I come by my love of both friendship and vacation honestly. Growing up overseas in a tight-knit expat community, almost every vacation we took were taken with other families. Not only did we vacation together, but we went to school with and lived in the same apartment building as most of my parents’ best friends. In a 31 floor apartment building, we didn’t have to travel far to spend time with one another.
In so many ways, it was like being in college, with late nights and the intimate friendships that you can only build when you see each other multiple times a week and often without make-up on. Once you add in the way that a shared expat experience bonds families together because you literally don’t have anyone else to lean on, my friendship expectations were doomed to be unrealistic.
But truly one of my favorite parts of living in Japan was traveling with other families. I cannot remember my family’s time in Malaysia, Indonesia, Guam or Saipan without remember the other families who we traveled with. The people who brought my family meals after my dad’s open heart surgery were our “Japan Friends.” Traveling with others does something special to a friendship that can rarely be replicated in real life. It creates a bond that’s stronger than you dreamed it could be.
I saw this happen with my family’s friends, but I’ve also seen it happen with my friends.
Two years out of college, a group of us invited quite a few friends who we knew from school on a week long vacation. That first year, eleven people stayed in a Florida beach house as we started a new tradition.
We had themed dinners, dance parties in the kitchen, wore our matching t-shirts, had a star contest and made sure we were all tagging our photos with a pre-determined hashtag. But, more important were the conversations around the breakfast table and the sharing that happened at our Monday morning “Family Time” where each person talked about what they were walking through, and we prayed for them individually.
Friendcation, as it’s come to be known, has truly changed us. There’s no escaping each other now, we’ve vacationed together. We know what happens when someone doesn’t get enough sleep, who is most likely to get sunburnt on the first day (me!), and who makes sure the coffee pot never stops brewing coffee in the morning. There’s a true vulnerability is sharing a house with friends for a whole week.
You can bring your best self to a weekend getaway, but it’s harder to fake it for a whole week. Vacation removes the filters of busyness, social media and the comfort of home. You have no choice but to be authentic around people who you’re sharing a kitchen and bathroom with.
Our vacationing together has given us the gift of being known not just who we were in college, or who we are right now, but who we hope to become. It’s so special to have these friends know me so intimately that they call me to be a better person when I forget what I’m working towards. They anchor me in who I am and remind me who I hope to become. They bear witness to my life.