Holidaying With Strangers – It's Not As Scary As It Sounds! 

To most of us, the idea of holidaying with complete strangers seems unthinkable. The very thought of spending our free time with a random group of people we know nothing about is anathema to many people. Even less, would they want to spend much of that time cooped up on a coach and just riding along. But I have to say that some of my favourite holidays have been spent just like that. Whether it's exploring the Pacific Coast of North America, winding through the leafy lanes of New England, contrasting the mountains of Norway with the flat lands of Denmark, or simply taking in some part of Britain I have yet to know, coach holidays are among the most relaxing, interesting and stimulating types of vacation.

There are heaps of advantages of travelling this way. Firstly, you get to see a much larger area of a new place than you would ever manage were you driving yourself. You don't have to worry about planning routes, about locating toilet stops, or petrol stations or coffee shops en route. All you have to do is turn up on time and ready to go. Don't be mistaken, I love travelling independently. There's nothing I like more than getting up when I feel like it, eating what, when and where I like, doing what I want as the mood takes me. And if you're going to join an organised coach tour you can forget any of that. You do have to keep to a schedule. Like as not, there'll be another 40 people reliant upon you arriving bang on time. But the trade-off is more than worth it. And what might seem like a disadvantage will likely turn out to be quite the opposite. You get to see places you would never see while travelling under your own steam. You'll have to eat in a restaurant you'd normally drive right past because it's the only one for miles and it'll turn out to be a gem. You'll take part in that dreaded ad-hoc picnic and have the time of your life. And you'll chat with folks you'd never normally encounter. 

And that, of course, is the truly great thing about travelling by coach, and of holidaying with strangers. Because everyone on that trip is in precisely the same boat (or bus) as you. They know almost no-one, they know as little about you as you do about them. They may even be a little bit shy (I know I am). But, if you think about it, you all have something in common. You are all interested in seeing the same part of the world. And that's a starting point at least. You'll get time on your own, so you won't be in each other's pockets, but it's good to learn about new people. To make new friends. And it's easier to do this on a holiday than it is at home, school or work. Because you can hook up with people, temporarily, without the need to consider whether you really want to make a lifelong friendship. And it doesn't matter. You'll not be with them long enough for any of their, or your, irritating habits to come to the fore. 

You also get a kind of camaradarie. Sometimes, not very often, things will go wrong. We once had to make a 30-mile detour because a truck of frozen chickens had emptied over the highway we were supposed to use. Instead of the promised 'spectacular' buffet dinner we were expecting at our next hotel, we were forced to stop off in the small town of Lexington, Virginia, and split our groups among three or four small restaurants. What a welcome detour! The town was gorgeous, the restaurant we chose romantic – in a beautiful Colonial house with a great sweeping staircase leading up to the restrooms – and the casual strolls we took with our fellow travellers were mellow. Granted we were happy to get to our beds when we did eventually arrive at our hotel,  but we were full of food and adventure and conviviality.

On another occasion our planned route through Yellowstone National Park was blocked by heavy and early snowfall and we had to take refuge, and find food, in the tiny town of Cooke City, Montana. It was like a scene from the X-Files. Utterly deserted but for our coach party and a single diner and neighbouring grocery store. The rest of the businesses, and there were only a handful, were already shut up for the winter months. The only sound was a creaky iron sign swinging back and forth in the breeze. There was even, believe it or not, some kind of tumbleweed rolling down the main (and only) street. But being in a group made it so much more fun. When we got back aboard the coach everyone had a tale to tell and we entertained ourselves on the detour by telling our own.

And I love that routine of getting up early, getting breakfast in the hotel, getting the bags loaded on the bus, climbing aboard the bus and setting off for a day on the road. You know where you'll be at the end of the day. And you know some of the sights you'll see on the way, but you never really know what you'll be seeing along the way. Or where the conversations will lead. You might end up watching the sun set over the Grand Canyon with a family from Australia, or grabbing a coffee at a truck stop in the middle or nowhere with a couple from Portsmouth.  Granted, if your only idea of a holiday is sitting on a beach, or beside a pool, and sipping a strawberry daiquiri or reading a trashy novel then you're probably not going to be convinced. If you just can't be bothered to be up with the lark, to keep packing and unpacking or rough it just a little bit then it's almost certainly not for you.

But if you like an adventure or a bit of spontaneity to your day. If you quite fancy the idea of returning to your hotel room through the woods with only the light of the stars and torch to guide you. Or if you're interested in getting out there, meeting people, trying new things and having a ball, then this might just be the trip for you.