Gave out your num­ber to all the fam­i­lies you met on that re­cent cruise you took? We weigh the pros and cons of such a move.

I'm only be­ing po­lite! Ben Ross on the pros and cons of swap­ping con­tact de­tails with the travel bud­dies that you’ve only just met

Friday - - CONTENTS -

You know the drill. It’s the last day of the hol­i­days and there we all are, dili­gently swap­ping email ad­dresses with peo­ple who were com­plete strangers a week be­fore. Why do we do it? Well, po­lite­ness for a start. It’s a game of travel cha­rades that we feel hon­our-bound to play be­cause how do you say: “Bye now. It’s been fun, but not so much fun that I plan to see you ever again.” We of­fer up our own de­tails to soften the con­ver­sa­tional blow.

Or maybe we do it be­cause we’ve had such a jolly time to­gether in a bub­ble of ski­ing/ sun-loung­ing/hik­ing/cruis­ing (not that kind of cruis­ing) that while we’re wait­ing for the lengthy bus trans­fer back to re­al­ity we can gen­uinely con­ceive of stay­ing friends for life, even if se­cretly we know that we will delete the con­tact num­ber we’re so ex­cit­edly punch­ing into our iPhones (mostly be­cause we never quite worked out what John & Becca’s sur­name was).

Be­com­ing friends on Face­book helps pa­per over the cracks. Af­ter all, it’s not hard to muster a cou­ple of Likes every year for form’s sake and, frankly, that should be suf­fi­cient to keep your con­science – and John & Becca – happy. But let’s face it, you aren’t “real” friends, are you?

It’s dif­fer­ent when you’re a child. As a young­ster, hol­i­day friends – ei­ther forced upon you in the kids’ club, or dili­gently fos­tered around the camp­site’s com­mu­nal pool – are in­tense, blessed re­la­tion­ships, a chance to rein­vent your­self as the coolest dude in the class. Mak­ing new friends is easy when you’re lit­tle, harder when you’re a teenager – but by that point the pos­si­bil­ity of sus­tain­ing those re­la­tion­ships over so­cial me­dia is en­tirely vi­able. Plenty of your mates ex­ist only on In­sta­gram, so why not add a cou­ple more?

What­ever age you are, hol­i­day friend­ships are a flir­ta­tion car­ried out by an un­real you. You adapt your own per­sona, then over­look the things you don’t par­tic­u­larly like about your new chums be­cause you’re only in their com­pany for a week. Note that none of this ap­plies to hol­i­day ro­mances; those are a dif­fer­ent or­der of flir­ta­tion and un­re­al­ity, and if you’re on the look­out for love while you’re away, you’re tak­ing very dif­fer­ent hol­i­days from me and my fam­ily.

This is what I’d as­sumed was the case through­out my years as a trav­el­ling adult. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a mis­an­thrope. I like meet­ing peo­ple, just as I like learn­ing about other cul­tures while abroad. But un­til now I’ve felt no need to bring those re­la­tion­ships home, in the same way that I have pre­vi­ously ex­pressed no de­sire to wear a pon­cho or too­tle pan pipes while walk­ing down my lo­cal high street. I made the ma­jor­ity of my close friends dur­ing my for­ma­tive years; I saw no rea­son for that to change.

Then this sum­mer my fam­ily and I went on a flotilla hol­i­day along Greece’s Io­nian coast. We did a few days’ train­ing on shore at the Neil­son Re­treat Beach­club in Syvota, then set out for a week afloat: eight yachts, chil­dren jump­ing into the sea at every op­por­tu­nity and – cru­cially – seven other sets of fam­i­lies that were Just Like Us. (Yes, I know: one day we may even es­cape our nar­row de­mo­graphic.)

Of course it was the kids that made the first con­nec­tions, and then, like squea­mish debu­tants, the adults ten­ta­tively started to forge their own links. Ev­ery­one had tremen­dous fun, we all made “hol­i­day friends”, and all too soon it was go­ing home time. Need­less to say, email ad­dresses were shared.

And then... per­haps I’ve just grown up a bit. What­ever the rea­son, back in Bri­tain my cyn­i­cism van­ished. When our el­dest ar­ranged

We made friends abroad, and we’ve stayed friends at home. As a re­sult, my life is a bit richer – and I’ve found an­other splen­did rea­son to go on hol­i­day

with his hol­i­day friend to meet up dur­ing the tra­di­tional post-GCSE blowout at Read­ing Fes­ti­val, it seemed only nat­u­ral that their par­ents should go out for din­ner a cou­ple of weeks later. Now we’ve ar­ranged to take the two-hour train jour­ney over to see the other fam­ily for lunch, with a re­al­is­tic prospect that we will be re­turn­ing the favour soon af­ter­wards.

In short: we made friends abroad, and we’ve stayed friends at home – even if they’re prob­a­bly a bit freaked out that I’ve just writ­ten a col­umn about them. As a re­sult, my life is a lit­tle bit richer – and I’ve found an­other splen­did rea­son to go on hol­i­day next year.

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