportation, and so on.
Spend some time by yourself
Divide and conquer, as our colonizers would say. They want to shop and you want to sit in a café reading a book hoping the guy with the accent will hit on you. You should do that. You’ll have different opinions on things like nature, history, shopping, men, animals. It’s only fair that you take some time to do your thing.
Still see yourself planning a trip with your friends? Your married friends? That guy’s wife who doesn’t want to stay at an airbnb, that vegetarian couple who want to stay near an Indian restaurant, or bring a rice cooker on a plane, that one couple who needs to “ask their parents”. This one girl who will wear heels on a trek, this one guy who needs wifi to check the score. This other guy who wants to “watch a show” without the missus finding out, and that one friend who’ll always be running late and get stuck at security because he wanted to bring pickles on the plane.
And your friends are always on the phone when they’re with you anyway. Who’re you texting? Do you really have other friends? And what are the odds of everyone getting leaves around the same time? The movie was nice, I’d like to pelt my annoying friends with Spanish tomatoes too (rotten ones), but if I have to hear my friend’s poetry monologue in that weak as office machine chai voice throughout my find-yourself-while-doing-expensive-activities-in-Spain trip, I’d rather travel solo. I wish you can do the same.