This summer, I promised myself to say “yes” to new opportunities to travel. I definitely am not someone who needs to do this as a regular habit, but having never really explored other places during childhood, I knew this could be a transformative experience that would also give me a much needed break away from routine.
The universe listened and tested to see if I was bluffing. In no time at all, I was invited to join a group (two relatives and a friend) to Montreal and I received a work invitation to attend a conference in Las Vegas with a travel mate. Both were incredibly exciting. I had never been to Quebec before and the last conference I attended was solo and just a one-hour flight away in the capital.
Having returned from both visits, I’ve been reflecting on myself as a traveller and what I think works well when you’re travelling with others. That last point is especially interesting to me since taking vacations with people can be eye-opening and some even fear being fully seen (or seeing another) during these getaways. Thankfully, I generally felt at ease, but here’s what I picked up, regardless:
- Care about each other. In Montreal, our foursome all had different ideas about what made for fun. One person was a foodie. Another cared about nature and architecture. A third loved to shop. And the fourth wanted to relax and maybe check out some sporting events and monuments. It’s hard to pack in everything, but if you want everyone to receive pleasure on the trip, I think checking in before and during can go a long way. Plans may change, but at least for me, I have this “at least one thing” mentality that says if everyone gets at least one thing they want on a larger group trip, there’s going to be enjoyment. Plus, being with each other for what matters to them can open up new experiences for you, too.
- Withhold judgment and share. While in Nevada, I unwisely brought just one pair of shoes, which were purchased the day before my departure. (I know, I know…) it didn’t take long on day one before I felt uncomfortable. But since I walk a lot, I’m not exactly a stranger to foot issues, so I thought I would keep trucking. But after seeing some blood, I decided I didn’t want to aggravate things further and I wanted to continue walking. When I told my travel buddy that I had some pain, the reaction I received was totally compassionate. There was no “how could you be this stupid?” Instead, we just went shopping and I bought something to help ease that pressure, so I could carry on and that was the end of that. On day two, we had a whole separate adventure trying to find lunch. Nothing was open and when we did find something, there really weren’t any vegan options, which was important to my travel partner. In hindsight, we were both tired and hungry from our search, but we laughed about it even as it was happening, which is kind of awesome. That said, I suppose someone in my position could’ve also turned this into an opportunity to lack compassion with the person who had more specific needs. But at the risk of sounding like a musketeer, I believe that if we travel together, we’re having lunch together (if we’re both hungry). The idea of one person selfishly indulging in a whole menu to choose from while one person gets one thing they’re forced to order is so inequitable – and for whatever reason, it just makes me feel sad. So I’d rather go longer without food until we both can find something suitable. And in the grand scheme of things, these are both just little gestures that remind the other person they count. Spending an hour in a store to make an unexpected purchase so the person you’re with can ease some pain and walk comfortably isn’t a problem if you roll with it. Likewise, going on a longer stroll to find a meal that both people will feel justified paying for isn’t an inconvenience, either – you won’t starve, I promise. Plus, these types of strange mazes and unexpected turns on trips can actually lead to pretty fun stories and even some sweet bonding moments if you can accept them as such and find humour – not to mention, they serve as reminders that where there’s a will, there’s a way, and you can figure challenges out together if you don’t freak out and get a bad attitude.
- Have space. Okay, so musketeer motto aside, I think it’s healthy to have alone time. In Montréal, I decided to laze in the hotel room a little longer one morning while everyone else went for breakfast. I wasn’t really hungry anyway and just needed some me-time. In Vegas, while at work, I did my own thing and my travel buddy got to explore and do things solo, too, which I know is always crucial on their list. In both cases, the absence made us all look forward to reuniting again (I assume) and if you value your own space, it’s a great way of creating moments to reflect, process, and venture off in different ways. In my own case, I was able to have lunch with some really kind ladies from Boston and I enjoyed chatting with a couple of guys from Arkansas, New Jersey, and Vermont – all while checking out the University of Nevada.
- Take turns. On both trips, I paid for some things and the people I was with paid for other stuff. We didn’t keep a running tally or anything; we just tried to be considerate. Travelling can be expensive. It’s nice to be treated, but if you are an adult, there should be something within your means you can offer.
- Just be nice! In Vegas, my travel companion surprised me with sushi reservations (one of my favourites) on our final night and that small gesture really meant a lot to me. I mean, sushi is life. Also, at a slot machine, they won a little bit of money and when I said, “I’m so happy you won”, I was very quickly reminded that “we won”. Now for the record, I’m big enough to admit that on the simple technicality of whose money was inserted into the machine – I was not the actual winner. But I loved the generous spirit and attitude nonetheless. How can you not feel special? On my end, I decided to spring for some Cirque du Soleil tickets in Vegas* (because how can you not?!) – and while in Montréal, I volunteered to be the “couple photographer” for my brother and his girlfriend who were in the group. I think that being nice and showing gratitude when someone else is nice to you will always be in style.
All in all, I think my biggest takeaway from travelling with other humans is to just let go. It’s fun to be silly. Especially while in Vegas, I don’t think I used my brain at all and that was glorious. It’s refreshing to be at ease, and to make memories with people who you care about, so if all else fails, just remember that you’re hopefully with someone you trust. And on that note, I guess leading up to the trip, it’s nice to cultivate an authentic connection with the person or people you’ll be with. I think part of why I didn’t worry about anyone seeing me in a new light was because I feel as if I generally am fairly honest about who I am. Similarly, I didn’t fret about not liking anyone I travelled with because I also felt like I had a good idea about them, too. So, keep it real and really amazing experiences will uncover themselves to you. So, bring it on, universe – I’m excited to see what new place or getaway is waiting to present itself to me next.
*A little pro tip I realized now about Cirque tickets is that hotels sometimes have a promo code to give you a nice discount! I purchased my tickets in advance to get good seats, so I missed this. But if you plan to see a live event that’s popular in the area, I now see that contacting the hotel beforehand to ask if they have deals may be a good idea. Learn from me and save a few bucks while still getting great seats!