Hitting your 30s can be great, but it can also herald in an unnerving time of change. Friendship groups splinter and reform under the guise of weddings, mortgages and babies. If you’re not meeting milestones constructed by society, there’s potential for feeling isolated or left behind. This, despite the fact that opting for a lifestyle that breaks the norms can often come with more autonomy, freedom and time.
That’s the space Flash Pack co-founder Radha Vyas found herself in when she cast around for someone to join her on a trip to Cambodia a decade ago. “I was single, in my 30s, completely tired of my job and desperate for a vacation,” she recalls. “I racked my brain and my Facebook account but the reality slowly sunk in – I had no one to travel with. All my friends were busy booking holidays with their children or new partners.”
Radha is far from alone in feeling the way that she did
Radha eventually joined a group tour, but everyone was much younger than her. She felt her single status stood out for all the ‘wrong’ reasons. An ice-breaker session where everyone introduced themselves was a particular sticking point. “I felt like I had to declare that I was 32,” she says.
Radha is far from alone in feeling the way that she did. In the last decade, the number of people living alone in the UK has risen by 8.3%, in a scene mirrored by the US and Japan. A study from Eharmony shows that 61% of single people value their independence the most, while 45% like the time it carves out to focus on themselves. Yet still, we often find ourselves measured to a conditioned script of ‘settling down’ (whatever that means) and finding peace and social acceptance only once this happens.
Being single isn’t the defining characteristic of Flash Pack or its travelers
What we see on Facebook or Instagram is a microcosm of our attitudes at large. As a demographic, single people are often overlooked, or regarded as a little lost or lacking in life purpose. It’s not true, of course. Single people may or may not have purpose, but either way, it’s not a reflection of their relationship status. If anything, being alone can give greater outlet for self-growth and reflection.
Radha and her co-founder Lee Thompson set up Flash Pack because they wanted to cater for people like themselves, who had – going into their 30s – felt marooned by a cultural dialogue around singledom.
That being said, being single isn’t the defining characteristic of Flash Pack or its travelers. Instead, Flash Pack creates a space for people who recognize the value of independence. We acknowledge that there is more to life than the social construct of getting married and having kids. We understand that, while a thirst for adventure might get more upscale as you get older (hence our boutique edge), it certainly doesn’t disappear.
Travelers come away on a high
Group travel has traditionally had some negative connotations around it. And yet, it is the one element that people on Flash Pack trips rave about, above all else. “I was worried about awkward small talk, but they were such a lovely bunch of people and I made lifelong friends,” is the gist of many a Flash Pack review (helped, no doubt, by the kindness policy).
Like being single itself, it seems the concept of traveling with strangers is coated in myth. We imagine it to be claustrophobic or slightly sad, when the reality is that it can be incredibly empowering. Travelers come away on a high, having met and bonded with other professional 30-40 somethings in the same life stage as them. They’re happy not only to have re-tapped the delight of meeting new people (something often bypassed in our day-to-day lives), but also to have done so with strangers who share their values.
When you’re surrounded by the same colleagues, friends or family every day, it can be easy to be influenced by their understanding of what’s ‘normal’. And this might well follow the tired old narrative that being single is not ideal. Traveling with like-minded strangers has been a wake-up call for many, including Radha, seeing that the ‘poor singles’ cliché is palpably untrue.
You have the security and moral support of your crew
Being single is not some Utopian state. It’s not any better than coupledom. But, crucially, it’s not any worse, either. As Alain de Botton notes in The Art of Travel, “Our responses to the world are moulded by the company we keep, for we temper our curiosity to fit in with the expectations of others.”
When you set sail with a group of strangers, you’re not totally on your own. You have the security and moral support of your crew. Yet you’re free from the expectations that normally frame you. You’re at liberty to do and be who you like.
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Images: Flash Pack