You've spent a lot of time with these people over the last few years. They may know more about you than anyone else in the world so it only makes sense that you take on this big adventure together, right? Travelling with your friends can make a lot of sense for the following reasons:
- Theyre your friends. You know you get on and you know theyve got your back
- This could be the last time you are together before you head off to different Universities or jobs
- You share similar passions and interests (which is why you are friends!) and so will be able to choose activities on a gap year that appeal to all
- It may placate your parents, for them to know that you are with friends, and not travelling alone
- Travelling with other people can cut your costs - a double room is usually cheaper per person than a single, for instance
- Travelling with someone else is much easier from a practical point of view...just things like popping to the loo on a crowded train and knowing that they can keep an eye on your rucksack can be a big deal when you are travelling
- Collaboration: other people bring different skills to to the table, so you might choose to travel with a girlfriend who is great at picking up languages or a mate who makes a mean campfire, while you contribute with some cooking skills.
However, there can be issues travelling with friends, and its good to think them through before they arise:
Falling Out With Friends
"Before you even go away, it is worth thinking through what you might do if you suddenly realise your travelling days together are over."
Travelling with anyone for an extended time means that you risk falling out with each other. However, there is a difference between petty fights where you know everything will be back to normal after a bit of time out, and big fall outs where you realise that you can no longer travel together.
Before you even go away, it is worth thinking through what you might do if you suddenly realise your travelling days together were over. Ask yourself the following questions:
- If you would want to come back, would you have access to money that means you can fly home whenever you want?
- If you were to continue travelling, do you have a plan B that might be an easier option for a person on their own
- Do you have contacts in the countries that you will be visiting that you can call on for a roof over your head and a bit of company. If you dont, www.couchsurfing.com is a good way to meet them
On a slightly less dramatic note, if you find that things have degenerated into petty arguments, as in our article on travelling safely, a travel pact is a sensible idea. Make it a rule that no one gets separated, even after an argument, and commit to keeping each other safe, even if you cant currently stand the sight of each other.
It doesnt always have to be a falling out - plans change, people meet other people and decide to go off somewhere not on the original plan, people fall ill, have accidents...there are many reasons why you might suddenly find yourself travelling alone.
Having a Plan B, along with an emergency fund to get you out of trouble if you do suddenly find yourself travelling solo, means that you will be covered if the worst happens.
Not Doing What You Want
"This really is your chance to indulge in your passion. Take it firmly in both hands as these opportunities are rare."
Youre besotted with animals and your friends want to go and get jobs working in the bars in Ibiza...what do you do? It may be tempting to fall in with the crowd but this really is your chance to indulge in your passion. Take it firmly in both hands as these opportunities are rare. You dont have to abandon your friends altogether as there are always compromises to be made. Can you go on a holiday with them before your trip, visit them during the gap year, or perhaps do something together for a while and then go your own separate ways? That way you can indulge in the Spanish beach culture but also get your chance to work with animals.
If you do go off and join a volunteer programme or go travelling on your own, you will probably only be alone for a short while, as it is easy to make new friends who share the same interest. A gap year can be a great time to discover yourself and what you really want to do and experience, and not just what your friends have on their list. You can break free of your friends, and yet still be friends!
Travelling in a Bubble
This is something many travellers aren't even aware of, but there is a danger in travelling with others that you end up living in a little bubble and hardly interacting with locals or even other travellers. And, whilst this can be comforting, especially if this is your first time doing something like this, it can also end up being claustrophobic and prevent you from really getting the full gap year experience.
"There is a danger in travelling with others that you end up hardly interacting with locals, this can prevent you from really getting the full gap year experience"
The best way to deal with this is to talk this through before hand and find out what everyones expectations are. If a boyfriend or girlfriend is expecting you two to be joined at the hip for the whole experience you may find this unreasonable. Agree how happy everyone is to open up the group,go off on your own for trips and experiences and generally interact.
Some people may find this a challenge at first, even if you dont yourself, but do persevere, as its a great learning process for everyone, and this is what creates treasured memories.
Likewise, joining a planned programme or project is another way to make sure that you interact with others and make new friends...without abandoning the old!
Similar, and yet slightly different to the above, is that everyone needs their own space if relationships are going to thrive long term. Travelling together can result in the feeling like you are living out of each others pockets so it makes sense that everyone does get time on their own, even if it is a few hours a week to read a book, visit the market on your own or go for a run. Don't abandon habits and activities like these for the sake of other people - it will benefit both you and them.