Group Chat is a weekly series where HuffPost UK writers discuss friendship, diary dilemmas and how to reclaim our social lives in a busy world.
In a tiny Flamenco bar in the backstreets of Seville, we sit among a mismatched audience of Spanish locals and tourists. As we wait for the dancer to begin her performance, I look across the table – and break into a huge smile. Yes, it might be the sangria kicking in – but my joy is also prompted by the thought of this blissful long weekend with three of my dearest friends.
These women – a teacher, an actor and a pharmaceutical whizz – are equal parts smart, caring and hilarious, and I get to spend four whole days with them. It’s a wonder I’m not skipping through the streets.
I’ve been with my boyfriend for seven years, yet I still go away with friends most years – we’ve been everywhere from Norfolk and the Cotswolds to Budapest and Los Angeles. And, budget permitting, I have no intention of stopping any time soon. There’s something about dragging your suitcase through a foreign city while you and your pals search for the Airbnb that reminds you why you became friends in the first place.
These trips are inevitably met with dismay by my nan, ever concerned that I’m going to give my boyfriend abandonment issues. “Doesn’t he mind you disappearing again?” she asks, when I tell her I’ve booked another long weekend away with the girls.
Her concern might seem incredibly dated – harking back to a time when a woman couldn’t leave her husband to cook his own dinner. But actually, lots of people only go on holiday with their partner. My own mum, for example, took her first trip away with her best friend just this year – two financially stable women in their 50s who have been friends since they were six.
As a society, we have a habit of placing more significance on romantic than platonic relationships. I’m not immune to it: in March, I posted a photo to celebrate my seven-year anniversary with my boyfriend, while doing nothing to mark 23 years of friendship with my pal Lisa. But I do think watching my parents divorce – and remarry – has provided me with more awareness than most that while romantic love is amazing, it does not define you. And it shouldn’t define your travel plans, either.
For me, holidaying with friends is a chance to strengthen those bonds that can sometimes be taken for granted.
Sure, we meet up regularly for midweek drinks or dinner, but conversation can so easily be dominated by someone’s stressful day at work or last night’s bad date. Often, we only get to the deep stuff – hopes, dreams, fears, the fact it’s been too long since Beyoncé released an album – when we revert to our teenage selves and have a good, old-fashioned sleepover.
As an added bonus, these holidays with pals also do wonders for my relationship. I come back with stories to share, a renewed sense of self and, usually, a decent amount of Duty Free booze. My boyfriend enjoys having the flat to himself while I’m away, and has gone on a couple of jaunts with his mates, too. And it’s not as though these trips away come as a surprise to him – three months into our relationship I disappeared to the east coast of America for three months, but that’s a whole other story...
I love my partner – but I love my friends too, and if you ask me who I’d rather spend the night singing karaoke in a far flung bar with, it’s an easy choice.