The topic of solo travel gets a lot of love here on SUAG, for good reason. But today I am here to talk about a different seeing-the-world arrangement: The Sibling Trip.
Raise your hand if you have at least one sibling. Okay, now keep your hands up if you frequently get the urge to smack said sibling(s) when you are near them. Look around you and collectively chuckle as you realize that everyone’s hands are still raised.
The bond between siblings is a strange thing.
Like, yeah I want to smack them but no one ELSE is allowed to, ya know? If your relationship with your siblings is anything at all like the one I have with my sister, you can have the harshest, most cutting arguments where you GO THERE, because you have all the ammunition to use after seeing each other grow up. And then wake up the next day as if nothing happened. Complete clean slate. That ish is wild, I tell you.
So, I can admit I was a little nervous about taking a trip with my lil’ sis. She graduated college last summer (yasss babygirl!) and I bought us tickets to Europe as a present for
me her. At the same time that I was really excited to see her (our family lives all over the place and she was in school several states away) and some new cities (Barcelona, Porto, and Lisbon) there was a part of me that was genuinely concerned that the trip would be a giant failure and one of us would end up abandoning the other on a train.
Luckily, that did not happen, and it surprisingly was one of the best trips of my life! Not only did we get along better than I could have hoped (there were a few spats but they were minor by our usual standards) we also bonded in a way that’s truly made a difference in our relationship since then. All through the magic of Sister Travel.
It’s hard to put a finger on what exactly was responsible for this positive shift. It’s probably a combination of things. One factor is that we went into the trip in a celebratory frame of mind. Another is that we had one of those phenomenal trips where everything sort of works out. We saw beautiful beaches and stunning architecture and ate mouthwatering food and basically marinated ourselves in sangria (our trip motto was actually “sangria ‘cuz we’re here.”) We had no major trip-ruining hiccups. No planes were missed and we never locked ourselves out of our hostel. One time we did miss the last bus in Porto and had to walk home in the rain, and a flight did get canceled due to weather so we ended up spending an extra night in Lisbon and had to scramble to book a last-minute hostel reservation. BUT in one of those magical, travel-specific moments of serendipity, it ended up being one of our best nights. The hostel was so cute, we opted in for their family dinner, and bonded with some of the most lovely travelers from all over the world. There were several languages being spoken around the table yet we all managed to converse for two hours. It was honestly like a brochure moment for hostel traveling.
A third, and very important, factor is that we were together for days with no other family around, for the first time ever. Anyone who knows us is aware that our family has more drama than HBO. Traveling gave us the chance to get away from all that ish, literally and figuratively, and to escape the subtle dynamics of our schools and friend groups and jobs that had always been in play when we’d briefly visited each other in the past. We got to be ourselves, and really get to know each other as people. It seems strange to say that I was getting to know someone who I’d lived with for the majority of my life, but new surroundings allowed us to really bond and learn about each other.
Part of what makes traveling so thrilling is that as the traveler, all decisions are up to you. How many nights do you stay in each city? Which monuments do you visit? Do you chill on the beach or hit a museum? Go out to da club or stay in and converse with cool travelers in your hostel? The choices are all yours, and on this trip, I found out that we have more in common than I’d ever noticed. Our travel styles are really similar, as it turns out.
Neither of us are go-go-go travelers; we like some chill downtime to balance out all the walking, and don’t want to feel like we need a vacation-from-our-vacation. We both agree that wandering the streets of old cities is a very important activity in its own right, and frequently do it. Both of us are happy to leisurely explore the city while looking for lunch without a specific destination in mind, until we finally stumble across a tasty-looking spot that we both instantly recognize as The Place (and we always agree! Every time!) We get hungry frequently and at about the same time, and seem to gravitate towards similar things on the menu which is a d r e a m for ordering things and splitting them. Neither of us likes to overly plan out our trips; we like to leave room for spontaneity. And we both agree on a healthy balance between historical/cultural/scenic activities and simple ones like shopping/drinking/dancing/the beach. Basically, we’re kind of ideal travel partners. Who knew?
The good vibes of the trip really laid the groundwork for better discussions too. We had some really good quality conversations about a whole range of things, from our mutual obsession with olives (something else we learned on the trip!) to the deep stuff like our racial identities to our messy family. Talks like this were fewer and farther between prior to The Sister Trip, and likely to end in an argument. But since the trip, we’ve been able to really talk this way, and I’m grateful for it.
Don’t get me wrong, we still have our ups and downs, and sometimes our conversations still get heated. But we’re able to move past it now because we’re not just sisters; we’re friends too, in a way that we weren’t before. Turns out, she’s actually really, really cool, and it might have taken longer for me to see that without the help of our trip. So yeah, if your sibling(s) get under your skin, I totally get it, but don’t rule out traveling with them just yet! As strange as it sounds, traveling together might give you the space you need….to get closer.