So here it is lessons learned from travelling with friends:
Make sure you are actually on the same page.
If they don’t know what travel insurance or a visa is, be worried. When I asked my friend the night before we were due to travel whether she had bought her travel insurance, her answer couldn’t have shocked me more. “What’s that?” Cue *blank face* “Are you s****ing me?”
Push for what you want especially if you planned the whole thing.
Be worried if they suddenly panic the night before asking if you’re taking them to a really dangerous country with terrorists. Every country has terrorists. But NO in case it wasn’t obvious, do I look like I’m going on holiday to be kidnapped, tortured and then potentially murdered?
If they can’t tell you where we’re going, you’re screwed. It means they’ve done ZERO research and looked at NONE of the material you sent over.
Don’t let them get away with doing jack s**t unless you’re the kind of person who likes to plan everything cough *controlfreak* cough – which is fine if it’s your holiday they’ve invited themselves to. Not that I didn’t ask for suggestions but I was given carte blanche. I did ask where she would like to stay etc. but she said she trusts me!
Turns out she didn’t actually trust me after our first hostel. Where is our 5* hotel? I can’t live among the poor! They are so different! I’m scared. No, I’m being melodramatic she’s not into 5* hotels and she’s not demanding, but she was very scared and felt the disparity between the rich and poor as well as being a tourist.
Don’t trust them when they say – “You fit in more because you look more like them.” Me: “Wtf!? I’m Asian and I’m brown. I look like a tourist just like you.” Friend: “Yes, but I’m paler and noticeably more touristy.” Me: *mutters under breath* Yeah because you act so unnatural.
Frankly just don’t listen to them. They are irrational and pass on their own anxieties.
If they mention that they’ve only been to two other countries outside of their own, be worried. They’re not seasoned travellers, they’re newbies which is fine if you’re a newbie too.
If you try to take them to historical sites, but they keep diverting you, just know you will never reach those historical sites.
If you want to go on daytrips, but they don’t set an alarm and the only one you set went off but you couldn’t hear it (due to being hard of hearing), but they could and didn’t wake you up, you can be sure they’re not into going on that trip.
If you want to go anywhere, but they don’t want to book anything nor do they want to just go – you can be sure nothing will materialise except wasted time and effort.
Finally – my last and most important piece of advice: just go by yourself – solo travel seems so much easier unless you have amazing friends who you’ve travelled with before.
Let’s start at the beginning. Be careful when choosing who to go on holiday with. This is no joke and I would know since I am writing from experience – a whole lot of experiences and repeated mistakes. Unfortunately I never learn!! This time I think I will. This time it was the worst holiday I’ve ever had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing, and although it’s over, it was an important lesson. So two weeks ago, I went on holiday to the Philippines which was originally meant to be a solo trip, but my friend asked where I was going for Golden Week and I told her. She was immediately excited by the destination and asked to come along. Initially I was going to say no, but then thought company might be nice. What I didn’t count on was planning the whole trip and booking everything. My friend wanted me to book her plane tickets too but since I haven’t known her long I asked her to book those herself. We were meant to go to one of the beautiful islands containing several beautiful beaches! What we got was the city Manila and nothing else. Trust me you don’t want to be trapped in Manila for 8 days. I was meant to have the beach but instead got a fancy hotel. I’ll take the beach any day.
I won’t go into too much detail, but we missed our connecting flight so we ended up in Manila. It’s fine – I booked us a hostel for one night to decide where to go instead and move on. Instead, my friend hated the area the hostel was in – she was terrified. That was when I realised she was naive. It wasn’t a bad neighbourhood – sure it was a poor one, but at no point did I feel threatened. We all feel things differently so fair enough. But my friend was fascinated by their lives and was deeply sad about the difference between the rich and poor. It was like she had just popped her head out of a Disney film only to visit the real world mistakenly like the film Enchanted. If she thought what she saw was poverty – well she sure had a lot left in life to see. I’ve visited more countries and I’ve seen extreme poverty like in Sri Lanka, India, Turkey etc. But I’ve also seen poverty in every country – it’s not uncommon. I just couldn’t believe how bubble wrapped she’d been. Immediately we swapped the hostel for fancy hotel and I begrudgingly went for it hoping it would just be for one more night. Instead we stayed there the whole 8 days and spent 4 days of that in a shopping mall. I do not go on holiday to go to a mall 4 days in a row. By the 4th day I was going insane. Where’s my f***ing beach?!? It’s fair to say I never saw it.
The only good thing was nothing was stolen, but it was still officially the worst holiday. So I can only say – be wise, stay strong and if things don’t go your way – it’s okay. But don’t make the same mistake twice because then you really are a fool. Don’t travel with a friend who you think you know, but don’t know well enough until you go on holiday with!
The hardest thing for me was not leaving. That was the easy part. Goodbyes aren’t easy, but packing the bags, walking through the gate towards a new adventure, now that’s exciting. I didn’t dwell on the goodbyes. But I have realised 9.5 months down the line that the hardest part was deciding to stay. For those who need some context, I live in Japan and have been here since August, last year. It didn’t faze me quitting my well paid job for one with a much lower salary and more of a ‘risk’ some would say. But this was my dream which had come true. This is no longer my dream now that I have achieved my goal to come and live here. It is a beautiful country with kind people, but now the dream has been realised.
Five months down the line, we had to make the difficult decision to re-contract for another year. At this point it would mean 1.5 years left in this country. I wasn’t sure I had achieved all that I wanted so I decided to stay because I felt there was more to discover and a year was too short. But reflecting over my life since being here, I have experienced some wonderful things, but also my fair share of crap. I have been at my lowest and it has been a very painful journey, yet it’s not the end. I wonder when the pain will subside. I feel like I live in a bubble. I feel like I’ve lost my way. I feel like this isn’t reality. Since coming to Japan, I’ve lost sight of my dreams and goals because the cold, hard truth is that I don’t have any. I don’t know where I am going in my life and I don’t know what I’ll do, but that’s okay for now. It’s okay to be lost, I just hope I won’t stay in Purgatory forever.
I don’t regret my decision, but I do wonder what if. Being so far away from home has made me realise and appreciate what I have at home; my family, my friends and an exciting life in London. I miss them all – I’ve never felt so alone as I have here, or maybe I have and I’ve forgotten. It’s in the daily routines and simple things that I remember the beautiful and the memories come swarming back. I miss my family very much. I miss hugs. I miss the smiles. I miss the internet sometimes when I don’t have it. I miss water when I don’t have that. In times like this I think about the people I love and how I left them behind without so much a second thought, but now I am constantly thinking of them; constantly reminded.
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I made the difficult decision to continue to stay here even though I am deeply unhappy. I’ve made my bed and now it’s time to lie in it. But I’m not scared. I love my children at school and I am hoping I will be able to heal and rebuild myself. “Always stay calm in any situation” – that is the lesson I am fast learning.
I hope this isn’t where we say goodbye, because to me it was never a goodbye. It was a see you soon. I just didn’t realise a see you soon wouldn’t actually be soon, but what feels like a lifetime. I’ll be home for a holiday soon; it’ll be short-lived but refreshing. I think I’ve lost those rose-tinted glasses now. I think it’ll be time to go back soon and find a new dream. Soon I’ll be saying goodbye to myself – goodbye to the past and the present. Goodbye for now.