Why Leadership Matters on Personal Trips

Personal trips are meant to be fun and relaxing. It’s a chance to have a few days days or weeks of freedom from the rules and restraints of the rest of your life. For these reasons, most people don’t give leadership a second thought when it comes to making plans for personal trips with their friends. It’s only a few days, you know your friends well, why bother talking about decision-making or your definition of acceptable risk? But just because your trip is meant to be fun, doesn’t mean that a casual conversation about the leadership dynamic of your group couldn’t go a long way toward making the adventure a success.

The word “leadership” sounds formal and regulated, but in reality, leadership is a catch-all term for a variety of behaviors that make working with other people go more smoothly. That is why leadership is important, even on personal trips. Embracing and promoting leadership on a personal trip can be done tactfully when you know what pitfalls you’re trying to avoid.

Discuss Your Goals
What are you going to do? Even if it’s a loose plan, like camping in a general area for a few days of fly fishing, figure out your goals. A weekend of hiking could mean leisurely starts and short miles to one person, while to another it could mean waking up at dawn and hiking well into the night. Everyone has a different definition of “fun”; assuming you’re on the same page is a fast way to doom a trip.

Lack of sleep, insufficient food, and terrible weather wear on everyone, but lashing out at other people won’t make anything better. If you’re in a bad mood, find some space (or some food). If it’s a deeper issue, wait until you’ve calmed down a bit and then bring the problem to light. Small problems have a way of growing into big obstacles if they’re brushed aside, so don’t be afraid to talk things out.

Pick Solid Partners
There’s no question that a bad group dynamic can destroy a trip–like the guy who whines about the rain, or girl who doesn’t help set up camp, or the couple that won’t stop fighting. If you get to choose your companions, think about the conditions you’ll be facing before you start asking for company. Nothing tests a relationship like travel and travel in the wilderness can be especially taxing. Do you really want to embark on a month-long expedition with the guy you just met at the climbing gym? Sometimes you don’t get to chose who you’re traveling with. Maybe you’ve been asked to tag along on a friend’s permit for the Colorado River, or a you join a group of casual friends for a weekend hut tour. Scoring a spot on an already-organized trip is pretty sweet, but it may mean that you have little say over how the vacation is structured. If that’s the case, being easy-going may be your best option. Roll with the punches and enjoy the fact that you’re getting a (mostly) free ride.