Like most people reading this article, I cannot stand any of my friends. I deeply dislike most of them. There are perhaps one or two fellows who are somewhat tolerable. But that is only because I haven’t met them in two or three years. By and large, I try to avoid my friends as much as possible. (But this is becoming harder and harder because we are all having children and therefore must meet because we don’t want to deprive our kids of the chance to socialise at an early age. Otherwise, how will they learn to despise other human beings well in time for kindergarten?)
Therefore you can imagine the sheer delight coursing through my body right now as I am helping to plan a five-man road trip that will take place later this month. We plan to meet in Estonia and then drive through Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, France and finally, Switzerland. After which we will disperse and go to our respective homes, put up our tired feet, chat with our families, and throw back tall tumblers full of banana and arsenic lassi.
The last few weeks, consequently, have been a whirlwind of flight bookings, bus bookings, car rentals, visa appointments and Airbnb queries. And through it all, we have achieved unmatched levels of coordination through the tools of email, telephone, WhatsApp and Limca Book Of Records-levels of passive aggression.
Abhi: “Hey guys, are we good to share two toilets in Prague?”
Gau: “Yeah man. Whatever. Just book it.”
Abhi: “Cool. I’ve booked it.”
(Four hours later)
Nick: “Hey Abhi. No way man. Please find a place with at least three toilets.”
Abhi: “I’ve booked it already…”
Nick: “Bastard at least ask no?”
Gau: “Chill man Nick. We can share.”
Nick: “This is not a matter of if we can share or not. I would just really appreciate it if people would take my suggestions a little more seriously. If you don’t want my inputs don’t ask. I am getting sick of this bullshit.”
Abhi: “Dude… Why don’t you just book the rooms. And I’ll take care of the car rentals. Problem solved.”
Nick: “You think you can just tell people what to do, like your god Modi?”
Abhi: “Yeah sure. Insulting Modi is the answer to your lack of initiative. Inflation is down.”
Dev: “04W24W0W04100000W40000110W020000401000W000000000101000 011W0011200010040040000W1W30000000000000400000000000001004W: Aus innings in one tweet.”
It has been like this all week. Which is why I would like to ask all readers to seriously reconsider any group travel plans. Don’t do it. Under no circumstance must you travel with other people.
In the beginning, it sounds like a great idea. Who doesn’t like to travel with a group of like-minded friends? It will be like Dil Chahta Hai or Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara or Eurotrip. All fun and frolic and precious shared moments and dignified debauchery.
Then you actually start the journey. And it is like Pet Sematary.
It will start from the airport itself. You reach there well in time for your flight, so that you can have a nice relaxed breakfast bucket at KFC without the missus finding out. Only to find that one fellow, usually Dev, is running late and carrying fluids in his handbag, and his suitcase is too big for the cabin and he creates a scene and then he spends the entire flight eating garlic fries out of the noisiest plastic bag made in the world.
Later, further tragedy ensues when you want to go to the archaeological site under St. Pierre Cathedral in Geneva. A place any intelligent, curious traveller would go to. Your friends, on the other hand, want to go and have fondue. You tell them fondue is a scam. A tourist trap. Also you later feel like a hippo in labour with twins.
“Oh and 12 francs for three bricks and a skull inside a hole in the ground is not a tourist scam?” says Abhi. “I can make that two skulls if you come with me,” you counter. “Mitron (Friends)!” says Nick standing with his hand wide apart. Everyone laughs except Abhi.
Things finally fall apart when, on the seventh night, you are asked to choose a dinner place. After an hour of mapping and reading reviews and checking menus you finally pick an exciting new Korean restaurant near the river. “No ya. Don’t feel like Korean,” says Nick. So what does he want? Nick says anything but Asian. Perhaps a Mediterranean or traditional Swiss place? Cool, you say. “Give me five minutes.”
Twenty minutes later you find this superb little bistro that is walking distance from the hotel. And you book tables.
“Don’t feel like a bistro. Too formal,” says Gau.
Mother of god. OK then, what kind of you food do you want. Gau thinks for a few minutes. And then asks: “Any other options, Sidin?”
“Any other options?”
“No. There are only two restaurants in Geneva. Only two. In this whole city. One Korean and one bistro. Yaar, what nonsense questions you are asking…”
Finally you spend so much time arguing that the only options still open are a McDonalds and a kebab place. As you lie in bed that night, mouth slick with grease, you wish someone had written an article to warn you of the dangers of group travel.
That someone is me. Cancel your travel plans immediately.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way or form represent the views of National Geographic Traveller India.
is a columnist and author of the "Dork" Trilogy and "The Sceptical Patriot". He is also a proud Keralite. He tweets as @sidin.
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