It’s in my nature to be curious about new people and environments. I come from a Middle Eastern background but my first language is English and I now live in Dallas, Texas, where I work remotely as a cybersecurity expert.
I’m an avid traveller – I’ve visited over 30 countries – and Flash Pack’s trip to Turkey stood out to me because of its emphasis on a community of like-minded professionals in their 30s and 40s. I thought, “Let me meet people around the same life stages as me, and see where we can relate.”
Your new travel companions are your support group
It ended up being one of my all-time favourite destinations. I loved the ability to take part in comfort-stretching experiences such as a sunrise hot air balloon ride, or doing donuts on an ATV tour in the Mars-like landscape of Cappadocia.
But really, it was the people who made the trip for me. Turkish hospitality is incredible and our Pack Leader, Sefa, went above and beyond in making sure we all felt at home. Our group dynamic was incredible, too; everyone was so warm and friendly. Here’s my advice to other travellers looking to connect and embrace the Flash Pack vibe:
Look for ways to help one another
When you join a trip alone – away from your friends, family or significant other – you have to lean into a spirit of sharing and cooperation. Your new travel companions are your support group for the week; you’re all in it together. This could be as simple as saying something like, “Can I sit next to you? Tell me a little bit about you.”
For me, this attitude was evident even before I arrived in Turkey. My flight from Dallas to Chicago got delayed. When he heard about it on our WhatsApp chat, another person on the trip called Eddie – whom I hadn’t met at that point – offered to share his business lounge access with me.
When I finally arrived in the Turkish city of Izmir, my luggage had got lost, too. Right away, another Flashpacker – Christina – said, “Here are my clothes if you need to borrow shorts and a t-shirt.” It was so nice. I thought, “Are all the men and women who travel with Flash Pack this generous? If so, I can’t wait to do it again.”
Adopt an attitude of openness
Right off the bat, our group had this core sense of trust. I never felt like I needed to be guarded or watch my back. That’s partly because we shared this spirit of generosity. But it was also about an ability to be open, and meet people on their own terms.
Be the most honest version of yourself
When it comes to a group trip, everyone will have different personalities and perspectives. Some people are extroverted and social, others are more cautious or even shy. In order to foster a connection together, it’s great if you arrive just as you are – and communicate how you’re feeling.
If you haven’t travelled much before, or you’re feeling nervous about the group dynamics, go ahead and own that. Be the most honest version of yourself. Doing so will help break the ice and you’ll very likely discover that there are other people who feel the same way.
Be present and flexible
In my daily life, I like to be very proactive and efficient. But when it comes to group travel, I try to be more laid-back and just go with the flow. When you travel in a group and have to make new friends, you’re forced out of your comfort zone. You have to adapt to things like the schedule, food or certain activities. And so by doing that, your mind is not in that constant stream of, ‘Today is Wednesday, I have a meeting coming up and this errand to do.’
You go from being task-orientated to being adventure-orientated. And that transition means you can be more present with the people around you, with the capacity to share deeper conversations. Saying that, it’s worth being honest with yourself when you just need time alone to recharge. I’m quite outgoing but some people don’t want to talk as much, or they take longer to open up. So, adaptability is key.
Take time to hear people’s stories
While there’ll always be one or two people you really click with, I think it’s important to make an effort to get to know everyone in your group. I took time to ask a lot of questions and really get to know others on my Turkey adventure, because that’s where common ground emerges. Flash Pack encouraged us to do that, too, by suggesting we sit with different people during mealtimes.
Make an effort to get to know everyone
This took us beyond the territory of more general chit-chat to a place where many of us felt vulnerable sharing the big things that we’d been through. During the course of our trip, our group ended up sharing wisdom on everything from egg freezing to relationship breakups, multicultural upbringings, and life after grief. Often, these occurred in quite intimate moments like during a topless Turkish bath (for the women), or the impromptu “Korean sheet mask party” we held on the night of the hot air balloon ride.
Tap the power of connection and friendship
Of course, you won’t just be best friends with someone from sharing a meal, or spending the day together. But if you’re lucky, you’ll create strong ties with a handful of people that you keep in touch with after your trip.
For me, the two people that I bonded with most in Turkey were Christina from Chicago, and Rebecca, who lives in Florida. Still now, we FaceTime and message one another with little reminders of our time together. And we’re already talking about doing another Flash Pack trip together this year.
In American culture, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in your own world; to look at your phone rather than nurture relationships or be part of a community. But I think that, when you join a group trip as a solo traveller, you’re pushed to make this profound human connection. You laugh, make memories and just enjoy being around people who are in a similar stage of life to you – beyond your everyday friends, or the people you work with. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll love every second of the experience.
Amanda Reuter is a Dallas-based cybersecurity expert who travelled with Flash Pack to Turkey.
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