Most of my friends from home are married and have children. Quite rightly, they want to go on vacation with their families and I respect that. But I got to a point in my mid-30s where I really wanted to travel but I had to look for new people to go with.
I’d never tried a group adventure before but I’d heard of Flash Pack through friends and decided to take the leap and book a trip to Brazil. I was nervous, but I kept reminding myself that others on the trip in their 30s and 40s would probably have the same mindset of wanting to share an adventure together.
We were all introduced on WhatsApp before the trip began. For about a week, it was total silence, then one of the men shared a funny gif saying, “It’s quiet in here…” That broke the ice and the conversation snowballed from there.
In my mid-30s, I was looking for new people to travel with
From that chat, I realized I would be on the same flight as four other people. We were flying out early, so arranged to meet at the airport beforehand. I was a little hesitant as I thought it could be awkward to be cooped up together on a nine-hour flight.
In reality, it was great. By some fluke, my Flash Pack roommate Amanda had booked seats right next to me at the back of the plane. When she fired up her tablet mid-flight, I realized she was drawn to the same TV as me.
I wish I could say it was high-brow but it was things like Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father. I remember thinking we liked the same stuff and could actually be friends.
The next morning in our hotel in Rio, our larger group started to assemble. We were all in holiday mode and having so much fun at our breakfast table, we were told to quieten down by the people around us.
We were laughing so much, people told us to quieten down
I think silly things like that gel you together. From there, we spent the rest of the day at the rooftop pool. Then at sunset, the trip officially began as we learnt to make caipirinha cocktails overlooking the city.
From the outset, all 12 of us really got on. We were so like-minded and had such a laugh together, as we beach- and island-hopped our way around Brazil. Even though we were relative strangers, it felt like we’d known each other for ages. Like true friends, we weren’t self-conscious: we accepted one another for who we were.
On the minibus, we naturally made the effort to rotate and chat to different people for each new leg of the journey. At one point in the trip, I lost my debit card – and could have been totally stranded – but everyone reacted like a friend would. They lent me money without question, saying, “We can sort it when we get home.”
We all share an appetite for new experiences
I hit it off particularly well with five other girls – Amanda, Sandra, Jo, Tamsin and Jemma. We were all in a similar situation, in that most of our friends back home had other commitments with partners or families, or were mates with people who weren’t interested in going on big adventures and had different priorities. We all shared this appetite for new experiences and wanted to see what the world had to offer.
That paved the way for our own trips after the Brazil one ended. Our sub group of six planned holidays together from Costa Rica and Argentina to Tanzania. We don’t all go everywhere together, but we do always have our next catch-up planned.
When we fancy traveling somewhere new, we post it in the chat and whoever can make it turns up. We meet up regularly for shows, meals and nights out together and we’ve stayed in touch with the wider group from our original trip, as well. We often share pictures of caipirinha cocktails we come across in bars around the world, as a nod to our first night together in Rio.
We were able to celebrate big life moments together
In fact, I was in Costa Rica with some of the girls when the pandemic started. Soon after, we were back home in lockdown and that’s when our group of six started having regular FaceTime calls.
No one had an easy time during Covid. Many of my friends were frustrated because their husbands were annoying them or they were fed up with homeschooling. I could empathize but I didn’t know fully how it was for them; just as they couldn’t know what it was like to live alone and not be able to go out, or even be around other people.
Four of the Flash Pack girls also lived alone during Covid, so they knew exactly how I was feeling. It really helped to be able to chat to them. We all went through quite significant changes during that time: starting new jobs, studying for an MBA, moving house, getting engaged… We were able to celebrate these big life moments together.
Group travel? I’d say, go for it – throw yourself in
When I think back on the adventures we’ve shared, I’m so happy about the friendships we’ve created out of them. We’ve all been willing to make the effort, stay in touch, support one another and travel to different places together. All that started in Brazil.
If anyone is thinking of doing a group travel trip, I would say go for it – throw yourself in. I was worried about being lumbered with people I wouldn’t get on with but it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I met these amazing people and I went to an amazing place. It was just 10 days of my life but it’s given me so much back in return.
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Images: courtesy of Laura Adams