I travel alone most of the time because if I waited to travel with my friends, I would never go anywhere. I can’t count how many aborted travel plans I’ve made with my friends. From city meetups, to two-week holidays, to backpacking adventures across Europe, something always seems to “come up.” When it comes down to the wire, my friends rarely come through. Once in a blue moon, they make it. My friend Joe joined me in Belize, Kristin came to Amsterdam, Mike and Dustin came to Chicago, and Danielle backpacked Costa Rica with me.
I really enjoy traveling with my friends because it’s my chance to share my love of travel with them. I especially love when they visit one of my favorite destinations in the world. I feel like I’m showing them a special part of my life that not everyone gets to see. I’ll show them my favorite eateries, have them try amazing food, frequent my local hangouts, and hopefully make them fall in love with the destination as much as I have.
Today, three friends of mine arrive in Thailand for the holidays. I met Jesse and Joel in 2009 during La Tomatina, and we’ve remained close friends ever since. (I spent Thanksgiving with them last year.) Jesse’s girlfriend, Michelle, will also be joining us. It will be their first time in Asia. It will also be Michelle’s first time out of America. Amazing, huh? I imagine this will be quite an experience for all of them, especially Michelle. The chaotic streets of Bangkok are nothing like Portland, Oregon.
As excited as I am for their visit, I’m extremely nervous.
They’ve left the whole trip to me. Every detail of every day. While I’m excited (you know how much I love Thailand), I’m also worried. What if I screw up? Their experience depends entirely on my ability to plan and organize a great trip. I’m responsible for their happiness.
I know Thailand. I’ve lived here, explored most of the country, and come here every year. I know what they need to see and do, but what if it’s not perfect? Sure, we’ve discussed the trip and what they want, but there’s still this burden on my shoulders.
While I’ve planned city outings and such for friends, I’ve never been in charge of an entire visit before. No one has ever tossed me the keys and said, “You drive the whole way.”
At times, I’ve dreamt of being a tour guide. It must be so much fun, I think to myself. To share your passion with someone else in hopes of getting them as excited and hooked on it as you are. I have visions of leading excited groups of people through historic cities in Europe, explaining the history, and introducing them to great food. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t an overly romantic image.
Now, I’m about to lead a 25-day private tour. I have to organize the logistics, take care of the accommodation, arrange hotels, and plan the itinerary. It’s nerve-racking, but I’m dealing with the anxiety by being thorough, booking everything in advance, and calming my nerves with a few beers.
If it goes well, then maybe playing tour guide is something I’ll do again in the future.
If not, I think I’ll just stick to giving budget advice, drinking beer, and letting my friends plan their own trips in the future.