Steven Smith looks at the effect that going on holiday can have on a person, how it can make or break friendships and even your sanity…PLUS some useful tips are suggested on how to make travelling with friends a success.
According to a Daily Telegraph survey conducted by Lloyds of London, eight out of 10 people suffer from pre-holiday stress. In fact, according to a number of different polls, after divorce, house moving, the death of a loved one, going on vacation can be the most stressful event in our lives.
Like many of the LGBTQ+ community, we are blessed to enjoy travel around the world. This is due to the population tending to have a higher income. For me, travel is a passion and I have been privileged to have trekked Machu Picchu in Peru, cruised the Nile, to have dived under waterfalls, and crossed volcanoes in a helicopter on Maui Island, among many other trips.
In my personal experience, travelling with partner of 18 years was never stressful and was sheer pleasure. Inevitably there were delays and some ups and downs, but I love airports and took most of the process in my stride.
Adding college friends into the equation however, can create a whole new stressful situation; presuming that friends have the same holiday agenda, or to think that they are as organised as you, can be a huge mistake.
Underpants around his ankles
It was Christmas morning in Gran Canaria, and in the living room of my one-bedroom apartment there was a large bearded bear- man lying flat out on the floor. No, it was not Santa. This man had his trousers and underpants around his ankles, but seemed to have forgotten to remove his shoes. He was snoring heavily, and just behind him was a naked, naughty elf. It was my friend, Brian Murphy, and I was ready to kill him. My other friend Blake Matthews, was in the villa next door to me and had been banging the headboard all night with what sounded like the man from Croydon two doors down, who claimed to be a straight male escort. Yeah, right.
This was not the Christmas morning I had envisioned. Despite having had a meeting where we all agreed to not bring any fellas back to the apartment so we could enjoy a Christmas morning breakfast together, it was turning into the holiday from hell.
Packing my rucksack, I stepped over the bear, out the door and down to the seafront to enjoy breakfast on my own.
What was I thinking? First of all, Gran Canaria was not my idea. A travel firm, pleased with a few articles I had written for them, offered me a flight and villa as a Christmas gift. It was more of a one-bedroom studio, and the thought of some winter sun sounded like a great idea. The company kindly offered me a discounted flight for a friend too. I should have declined the offer and gone on my own; but at one point I had around five people booking to come. Suddenly, it felt like I had become a travel agent, and those who agreed to come started bitching about each other. It was just a sign of things to come, and I was stressed for the first time before going on holiday.
Two days before we left, I sent out a text yet again with the time of the flight, the terminal, and all the details that everyone needed for how to get to the villa. This time I added that I would be checking in when I got there, and would see them after security or on the flight.
Blake replied “CONTROL FREAK RELAX I’LL BE THERE”. The couple who were coming called to say they had had enough of Blake as he had upset them both two nights earlier. They apologised that there were now not coming. I did not have the energy to argue.
I am at the departure gate at Gatwick on my own, just as the plane is about to board. Brian arrives waving, with lots of excuses. There is no sign of Blake as we take off. To be honest, it was a relief as Blake had spent every day moaning about how boring Brian was, so it was a U-turn when he suggested he would come too. “Oh, I love Brian” Blake gasped, puffing on a menthol cigarette. A week later, and the fact that Brian and I were sharing an apartment, and Blake was in the apartment next door, seemed to cause an issue.
Truthfully, arriving in Gran Canaria, my mouth dropped open. It was my idea of hell. “Ye Old Queen Vic” pub and the likes flashed before me. The apartment was basic, and what I was expecting, but it did not take long for Brian to start moaning even though the accommodation was free. He couldn’t wait to hit the notorious Yumbo Centre and score his first notch of the vacation. The good news was that it was only a five-minute walk, so saved us any taxi fares.
Determined to make the best of it we headed off. Walking past the various English style pubs, we witnessed a fight and a man being stabbed. Oh the fun of it all. All the while I am working out how I could get home.
The Yumbo Centre is a giant shopping centre that turns into a gay Mecca at night. You would hope that there would be a lot of couples there to really inspire you.
“We’ve been together for 29 years and are totally faithful to each other”said a pair from Blackpool.
I replied, “Gosh I hope I can say that one day”. Adding “why is your hand on my bottom?”
“Oh, we share people”. Oh the romance of it all. The booze however is cheap, the sun is out, and if I make it back to the apartment tonight alive, it is going to be ok. I at least try and convince myself.
Act Two Scene One – next day.
Blake had flown in business class with British Airways overnight. If we are in any doubt of this, he is holding court around the pool to a fascinated audience. He appears still drunk and is boasting “Oh darling. I had some gear with me and one of the stewards and I did a line or two in the galley”. That is so made up, but everyone laughs.
Blake, in his days before he started drinking like Janis Joplin and sniffing half of Peru, did a lot of travelling with me. He was often a conundrum of hypocrisy.
So gay with his Freddie Mercury moustache, even a blind dog knew what he was. Yet he would go to painful lengths to replace his Spartacus Guide cover with a Jackie Collins one, and place it at the bottom of his luggage, and make us get cabs to locations a street or two away from the gay bars in case the taxi driver was anti-gay.
