I am talking about travel! I have numerous solo experiences and only two, maybe three or four group travel experiences. And this one to Hong Kong is my first experience leading a group on any sort of travel ( I do not count taking troops out on a military exercise in this category!). Sitting here in Hong Kong fighting falling asleep and capturing a few thoughts about what is different about the two.
Situational awareness of my own is reasonably fine tuned. There is almost none among a group (well this one at least). And there is little interest in knowing exactly where they are. Maps are ignored and there is no fixing of buildings on the off- chance they get lost. So you are aware on behalf of the whole group, not just for yourself. Being a group of teenagers, their situational awareness is thoroughly compromised by their being absorbed in and by each other.
Situational awareness is linked to personal safety. Three of the kids were being marked when they were at an ATM by two young men who had to scamper when I stared them down – but only after I had gone to find out what had happened to the three of them.
Solo travel has the benefit of stopping when and where you please, moving at your own pace. Given this trip was designed for the kids I had no problem waiting at stalls for lingering shoppers but I know if it was just two or three of us travelling like that I would quickly lose my mind.
I am always seeing things when I travel that I would like to share with others. It is a pleasure to be able to share these sights and sounds with a group of people that are open to these new experiences.
Getting a group together to go overseas is not quite as impromptu as the majority of my travel has been (Iraq was an exception to the rule). Experience means I can leave at no notice and am very happy doing so. Parents (not unreasonably) wanted to see that there was at least a modicum of planning that went into this trip.
You can’t make assumptions about where you are going to sleep for the night. Those same parents want to know that you have their children safely locked away for the evening.
When I have previously travelled with a travelwise colleague I was delighted to discover the same sense of radical adventure in him. I worried I would not have the same with this group but would have to tone things down. Two nights ago they were up for wandering down some strange places and poking around off the beaten track. Maybe I am lucky to be in a position to inculcate a sense of adventure though I suspect these guys are up for it anyway.
You cannot shop. Or rather, you cannot be distracted by anything for too long, in any place. Your eyes are only for the group and head count after head count after head count is the order of the day.
Relaxing is a rare pleasure – and so far has not really happened at all. Doing this for a living would be a nightmare – traveling with teenagers or young adults that is. Maybe I have just been too spoilt from too much travel when I have been able to please myself.
Bed – at least in this accommodation I can turn my light out and not sweat the fact that half the boys are still up talking. It is a safe place. But this time it is they who are keeping the long hours, not I. I am off to sleep!
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