Travel and the power of friendship

Written by Anna Brech

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In an age of supreme digital connectivity, it’s ironic that many of us feel more disconnected than ever before.

Having friends is strongly linked to health and happiness, and quality trumps quantity every time. We’re not talking Facebook contacts here, but genuine and lasting chemistry that stands the test of time.

Yet, loneliness is a growing epidemic both in Britain and across the world. Men, in particular, lack platonic intimacy and hit peak loneliness around the age of 35, according to a wealth of research on the topic.

In our all-consuming lives, it seems we are leaving less and less space for the tonic of friendship. So, how to redress the balance?

A recipe for friendship

At Flash Pack, we accelerate the dynamic for friendship by placing like-minded people of a similar age in challenging situations together around the world.

“On lots of our Flash Pack trips, we always try and throw people outside their comfort zones quite quickly,” says Flash Pack co-founder Lee Thompson. “And it really bonds a group, and people become really good mates over doing a tough adventure.”

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This element of adventure really does act as a catalyst for bonding.

“You’ll be with a group of people who are at the exact same life stage which creates really unique bonds,” adds Radha Vyas, who created Flash Pack alongside Lee. “And then we give you a very dynamic adventure to go and experience together, which means you become fast friends.”

Flashpacker Julie experienced this effect first-hand when she  travelled with us to Scotland on a mini-experience recently.

“I did three things that I’ve never done before,” she says. “Bridge-swinging, sea-kayaking and zip-lining. And they were all quite adrenaline-fuelled activities, which helped with bonding with other people in the group.”

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Craig feels the same way. He joined us on a trip to Peru; an action-packed agenda that included jungle-trekking, mountain biking and a courageous hike up Rainbow Mountain.

“You get all the adventure that you could want plus that little bit of luxury with people that think and are the same sort of age as you,” he says. “It’s the perfect package. With the space of a couple of hours, you will have built up a friendship with people that will last.”

Instant chemistry

At Flash Pack, we’re clear that we don’t do cliques. In fact, our in-house happiness heroes are there to ensure that everyone who joins our trips shares the same kind of friendly and outward-looking attitude.

As a result of this – and the fact that people are matched closely in terms of age group and life goals – Flashpackers tend to bond together quickly.

“Everyone was just very welcoming, everyone was up for a good time,” says Agnes, another Peru recruit. “I think that one of the great things that we did on day one of Peru was actually learning how to do pisco sours. And it was like a group activity that made us bond even more, and having a nice lunch, and getting to know each other even more.”

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Victoria has travelled three times with Flash Pack to Jordan, Myanmar and Finland, and as such, she’s something of an expert on the way the Flash Pack dynamic blossoms.

“It was from that kind of initial chatting to each other in the minibus on the way to the hotel and then meeting by the pool before things really kicked off,” she says. “And really instantly, we all kind of gelled and started to find similarities and just became friends.”

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Emily, who joined us on a Vespa foray across Spain, agrees.

“We were on this lovely little mini-bus going up to into the towns from the airport,” she says. “And, in that hour and a half, you know that you’re going to make good friends. It’s going to be a really, really good holiday.”

Lifelong bonds

There’s nothing contrived about what we do here at Flash Pack. The last thing we want to do is force friendship on you, or make you all hold hands in an alligator format.

Nevertheless, the layout of our trips seem to lend themselves quite naturally to meaningful friendships – many of which last far beyond the initial adventure.

“It was one of the best holidays we’ve ever had,” says Agnes, referring to her and her group’s Peruvian adventure. “We’re still friends as a group, and we’re still in touch and meet up.”

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For Emily, room-sharing – an element of her Spain adventure she’d previously felt ambivalent about – turned out to be a welcome avenue of friendship.

“One is of a certain age and one like’s one privacy and one’s en-suite and all of that kind of stuff,” she says. “But, this wonderful girl [I shared with]. I mean, she was absolutely brilliant. We kind of got gossiping every night and she’s coming over for New Year.”

It’s no coincidence that these friendships, fired up so quickly over a potent adventure somewhere abroad, last for a life-time.Sri Lanka with Flash Pack“The great thing about Flash Pack is the people I’ve met on the group holidays through them,” says Lindsay, who’s Flashpacked to Italy and Chile. “They are people that I would socialise with anyway. And actually, these will be friends for a very long time.”


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