Blake and Brian are sitting together in white dressing gowns and white towels wrapped around their heads. Looking like extras in Dynasty, they seem to be best pals. It is giving them an excuse to rip the accommodation to bits. “Steven, we are not complaining but what you were you thinking?” they say in crescendo. Blake smiles and tells everyone he is more a Ritz Carlton guy; no one staying there seems in the least bit offended except me.
Half an hour later I have found them both something more to their standard. This however does not go down well with the pair, who are now disrobed, covered in oil and on their fourth glass of bubbly. Particularly when I explain that they are moving, and I am staying.
“Oh, don’t be so touchy, I am sure I’ll become fond of the pet cockroach in my room given time”, Blake said puffing on his twentieth menthol cigarette of the morning.
He leaps up, hugs me and whispers, “God, I would have more fun with the cockroach; come and sit with us darling, we want to be with you that’s why we have come here”.
Good news: my ex and his partner have decided to come over and join us, so some sanity ensues. Plus, I hire a car and Gran Canaria is a stunning jewel. Even the Yumbo grows on me. If I got up before Alexis and Krystal did, I could escape for the whole day and return for cocktails and Blake’s one man show, and they did not seem to really notice.
Did I mention my dream guy was there too and we fell for each other?
SmampHis boyfriend was not too pleased that they shared people too. I met him as his boyfriend was the head of LGBTQ liaison for the police force, and he told me that they shared and was I up for it. “You’re kidding, have you seen him? If he was my fella no one would be touching him but me”. I may have added shame on him, as he was a police officer and head of LGBTQ and should therefore be setting a better example. Note: I do not judge people who share or anything for that matter, as long as no one is exploited and everything is consensual…it just isn’t my bag.
We saw each other when we got home a few times. What goes around comes around however, and we decided that he should stay with his police officer boyfriend.
Was this a bad choice of friends? Or was it just me being an optimist, thinking of a jolly gay Christmas and not actually working out the practicalities.
There are so many stories that I could share; from waking up to find a strange man in the bed I was sharing with my best pal, to people forgetting to tell me that their name on the passport is different from their stage name.
Adam and I had what you might call a mature friendship, in other words we actually talked before rushing to give ourselves the title “bestie”. We set up some boundaries and expectations, and it was working beautifully.
A year in and one day Adam said, “Fancy going on holiday?”.This set alarm bells off as we all know it can make or break friendships or relationships. I really liked Adam and he was turning out to be a great pal.
I was instantly sold on the idea however, when he said, “Look, I know you don’t do the sunbathing thing, and although I like it a bit, you’ll be bored rigid in one of those sun resorts. So how about a cruise down the Nile starting at Luxor?”
I have had two horrible holiday cruises and would not rush back on another, however this one sounded great.
Adam told me right from the start that he snored, and boy was he right. It was actually dangerous to health and he was not impressed when I recorded it. It did however, trigger him to do something about it.
It ruined my friends holiday recently when she went away with her new beau and his snoring was so bad, she slept by the pool.
The cruise down the Nile was a dream. We got off to a bumpy start as they never picked us up at the airport, but even dashing in a cab in the dark back streets of Luxor, hoping we got to the right boat, we seemed to laugh and be on the same page.
When sitting around having lunch at the Winter Palace hotel in Luxor, home of Agatha Christie’s “Death on The Nile”, Adam asked, “Should we go see some of the historical sights?”.When I replied, “let’s just do ‘Glamour’s five-star hotel of the Nile’ for now”, he howled and we had one of the best holidays.
Adam and I discussed the finances right away. We have done all inclusive holidays previously, and neither of us wanted not to pay our way equally, as it can put a strain on the friendship and the holiday. We have a saying “it all comes out in the wash”;on occasions when one of us has been more flushed, we have covered the other.
We have all met those that are the last to put their hand in their pocket. The one friend everyone bitches about; “let’s see how she gets out of paying this time”.
You have met the, “Oh I’ll just have a glass of tap water and a starter, I’m not that hungry”,when they hear we are splitting the bill, only to notice them digging into the wine an hour later but only wanting to pay for the prawn cocktail. Yet when they hear someone else is paying they have three courses and liquor .It puts a strain on any event or trip when tightwad is there.
Adam was the best pseudo boyfriend going, and we had so many great trips together. When it came down to it however, he was not my fella and there would come a day when he, or I, met someone else. This never really raised its head until we went to the gay resort of Sitges. To be honest, we never discussed how we would handle it.
So, we discussed everything else but not the occurrence of going away on holiday meeting someone. The holiday was a disaster, right from me leaving my passport on the plane at the start, to me not reacting well to sitting at a table whilst Adam held hands with some fella.
It could all have been avoided if we had followed our usual path and talked prior to the holiday. It can be awkward if there are two of you and one meets somebody else. Luckily it did not damage our great friendship.
I can be a disaster when it comes to holidays. Mosquitoes shout “Buffet” when I step out of the plane. If it is there, I’ll catch it. I caught Hepatitis B in India and salmonella in Dominican Republic.
Being a travel junkie though, it never puts me off. One of the great things about the luxury of travelling with a friend, is keeping an eye on each other. No matter how organised or grown up we think we are, caring never goes out of fashion.
Have a great holiday season.
My top six holiday-with-a-friend tips.
- Talk to each other to discuss what you both expect from the trip.
- Are you going to enjoy each other’s company? Or just to cut the cost of a single tariff?
- Discuss any habits you might have.
- Do not be afraid to talk about money.
- What about the person
- Look after each other
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