In 2011, I had to make a decision. I was planning for a graduation trip, and had to decide between heading to Taiwan with my friends, or returning back to India. I love India. The people, the chaos, the smiles and the stories. I had been there in 2009 and I always wanted to return. I wanted to visit old friends in Delhi, and new places like Kashmir and Ladakh in the North.
But I had been asked by some friends if I would like to go to Taiwan. To be honest, nothing about Taiwan attracted me at that time. I wasn’t the shopping type of person, and didn’t know at that moment, how tasty and cheap Taiwanese bubble teas could be. But I chose Taiwan eventually because of my friends, albeit quite reluctantly.
And I enjoyed myself. Quite thoroughly, until I lost track of the names of places we had been to. I also discovered the pleasure and convenience of having friends who are able to navigate around places (and do all the planning). But quite unexpectedly, it was the small things that I remembered until today. For instance, queuing up every morning for Mee Sua (a kind of thin, soft rice noodle) at Xi Men Ding in Taipei, Friend H restricting me from drinking more than 1 bubble tea a day, taking a motorised bicycle that almost ran out of battery in Kenting, and most epic-ly, the discovery of a X-rated channel in one of our hotel rooms in Taiwan.
And I thought to myself, at the age of 40, will I still be travelling with my friends? Can we still be drinking bubble tea, eating fried golden mushrooms at markets and taking motorised bicycles along Taiwanese highways? Or will there be kids, job responsibilities and in-laws to attend to…
Going to interesting places is a must – I never forget my dreams of wanting to visit the pyramids and sphinx in Egypt, seeing Macchu Pinchu with my very own eyes and going on safari tours in South Africa. But when I can, and when the opportunity allows for me to travel with friends that are worth it, I’ll jump on it in a second. It isn’t always a bed of roses, when each person has different budgets, things they want to get out from the trip and air-conditioned requirements – there’s lots of compromise involved.
But here are eight compelling reasons to stop travelling alone and start travelling with friends, and it isn’t always about convenience.
1. Travel with friends because there is safety in numbers.
That is some truth to this, especially in developing countries. In India, I had the opportunity to travel alone and with friends. With friends, you get a nice, reassuring feeling because you know that when shit happens, you can always face it together. Travelling with guys is a plus, especially with those who work out on a regular basis, as they seem to be quite capable of throwing hefty punches at potential baddies.
2. Travel with friends because they will be there for you, for better or for worse.
It’s true. Be it a friend to help you ward off that persistent tour salesmen, or buy breakfast for you when you’re ill, that’s what friends are for. Friends could also act as a good wingman/ wingwoman, and help you get your “act” together.
3. Travel with friends because they will be there to help carry your excessive shopping.
It’s true. Especially if you’re travelling with guys. In my knowledge, guys make very good packers and lean shoppers. So if you’re absolutely having problems trying to zip up that luggage, seek your guy friend’s help. Most of the time he’d have no choice but to help you, in the interest of time (and catching that plane). If you have gentlemanly guy friends, some would even offer to carry your luggage up the steps.
4. Travel with friends because if you’re crazy, there will be someone to limit your craziness. If you’re the more reserved sort, there’s someone to help you loosen up.
It’s always more fun hanging out at clubs or bars with friends, be it in your home country, or overseas. Even if you have to be the one holding your friend’s hair while she pukes, it’s still better than heading to a club all by yourself. Friends are your good conscience, which stops you from bingeing on that ever so cheap whiskey or bubble tea, and save you from the consequence of a flabby tummy and hangover. Vice-versa – with cool friends, even the most reserved will find themselves letting their hair down.
5. Travel with friends because there’s never a better way to get to know them.
I had been friends with Friend L for more than 10 years, and it was only during our trip to Lake Toba, did I find out that she doesn’t like sharing food with people, and she’s quite a “discerning” eater. In other words, she does not eat these foods, namely tomatoes, toufu, bread and pineapple, among other things. Which was to my benefit, because I had a whole Sumatran pineapple to myself. It was the loveliest and juiciest pineapple I had ever eaten.
It might be just me, but it seems like my friends tend to open up more when overseas. Against the backdrop of the calm lake and Sumatran mountains, or during the never-ending Trans Siberian train ride, I think it’s easier to have a deep conversation than over a rushed weekday lunch or dinner.
6. Travel with friends because the happy memories, about the smallest things will make you laugh, even after some years.
It’s been 3 years since our last trip to Taiwan, and there are some aspects of the trip we’d never forget. For instance, the shock (and perhaps surprise for some) when we found a Taiwanese X-rated channel in our hotel, or when my Friend K got followed by a sheep after he tried making sheep-like sounds. And how I had enjoyed my makeshift bed on the window ledge. (Long story).
7. Travel with your friends when you can, because there may not be such an opportunity ever again.
It’s true, as we grow older and take on more responsibilities at our jobs, families and have kids. Did you hear your Mom saying she will be going on a holiday with her university friends when you were growing up? That would be unthinkable. Sometimes, things are not within our control. But when they are, and if your schedules happened to be aligned, make the effort and go on a trip together. It will be more than fun, I can assure you.
8. Travel with friends, because the company matters more than the place.
When I’m 70 years old sitting in my armchair reading a book, I may remember vaguely the beauty of the Kashmiri mountains through some old pictures. But I’ll think of the loneliness and cold that came along with it and chuckle at my gung-ho ness at that time. I don’t think I’d remember the number of stamps on my 10 passports. Rather, it’s the pictures taken with friends, doing things together that is going to put a smile on that wrinkled face of mine.
What do you think? Is the company more important than the place?