I am currently installed in An enchanted month of April, a warm and witty novel published by the fascinating Elizabeth von Arnim in 1922. It tells the story of a quartet of unlikely traveling companions who rent together a medieval Italian castle for an entire month in the summer. The four contrasting women, each fleeing their own boredom in a cold and damp London, instinctively distrust each other. But as the days go by, the perched castle bathed in sunshine, living on flowers and overlooking the sea, draws them into a warm friendship. A particularly uplifting read at a time when we are afraid of strangers and anxious about traveling.
The breakfast saga
Traveling not only exposes us to new places and experiences, but more crucially – and bewildering – to ourselves and our companions. The real test of a decades-long friendship is a weekend. Rarely do you spend more than twenty-four hours with your loved ones without an inconvenience or disappointment interrupting the flow. All your carefully cultivated politeness falters in the face of canceled flights, inclement weather or motion sickness.
It can start off pretty innocently, with X missing breakfast. Y might not be interested in anything other than the sideboard in front of her, but Z might attribute hidden motives to X’s absence where there is none. Everything X does now is seen through the prism of the missed meal. Later that day, Y walks imperturbably towards the pool with X, but Z decides to sit down, leaving X confused and Y clumsy. And so unfolds a series of chess moves in the game called friendship, worthy of a Zoya Akhtar movie. âThe company of two, the crowd of three,â they say, and I tend to agree when it comes to travel.
Mary Poppins v Squid game
But am I really? Traveling as a duo may be the ultimate compatibility test. There is literally nowhere to hide in this situation, especially when traveling with a romantic partner. You can share a roof, children and a life together, but for this there are unspoken but clearly established rules. What happens when you are away, unprotected by routine and the weight of obligations? We zealously guard all of our hobbies, so if you’re the type to gaze at the lake with your head in the clouds, it’s a real assault when your partner insists on a kayaking or carrom championship expedition. Of course, there is the inevitable give and take, but not without equally inevitable resentments setting in.
The other big obstacle to the travel company is the day / night person division. As you wake up to the first ray of sunshine with exuberance Mary Poppins, your companion, who spent the previous night watching Squid game, snores like Elmer Fudd after another hearty but failed chase after Bugs Bunny. When you get back from your getaway, they’re all ready to visit the waterfall, monument, and local restaurant, but all you want is a long soak, room service, and a pretty lady on the TV.
Great group temperament
Solo travel of course eliminates all of these compatibility issues, allowing you to enjoy a trip at your own pace and according to your own whims. You can change plans without any guilt and be as lazy as you want. Unless, of course, you’re one of those
high-performing vacationers ticking boxes on a travel itinerary with perverse glee. In that case, you can do it for the sunrise yoga session, chase those flamingos before breakfast, make the best lasagna in the pastry class for lunch, join the mindfulness circle for an hour of synchronized coloring and still have the evening in front of you, like an Excel sheet waiting to be filled.
The best findings, however, are found in larger groups. You are never short of a companion when you want one, while still having the freedom to disappear when you need it, without shaking the delicate fabric of the holidays. Whether it’s a calming walk down a gravel mountain path, a shared love of reality TV, or an intense bond around an ice cream, the sudden and unexpected affinities are both disarming. and mind-blowing. Almost as sweet as loneliness.
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From Brunch HT, October 17, 2021
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