Apparently divorce rates are highest in January and September, so perhaps the only thing more dangerous to the status quo of a relationship than Christmas is a summer holiday. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – travelling together can be an incredible test of a relationship, it can bring you closer together or of course, it can mean losing a friend, lover or even a family member. Some would argue that if that’s the case, “they weren’t that good a friend to begin with”. Maybe they’re right, but for me I think the problem is that we can expect too much. The vision of the perfect holiday is the same as the vision of the perfect Christmas; great food, lots of fun together, relaxing, laughing, and of course the perfect gifts. And how many of us have actually experienced that? And I think we all know that it’s not through lack of effort – it’s just that we all have a slightly different vision of the perfect holiday.
Over the last few years I’ve travelled with my lover, my sister, several good friends, by myself, with a large group who I didn’t know at all beforehand but who shared a common interest in surfing, with my mother and brother and with my whole family several times – and each of those trips has had amazing moments and also moments when I’ve thought “was this really a good idea?”
There are times travelling with a lover when I’ve felt more alone than if I had been by myself. I’ve felt safer walking around Marrakech by myself than I did with two other girls. I’ve had moments of being able to open up spiritually and have a good cry on a deserted beach, when down the other end of it thirty people would share lunch with me. And I believe that each of those trips has taught me so much, not just about other people, but about myself.
If we were all emotionally and spiritually well developed we could “not sweat the small stuff” but on holiday, for some the high point of the year, not only are our expectations naturally higher, but we also have to deal with being outside our comfort zone, and sometimes the challenges of having our basic needs met can raise stress levels – whether it’s getting some sleep, something to eat, or finding somewhere to go to the toilet. All things that can make us lose our cool.
And I’ve been a nightmare. I’ve had a go at my boyfriend because he didn’t thank me for paying for our coffees in a café in New York, before realising later that day that he did a hundred things without me thanking him. I’ve taken over a relaxed backpacking holiday and insisted we stay in a 4 star hotel – giving my friend the choice of which of two nearly identical hotels we stayed in. I’ve burst into tears in a B&B in York because the bed was so uncomfortable, changed rooms three times and refused to take my clothes off – on what was meant to be a romantic break. I’ve got up at 5 or 6am to go off for a walk by myself while a friend was still sleeping and then complained how tired I was later (this is quite common.) I’ve sulked behind a book like a teenager when my mum was trying chat with me – in my late 20s. I’ve snarled at girls in a group in Morocco because I thought they had used the last of the hot water, and fought with a girl over a Twix when both our blood sugars were low (we apologised later.) Oh yes, the blood sugar thing; I’ve stropped in Barcelona airport because everything was white bread sandwiches and I wasn’t going to eat that crap, I’ve stubbornly insisted that my boyfriend order breakfast in Paris (even though I speak French) before giving in and sulking for the entire meal, texted my sister that I was about to eat him when I had to wait half an hour for a pasty in the Peak District, and been a little bit afraid that a friend of mine was going to eat me when we couldn’t find anything to eat in the tiny city of St David’s in Wales. So yes, for me the very first, most important step to loving my fellow travellers on holiday is to take snacks. After the almost eating of my boyfriend in the Peak District we went straight to the supermarket and stocked up on Babybels, and packets of peanuts – and after Barcelona I now carry trekking bars wherever I go, yes I have a Nak’d snack bar in my handbag at all times. My niece is exactly the same – whenever she starts being fractious and refusing to get dressed I take her to the kitchen and stuff a bit of cheese in her mouth – 3 seconds later and she is sweetness again.
But it’s not all about the snacks. I’ve also argued about money, about which restaurant to eat in, about having to wait around for other people to get ready, and a million other little things.
Take travelling with my mum – she stresses about things, so to compensate I over-relax. When I would normally be cautious I am all super cool to the point that I have lost her boarding pass, spilled coffee all over myself as we run to get a car on a ferry – yup, and then I am annoyed at both myself and her. It’s not her fault, but I am sure she wonders how I manage to do all these big trips when I seem to be so hopeless around her. It is very hard to “just be yourself” on holiday sometimes, either because we are trying to be like the people we are with, or because we back up, regressing into teenagers or, like me, the bossy big sister I once was – or just the opposite of whatever our travelling companions are. We think they are drinking too much, we become abstemious, we think they are being too loud, we get quieter, we think they are being boring, we decide to do something dangerous instead of just relaxing and letting them beFree Web Content, and letting ourselves be. So a great tip for a great holiday… just be yourself.