For most, travelling with your siblings is something only endured when you're younger: an experience limited to annual family holidays in Spain; brutal fights in the back of a car during a claustrophobic road trip around France; or trying to drown each other in a swimming pool somewhere in Europe. Once those golden days are over, summer holidays end and you move out of home, travelling with your brother or sister isn't something many of us tend to do. In fact, for the sake of peaceful family relations, it's something actively avoided.
We've all been there. I remember sitting sulkily around a table in a café in France, refusing to talk to anyone in my family, before my Dad dramatically stood up and yelled across the entire restaurant: 'this is the last holiday we're taking as a family, ever', before tripping over the bench behind him and cracking his camera lens.
Despite my Dad's premonitions, nearly 15 years later, we still travel together. Push past the memories of seeing my Dad naked on a nudist beach in Lanzarote, or being sick on each other after one car journey too many, and we've found that travelling together is a great and genuinely enjoyable experience. Most of the time.
From travelling with someone who you don't have to make small talk with, to being able to openly tell someone you're homesick and want to go home, travelling with someone as close as your sibling has lots of benefits. Below are our experiences of travelling together; experiences that definitely don't include pushing each other into swimming pools.
It's a little ironic that Claire and I run a travel blog, given that travelling makes me anxious.
With a dislike of airports (so crowded); a growing fear of flying (all those miles of air below you and nothing to hold you up); and genuine spatial dyslexia, I'm not the tranquil traveller I'd like to be. If I'm travelling with friends or a boyfriend, the whole thing can be quite stressful. Whether it be trying to force a smile on the plane, or staring at a map with the realisation that I've walked in a 5 mile circle; the pressure of making sure everyone is having a great time can sometimes ruin a trip.
Travelling with Claire is different. When travelling with someone you've known your entire life, who also witnessed your Dad's debut on the nudist beach, there's no pressure to be felt at all. They've sat through those endless road trips with you; been on that plane when everyone got food poisoning and was violently ill; and also been bored out of their mind, wandering around yet another museum in Northern France. There is no need to impress here, no burden to make sure they are having the time of their lives. Travelling with a sibling instantly eases the pressure.
Travelling with a sibling can also be reassuring. When I was at university, I decided to go on an ill-fated trip around Europe with a friend. A week in and things weren't going well. There were public fights, tears, stony silences and the eventual termination of our trip. I flew home after seeing just two countries and with a friendship that never really recovered. However, travelling with a sibling means there is a mutual understanding that however much you irritate each other, you're not going to bail on one other. You'll look after each other and things will blow over, because you've come through much worse before (the time Claire and I lost our minds during our university finals and nearly killed each other, for example). Travelling with a sibling means reassurance and safety; knowing they've got your back and you have theirs.
Lastly, travelling with your brother or sister is important. It makes for better memories, a better appreciation of each other and a stronger relationship. Claire and I also have another brother and sister, who we also travel separately and together with. We're by no means the Brady Bunch, but as adults we've been able to spend time together that we perhaps wouldn't in our everyday lives and as a result, share brilliant memories.
Don't get me wrong: travelling with a sibling isn't always fun. Claire and I fight, annoy each other and often wish we were travelling with someone else. But with 30 years of history behind us we know that 5 minutes later, we'll both be fine and ready to carry on with our adventure.
That's what siblings do best.
People often ask if I enjoy spending time with Laura, which I find odd. Of course I'm going to enjoy spending time my twin sister: she's my other half - my biological, real half. Laura and I are very similar, even down to the smallest things such as when we feel hungry, when we feel tired (just after lunch) and we both share a deep hatred for walking tours. Travelling with Laura is really like travelling with myself: it's easy, stress free and for the most part, fun!
There is one element of travelling with a sibling, however, that can result in arguments. This is the total lack of politeness found only between brothers and sisters. Laura and I have no fear of telling one another exactly how it is, or how much we're not enjoying an experience. This, of course, can result in hurt feelings.
When travelling with a friend, you generally attempt to maintain a constant degree of politeness, even if on the inside you're hating every moment of an experience. Internally you might be dying a little, but externally you continue to smile. Who wants to come across as the moody, high-maintenance friend on holiday? Not me.
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) there's none of that between me and Laura. In fact, on a recent trip to Rotterdam, Laura bluntly and loudly pointed out that for the last hour I had been uttering three sentences, on repeat: 'I'm thirsty, I need a wee, I need a sit down'. I was ordered to stop. Like a small child, I was publicly shamed. Although incidents like this can cause tension, for the most part, cutting out the politeness (the only way siblings know how), is actually a blessing when travelling. It saves time, ensures everyone is having fun and prevents any silent resentment creeping into your relationship.
Together, we have donned fur hats in Russia, battled crowds in Tokyo, toured the White House in Washington and searched for fairies on the Isle of Skye. These experiences surpass any memories of sibling tensions or rivalries. Travelling with a sibling allows you both the time to really appreciate one another; something that can often be lost in day-to-day family politics and general life.
Try it, you might just enjoy it!