Vegas #5: Travel in Packs

How well do you travel in groups? What conflicts have you experienced in group travel? What’s the ideal number of people to travel with?

When I’m dating someone new, I consider the first road trip or flight together a good test for how the relationship is going. It’s a great way to see someone else out of their element, and it’s a good way for me to view myself at my most vulnerable. I’m the most at peace at home. But when I’m traveling, I’m anxious. Anxious about safety, about staying on schedule, about being in the right place. With all that going on, am I still kind to my female companion? Or do I let those foreign elements get the better of me?

Traveling in groups is another matter. I remember when I first arrived in Japan my junior year. All of us Americans traveled in a giant herd down to the streets of Kyoto. After we ate dinner, there was this monumental indecision. It’s nearly impossible to come to a consensus as to what activity to do in a group of people where no one knows anyone else. After a while, I realized that it didn’t matter what we did–we were in Japan, so everything was new and different, so the end goal of any activity was to get to know each other better. I raised my voice, starting backing away from the group as if to leave, and said, “Okay, I’m going to go bowling–who’s with me?” The worst case scenario was that no one would join me, in which case I could meet actual Japanese people. But a bunch of people joined me. People latch onto conviction in the face of indecision.

I'm the one taking the photo.

There were ten of us in Vegas, 7 guys and 3 girls. 10 is a big group for meals. It’s tough to find 10 chairs together by the pool. In a city like Vegas where there are a million things to do at all times–Russian hookers! Street racing! Sod laying classes!–it’s tough to figure out what everyone wants to do.

For the most part, it worked out fine, mainly because we didn’t try to reach a group consensus. And when there was a group movement to do something, there were compromises for the sake of hanging out with old friends (for example, I wasn’t a big fan of dishing out $45 for a buffet–I’m not good at stuffing myself silly. But I did it anyone, because I was there to be with my friends).

I think communication helps too. After the draft on Saturday, there was a weird moment when 5 people just decided to go to In & Out Burger. They kind of just took off without saying a word, leaving the 5 of us standing around confused. We could have easily gone to In & Out together–I, for one, really wanted to try it. But everything just happened so quickly that when I came to, I had a beer in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other.

Two years ago I traveled across Wales and England with a girlfriend and two friends. That group size and dynamic seemed to work quite well, especially since we all had a “go where the wind takes us” kind of attitude (we traveled via zeppelin). I think that’s a key when traveling. If you’re in a huge group, find the people who share your attitude about traveling and stick with them. In a small group, you have to make sure everyone’s on the same page. If there’s one of those annoying people who absolutely has to take photos of every important monument ever, well, I can’t travel with you. I’d rather spend my afternoon strolling through the 37 bookstores in the tiny town of Hay on Wye, timidly chatting with the locals and discovering 150-year-old hollow books (true story…I bought one), than rushing across the country to capture forgettable moments in front of ancient structures. (The exception for me: Stonehenge. Photos simply don’t do it justice. You have to go there and soak in the gravitas of that amazing achievement.)

Do you travel well in groups? Do you have any disastrous group travel stories to share?