I recently returned from one of the best experiences of my life.
Forget your bog standard holiday, I’m talking about an action packed two week adventure in Vietnam & Cambodia.
With the risk of sounding like a cliché traveller, packing up my stuff in search of new horizons is not a foreign concept to me. Straight after university (way back in 2001) I took myself off to South America and spent four months with the charity Raleigh International. Since then I have been to Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, various parts of Europe and North America. Yet asides from the charity work, these trips were all with friends, family or even work – so a group tour with complete strangers? Not my style.
Yet now as I approach the end of my thirties, I started to reflect on where I have been and what’s next. The Vietnam guide book had been staring at me from my shelf since an aborted plan to visit in my year out in 2001. Now was the time to tick this off the list. I looked at various options before finally finding Flash Pack which sounded exactly what I was looking for – adventures with like-minded people with some comfort and luxury thrown in. So for the first time since 2001, I headed off to meet a group of complete strangers in a foreign land.
As a project manager, I am familiar with group dynamics. Forming teams is what I do yet I couldn’t seem to shake off this nagging feeling. I knew we would have common ground in our desire to explore and travel, but two weeks is a relatively short time and I can be slow to open up. Was this going to be an excruciatingly awkward two weeks of polite small talk? Could I really fly half way across the world to share my bucket list moments with total strangers?
Fast forward to the end of our adventure and how wrong I was.
From hysteric laughter on crazy Hanoi cycle tours to overnight trains with wine and conversation flowing into the early hours, it was such a heartening testament to the common human spirit to see people from different countries, backgrounds and life experience pull together. We supported each other through two intense weeks in close quarters with high energy, great humour and love.
To have our local guides be a true part of that family and not standing on the side was a real bonus – from the first day it did not feel like a solos tour group, it felt like a group of friends who had flown out to explore another friend’s home turf. Everyone was up for everything, but there were great opportunities to split and do different activities allowing smaller groups to get to know each other better and to come back in the evening with different stories to tell over dinner and drinks. There was so much crammed in, two weeks felt like a month because we just filled every waking minute with amazing experiences.
Related trip: Vietnam & Cambodia group tour for solo travellers
I came home exhausted but happy, my thirst for adventure well and truly renewed. I am already scanning the website trying to pick which Flash Pack adventure will be next.
As for my new friends, well the Sticky Rice Family Whatsapp group still goes strong after 4 weeks back home, a large number of us will meet up in London in a couple of weeks for a birthday celebration, I cannot wait to see them again.