Oh, so you’re touring with strangers. Sounds like fun… Or it definitely can be if you take into account these survival tips.
Research, Research, Research!
Who are these people? Are these people you want to hang out with for days on end? What is the common thread that will hold you together? Who is the tour leader? What feeling do you get from the marketing material? Are there any reviews or testimonials? Do the comments reflect your values and what you want out of your vacation? How long have they been in business? Does the itinerary match your desires? Can you put your faith in this person to deliver what was promised, keep everything together, and make sure you have a good time? Ask questions. Lots of questions. Finally, trust your gut!
Take Care of Yourself
Despite what is going on around you, it’s up to you to take care of you. Nobody knows what you need better than you. Be sure to take care of daily needs like staying hydrated, getting enough rest, taking a break when you need to, eating healthy, and bringing snacks. Pack what you need to be comfortable. If you need personal space, make it. If you need something from the guide or tour director, ask for it. The guide and director are responsible for the group. You are responsible for you.
All this is especially true if you get sick. Traveling is stressful. Foreign bugs are not domestic bugs. They can hit your immune system hard. It happens. When it happens, let someone know. Ask for what you need, and take care of yourself.
It’s common for groups of all sizes to form subgroups. It’s normal to move in and out of the big group to subgroups and dyads. Take advantage of that. Mingle. Having a buddy makes for a personal experience. Having many buddies or larger groups of buddies makes it more interesting.
Trust me. If you’re here, you are meant to be here. If you withhold your true self from the group, you rob them of the chance to know you. You rob yourself of the opportunity to be genuine. Nobody will get the most out of the experience if you are fake or hidden. Now, this doesn’t mean you stop being polite or considerate. I hope you are always that. It just means that if you are funny, serious, kooky, or a bookworm, let your freak flag fly!
That said, be prepared for your “dark side” (whether that is real or just perceived) to come out. After many days together, you’re probably going to clash with someone at some point. If you have been doing good self care, it will just be a bump in the road. Resist the urge to attack, defend, or blame. That will just make things worse. Accept what is yours. Let others have what is theirs and keep on rolling.
No one will happy 100% of the time with 100% of the people or 100% of the decisions. You probably wouldn’t be even if you were the one making all the decisions. Don’t let it get you down. Say yes to some things you wouldn’t normally do. You might be surprised at how much fun you have. On the other hand, don’t be a doormat. You’ll end up resentful and negative, and no one wants that.
Flexibility also extends to the tour guides, itineraries, and things like that. Stuff happens. There may be a railway strike. Your favorite site might be closed for maintenance. You may lose a gift you bought. It could rain. Roll with it. You’re on vacation. You have the power to make it good or bad just by deciding how you want to view it. Why not make it all good?
Take Some Down Time
Everyone needs time alone to recharge. Even extroverts. Take it. We all understand. We’ve been there. If you just want to read a book, catch up on some sleep, or eat a meal without twenty other people, do it. It’s cool. You’ll feel better. The group will vibe better.
If you need a lot of alone time, you may consider getting a single supplement. It’s better to have that space for meditation, sleeping, decompressing, journaling, or whatever you need your own space to do, than to not have it.
Be Where You Need to Be
People are depending upon everyone to be where they are scheduled to be when they are supposed to be there. If you need extra time to get ready, factor that in, but be where you need to be on time. The group only moves as quickly as the slowest person. Since everyone has a different sense of time, you can really upset those who are more strict about schedules. But it’s not just about being considerate. Trains, buses, meals, and other things may have strict schedules. Sometimes the guide schedules departure times to avoid crowds. The schedule is set for a reason.
Stay Within Your Budget
In a mixed group, you will find free spenders and thrifty people. The free spenders may tempt you to spend beyond your budget. Don’t! This is a quick way to make yourself miserable. It’s also a way to start feeling really negative about the whole experience. It’s no one’s job to reign you in. You have to do this for yourself. It’s okay to say no to spending.
The quickest way to get over the idea of touring with strangers is to talk to them! The more you learn about others, the less “strange” they feel. If you don’t click with one person, treat that one with courtesy and move on to the next one. You don’t have to like everyone. It’s good manners to be polite though. A little kindness goes a long way – especially to the one who isn’t particularly nice to you. So if you see someone who is a little standoffish and you’re a social butterfly, reach out. It could be that he just needs a little encouragement to blossom.
Know Your Group Size Limit
There are tours that cater to groups of fifty and there are those that are do ten. Some people do better with small groups. Others do better with ones they can get lost in. Some of us needs lots of variety and stimulation. Others need more intimacy. When touring with strangers, being in the right group size can make a huge difference in your level of comfort. Knowing your preference can make it easier to choose the right experience for you.
Take It Easy on the Alcohol
Getting tipsy may loosen things up, but it can also bring out a lot of stuff that doesn’t work well when touring with strangers. The next morning you may regret telling them all about your personal business. You probably are better off not revealing your politics or religious views either- especially if they are controversial. And that hook up? Well… If it wouldn’t have happened while sober, you probably don’t want it happening while you are under the influence.
Last, but not least, communicate. If you have a problem, let the tour guide or facilitator know. It can’t be fixed if you ignore it or say that everything is okay. If you have an interpersonal issue, attempt to address it with the person involved. Don’t make it a group issue. Don’t keep it to yourself. Problems on tour are like fish. They stink after a day or two. Get it out. You have a right to your feelings and desires. So does everyone else. This means that we have to create a balance that works for everyone.
Touring with strangers is an adventure. Great things can happen. Not so great things can happen. In reality, you will probably get some of each. The better you take care of “me,” the easier the “we” will function.