We were more than excited when six of our good friends decided to make a trip to New Zealand at the end of November. We’ve had so many great times both at home and traveling with these friends. The thought of spending two weeks in New Zealand with them six months into our adventure, sounded like a dream come true.
As we prepared for our travels, the group continued to grow and we added three more couples to the expedition. One of the added couples are good friends of ours. However, we didn’t know the other couples very well at all. I have always thought the more the merrier, however, the closer we got to meeting up with the group, the more nervous I got about this leg of the trip.
In all, there were fourteen of us and we would be in three RVs for twelve days. This was a big trip for everyone both in time commitment and expense. As a result, I knew that everyone had a vested interest in our routing, activities and sights. I worried about the schedule, the coordination and the alignment of the group. Coordinating a group of fourteen people over a duration of two weeks would be challenging. I would hate to see anything come between friendships, and not knowing some of the couples, I wasn’t sure what the dynamics of the group would be like.
Additionally, this was a big vacation for our friends. Their budget and expectations were different than ours. We have been attempting to stick to a modest budget which would allow us to travel for our planned duration. How we approached travel over the first six months was very different than how we normally travel and how our friends would undoubtedly travel. My anxieties around our budget and potential spend escalated the closer we got to our arrival in New Zealand, and unfortunately, the stress and worry spilled over into our trip.
Instead of relaxing and enjoying the company of our friends, I found myself detached and a bit stressed out. The financial aspect definitely left me a little high strung. However, I also found the adjustment to a more concrete schedule and the addition of twelve travel companions to be a bit of a culture shock. I had become accustomed to a party of two, with a few “on-a-whim” social interactions for dinner or drinks sprinkled in.
I cannot put my finger on the exact root cause, however I know I was not myself in New Zealand. I struggled to settle in, relax, have fun and just enjoy the company of our friends. It took me nearly a week before I was able to let go of things, settle in, and feel a bit more like myself. Although we still had fun, I almost feel like I lost a week of quality time with our friends.
In some ways this experience and my anxiety about it is a metaphor for life. If you get caught up worrying about all the little things, life is bound to pass you by … which, ironically, is why we made big plans to travel the world in the first place!
This is also an important lesson about long term travel. If you are lucky enough to have people meet you along the way, be sure that you are aligned on your expectations in advance of your trip—both in budget and experiences—to ensure that there are no hard feelings; that friendships remain; and that you don’t miss out on the incredible experiences with your travel companions.