Whether you’re off to climb Everest, walk backwards across the Antarctic or heading to South East Asia for a few months with your best friend in the world, one of the hardest aspects of any kind of trip is the group dynamics.
Very rarely in life will you spend such extended periods of time with people other than when you travel together.
You will find yourself doing everything together, having little or no privacy and relying on them as they rely on you. You might spend more time with these people than you’ve ever spent with anybody ever before.
You will need to prepare for this just as much as you will when you pack your rucksack.
You could be a part of a large team or it could just be two of you, however, how you get along will make all the difference to everyone’s enjoyment and the success of the trip or expedition.
1. Select them well
Now this seems like an obvious one, but make sure you take the time to select those you go away with. If you are heading off into a high pressure extended trip or expedition, make sure you have a dry run with the team first. Everybody deals with pressure differently, if you find yourself in a situation where you are reliant on your companions and they crumble under the pressure, it could be detrimental to your trip, or worse, it could threaten you safety.
2. Expect to fall out
“We’ve never had an argument”.
Well, now you will. And if you don’t expect ‘the argument’ to arrive, then it’s going to be much, much worse when it does. I would probably rate this the most important tip here. I know of numerous people who’ve gone on a trip with their best buddy, with whom they have never had an argument previously. They go away, have a major fall out and then never speak again. This is really sad, especially after you’ve shared so many experiences together. If you are expecting to have a big argument, when it comes it’s still not going to be fun, but you can rationalise things better and hopefully get through it.
3. Don’t hold it all in
You’re inevitably going to get annoyed at things people do and say when you spend long periods of time together. Some people will advise you to just suck it up and deal with it. Although everyone is different, I would personally disagree with that. Internalising anger can sometimes result in it seeping out at completely inappropriate times. If someone is annoying you, tell him or her constructively what is annoying you so you can try and resolve it.
4. Give yourself time to calm down
Walk away from an argument if you can. Have you ever noticed that when you argue with someone you rarely manage to see eye to eye mid argument on anything? Time is a great healer. Walk away; calm down and reapproach the issue with a clearer head
5. Apologise after an argument
Obviously you’re right and they’re wrong, that goes without saying. However if you give it some thought, maybe you were a tiny little bit wrong? Apologise for that and I’m sure you’ll find they apologise back and who knows, you could be laughing about it over a cup of tea an hour later. Bad feelings can simmer over for an unnecessarily long amount of time. An apology can knock things on the head very easily.
6. Give yourselves breaks
If possible, ensure you get some time apart from your companions. On my most recent expedition we were away for over a year. To keep ourselves sane, where possible, we planned alone time into the itinerary, periods of time where you do not see your teammates at all and just relax. This could be a day or a week. You will find yourself relaxed and refreshed afterwards.
7. Swallow your pride and empathise
Has it ever crossed your mind that maybe you’re being 'a bit of a dick'? Try and see things from everyone else’s point of view with what you do. You will feel like you have your reasons for your behaviour, but that doesn’t stop you being a dick occasionally…
8. Don’t lose track of what you’re doing and why you’re there
This is entirely dependent on what you’re doing, but when you’re away for a long time, your travelling life can become mundane. You could be in the most beautiful place in the world and you can miss it because you’re too busy fuming over who drank the last of the milk.
9. Keep track of your moods
Try and realize when you’re in a bad mood. If you are in one, apologise to people in advance. It may not help matters much, but at least they will know why you’re acting strangely
10. Eat, drink and sleep properly
And make sure your companions do the same. If you haven’t had enough to eat or drink or enough sleep, you WILL become irritable, as will your companions and this is not a good combination. Personally, I am a horrible person when hungry. My friends and family shove sandwiches down my throat and see a miraculous change in personality. On an expedition, it can be hard to realise how dietary dependent your mood is. Simple science: when you’re hungry and thirsty, you lack the necessary fuel, making you tired, which in turn makes you irritable. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do about this due to the situation. But if you can, make sure you stay hydrated, eat enough, eat well and eat regularly.