Normally, on a group trip, you might meet one or two people who end up being friends – but on Flash Pack’s trip to Colombia last year, I met a group of six other travelers who’ve ended up as firm fixtures in my life.
The funny thing is, I didn’t go into the adventure with the intention of building long-distance friendships. I just wanted some fun people to share a few laughs with as we explored a new country together.
I also see myself as quite a shy person, although everyone I met in Colombia told me how outgoing I was. I guess I was making more of an effort to speak to people because of the nature of our group setup.
The seven of us just ended up bonding
I met “the cartel”, as we call ourselves on WhatsApp, before the trip even officially began. Vicki, Marcus, Lydia, Clare, Rae, Alexa and I all arrived in Bogotá early on flights from Europe. I think we were lucky in that we were all at a similar age, most of us were from London or knew it well, and things felt comfortable from the get-go. We banded together to explore the city, and everything between us just flowed.
We got on with the wider group when we met them, too. We were all together most of the time and we connected throughout the trip. But the seven of us just ended up bonding a little more over things, like doing a cycling tour in the Caribbean city of Cartagena in 35°C heat. It was an experience, to say the least.
All three cities on the trip – Bogotá, Cartagena and Medellín – were very different, but Medellín was my favourite. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring”, it has a charm of its own. It’s quite lively and each neighborhood feels distinct from the next.
Within five minutes, four of us had agreed to go on another adventure
It was great to go up into Comuna 13 – which, not so long ago, was one of the world’s most dangerous areas – to meet women from a local social enterprize, led by the activist Paola Rivas. We had an amazing lunch – probably one of the best meals we had on the trip – topped off with some cooking demonstrations, and some more info about what Paola and her supporters do to change lives in the community.
Then towards the end of our time together, someone in our group mentioned about King’s Day celebrations in Amsterdam. I said I loved the idea of it, and within five minutes, four of us had agreed to go and booked our tickets.
It was almost alarming how quickly it happened. With my friends back home, it can be a huge hassle to choose dates and get people’s diaries sorted. That frustration of wanting to just go somewhere and travel without endless negotiations was part of the reason I opted for Flash Pack in the first place.
We’ve been to Amsterdam, Croatia and London together
But in Colombia, we had this impromptu group where all of us were free and keen to travel at the same time. We were in the zone to get it done, and so we did.
Since then, our little band of travelers has stuck to the same easy system. Anytime one of us spots a new destination or experience we’d like to try, we drop it into our WhatsApp group. At least three or four of us end up doing a trip together. We all like similar things, plus everyone is quite open. There’s no pressure, though. We just join together as and when we want to and our lives allow.
So far, we’ve been to Amsterdam, Croatia and shared London weekends together. Just recently, we split into two; three of us went to Miami for the Grand Prix, while four others, including me, went to the south of France for 10 days of pool time, wine tasting and mooching around small provençal towns.
We don’t have outside commitments like partners or kids
Three of us also joined another Flash Pack trip to Cuba. Because we knew each other and we knew the dynamic, we made sure to spread out – we weren’t constantly together as a trio. But it was nice to know we could grab the odd few hours together. We also extended the trip afterwards, with a few extra days in Cancún, Mexico.
It also helps that all seven of us are in the same boat. We don’t have outside commitments in the shape of partners or kids. So we have a bit more freedom to be able to get up and go; if we spot a trip we like, we book it right there and then.
Sometimes life does get in the way but a few of us will usually be free for any one vacation. We’re constantly throwing around new ideas. At the moment, we have our eye on the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. We’re also thinking about hiring a chalet together to go skiing. None of us can actually ski but we’d love to learn.
What we have with our group of seven is quite unique
I’m also planning to go home to India where my parents live. I’ve already dropped a message into our group chat about it; one of the girls might come with me and we’ll do a bit of traveling.
We had a lot of laughs in Cuba, especially on salsa night, but the vibe was different from Colombia. It made me realize how rare it is to have met six other people you want to hang out with all at once. What we have with our group of seven is quite unique. We found something easy and natural in one another and our love of travel and it’s all grown from there.
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Images: courtesy of Amrita Langbour and Flash Pack