Personal · Travel Tales

What it’s Like to Travel with Friends

At Guyam Island, near Siargao
At Guyam Island, near Siargao

A lot of bloggers talk about the virtues of solo travel. I did not have such a concept before I got into backpacking; then and until now, I usually travel with friends and family, whether in big groups or small ones. I’ve experienced traveling with one friend in Cambodia and 14 in Palawan!

Traveling with friends is quite an experience apart from seeing them in more comfortable situations as the office (in my case, the school faculty room) or the regular coffee shop we hang out in. Traveling with them is a special kind of journey, and as in life, I have them as companions.

Even as we start travel planning, certain aspects of our personalities would surface, and often we realize that our personalities run from one extreme to another. One would be afraid of heights and/or swimming, and another would go bungee jumping in a heartbeat. One would be too frugal to spend even on budget airfare; another would rather spend on the comfort of a fluffy hotel bed or a rented van. One would want to organize every minute detail of the trip; many would rather find out where they’re going when they’re at the destination and make decisions from there.

Bangui
Bangui, Ilocos Norte

When we travel, we find out who takes too many selfies and who cannot leave a place without having a mini-photoshoot. We find out who brings a lot of clothes, plus an iron curler, in a backpacking adventure. We find out the one or two who’ll not join us on drinking night while the rest of us take drunken photos of each other. We find out who among us has the shortest fuse and who can laugh off any obstacle. I find out who can last a whole day of walking in 39-degree heat and who can’t.

There are more things to discover in the hostel or guest house. One of the men would clog up the sink with the remains of his two-week-old facial hair. One or two would repack or choose her clothes veeery slowly. A few would wake me up at night with their snores. Several would borrow toiletries from others.

Starfish Island, Honda Bay, Palawan
Starfish Island, Honda Bay, Palawan

We also realize that we have individual roles we unconsciously fulfill. There’s the researcher (usually me) who’ll give us a budget estimate and itinerary. There’s the friend who’ll compute our actual expenses to the last detail. There’s the “public relations” guy who’ll ask around when the rest of us are too shy to approach strangers. There are those who’ll provide entertainment in the form of song or dance. Then there are those whose single, meaningful look is an alert: “Cute guy up ahead!”

We even had our pics taken with the kids, who were apparently taking a break. SO CUTE.
A school on Tonle Sap lake in Siem Reap, Cambodia

And then there are discoveries: about them, about myself. I figure out after a while that I am not as strong as I’d thought I was. I realize my physical and emotional weaknesses. And yet, my friends are there. When I slip on mud during a challenging mountain climb, the same friend who’d brought a hair curler in an earlier trip would now pull me up even with a very heavy load on her back. When I start getting frustrated about a minor incident, another would nudge me and tell me to let go of such small burdens. When I couldn’t stand up on my surfboard, my friends would cheer me on from the shore amidst a sudden downpour. We learn each other’s secrets, sometimes unwittingly, and we might even hurt each other in the process. But as we reach our destination, we start letting go of the hurt and understand that the journey is half as enjoyable — and even bearable — without them.

The journey ends as we go back to our homes. We post our pictures on Facebook and change our profile pictures. The anticipation of another journey with each other comes soon after. I stamp down fears that the next one might not come at all. But the journey has forged a bond that are most apparent in pictures of frozen moments, and in smiles and laughter that suddenly arrive with shared memories over coffee.

I love traveling with my friends. They remind me that I am never alone.

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