Yes, I’ve cried on friends’ shoulders, shared laughs, graduated, shopped, worked, participated in weddings…the normal life stuff. But ten years ago I never would have anticipated that I would be crossing Europe with my friends, and it would be thanks to them that I can experience Europe in a way that far and away surpasses your average tourist experience.
I’ve lived in Bologna, Italy, for three years, which is a big university town. Here I have been lucky to meet people from all over the world. Among my best friends are a Russian and a Serbian, and between the two of them we have heard a lot of Cold War and Bill Clinton jokes, which I am more than willing to suffer in exchange for the unique opportunity to see the world through their eyes once in a while. And even the Italians that I am drawn to seem to have the traveling spirit and have spread all over Europe.
So, luckily, I seem to have a friend wherever I want to go. And my mission is to take advantage of this as much as possible. In the last month I have been to Austria, Germany, and within Italy I have visited Venice, Treviso, Cassano D’Adda, Dozza, and Rome. Exhausting, but awesome.
My friends have brought me to these cities in different capacities – as tourists themselves, companions, hosts…and each trip was a pleasure. I have the karma gods to thank for this, because, well, let’s face it. Traveling with friends can be overwhelmingly awful as often as it can be wonderful. I’ve had my share of the awful – from my friend loosing his pre-paid credit card on the way to our vacation in Stockholm, leaving me to underwrite his trip. Or the evening a friend and I chose different adventures for the night, and thinking he would get home before me, he took the keys to our shared apartment from my purse without telling me, and never arrived at home, leaving me to search for an available hotel room in the wee hours of the night on foot in Hamburg, Germany.
But, despite my past challenges, I can still whole-heartedly recommend traveling with friends. The lighthearted, more outward focused energy between friends usually leaves us more emotionally open to meeting people during our adventures, which I believe is the true spirit of traveling. Traveling with friends can be a nice break from traveling with your family or significant other in that it allows you to escape the normal role you play within your family unit. And when you visit friends in their cities, you couldn’t ask for a better way to experience a new city.
I only hope you can learn from my utter failures and keep in mind a few of my tips: Try to travel with friends that have at least an equal amount of travel experience as you, and friends that you have traveled with before (at least a little bit) – i.e. don’t go to East Africa with someone you’ve never even left your own city with. The more they love to travel, the better. And if you aren’t completely flexible in every way along with your friend(s), the more you have in common economically, habitually, and with your goals/interests, the less conflicts you will have. Which, in the end, I guess is just basic logic.
Logic?? What’s that???
Stay tuned for my series of posts about my trips this month with my fabu friends. And the pics!! Oh, the pics. Several thousand of them. But don’t worry, they’ll be edited. 🙂