Now that I am home from foreign climes, I have been ruminating on the pleasures and pitfalls of travelling with people other than your family. When I go away with my family I have a pretty clear idea of how it will pan out. Basically, I organise everything, pack everything, clean the house, change the sheets, arrange pet cover and cancel the milk. Then I shout at everyone in the airport, read books to children endlessly on the flight and wait not very patiently whilst we collect the hire car. Then it's over to my husband who generally navigates us, without incident, to our destination. Once there, I unpack ( swimming kit first naturally ) and organise some food and then our holiday can begin. It's generally the same as it is at home once we get established. We are noisy, busy and all get along pretty well.
But when I go away with someone else, it's a whole different world in which I have to tentatively feel my way along to make sure that I don't spoil my companion's trip.
I should point out at this juncture that my companion in Rome is a great person to travel with. We have known each other for 25 years and so have a pretty good grip on each other foibles. We have been away together several times and apart from a fairly explosive disagreement in a tent on the French Riviera concerning hostess trolleys, our holidays have been without incident and I think we have got along just fine.
That is part of the problem though. Although I think it has been fine, what do my companions think? Before I go anywhere, I always worry that I will annoy them or get on their nerves. Will we run out of things to talk about? Will we want the same kind of food at the same kind of time? Will the fact that I am rubbish after about 11 at night be an issue? Do all travellers share these concerns or is it just born of my insecurity I wonder?
Assuming that you are managing to rub along without grating on each other's nerves, then how do you decide what to do next, where to go for lunch, when to stop for coffee. If you are not careful, you can both be so easy going and laid back for fear of taking control that no decisions actually get made. " What shall we do next?" " I'm not bothered. What did you have in mind?" " Well, I'm easy really." You can see how quickly that kind of dithering can breed irritation. It can only work if one of you takes control and that can only work if you know that your buddy really doesn't mind what happens next. Otherwise you have to reach some kind of workable compromise either because you know each other well enough or because not to do so would result in both of you being miserable.
But all of these minor issues pale into insignificance if you decide to go on holiday with another family. As far as I am concerned this is a recipe for disaster. We have some very good friends with delightful offspring but I could no more share my holiday than share my children. It doesn't matter how well you get along at home, the thought of living with someone else's children makes my blood run cold. It's bad enough living with my own! Joking aside though, the issue is that everyone parents their children differently. Things that are strictly forbidden in my house may have a blind eye turned to them in theirs. Annoying little food foibles that I tolerate in my own children could drive others to distraction. And what if you feel the need to reprimand a friend's child? Will that lead to a frosty atmosphere over breakfast? My holidays are far too precious to run the risk of any of these issues spoiling it and so I decided long ago that shared summer holidays might work beautifully for others but are to be avoided by me. I am far too anti social and intolerant.
And now I have no more trips in the offing apart from our family holiday in the summer. But there are lots of places that I would like to visit so if you think you could bear to share a city break with me then just get in touch and we can see if our idiosyncrasies match!