I think most people would agree that traveling with friends is risky. We went to Japan with another married couple and we joked on the trip that we'd either love each other even more or hate each other by the end of it!
But with these friends there was never any question in my mind which way it would go. If you are lucky enough to find friends who are as delightfully laid back, curious and interested, positive even in a crisis, fun-loving and goofy, un-picky about food and uncomplaining in general, and excited by life as these friends are then I can wholeheartedly recommend going on vacation with them. Seriously. We had the time of our lives, the four of us.
There are so many cool perks to traveling with friends and particularly another married couple. First of all it's just plain fun. Of course I love traveling with my husband and family but there was something about traveling with good friends that made us giddy. It felt extraordinary to be sharing these otherworldly experiences with each other! They also live in Charlottesville so we did plenty of getting together to plan and chat about the trip which amplified the excitement and anticipation.
It was also really wonderful to sometimes pair off for girls things while the guys paired off for guys things. One afternoon us girls went to an onsen where we soaked in hot baths in the nude, along with some other Japanese ladies, for three hours! It was an amazing, culturally beautiful experience and it was so nice to have a girlfriend to do it with. (I loved this recent, related post on this general subject.)
It was neat how we all settled into roles. We four worked so well together and had the right mix of personalities. I was the one who always had a water bottle to pass around. Jim figured out all the subway routes which I appreciated even more after I struck out on my own one day and had to navigate the complicated Tokyo subway system by myself. My husband was good with directions on the ground and keeping us all laughing. Val had the camera and enough enthusiasm to fill three people.
One day we completely miscalculated how long it would take to get to the airport and had to take a $200 cab ride so we didn't miss our flight to Kyoto. And then after our flight we sat on a train for 2 hours just to get to our hotel. It could have been a miserable day but it wasn't, not even a little bit. We made the most of it (in part by buying some wine and beer and sipping it on the train! not illegal in Japan!) as we traded stories and laughed about the super yucky rice ball flavor we picked up at 711.
I think it's safe to say we solidified our friendship with these two for life. We definitely want to travel with them again though we're unsure how we could possibly top Japan. As my sister-in-law recently wrote me in an email, sharing memories makes them live longer. Jim and Val, we think the world of you guys!