Last summer I traveled to Australia with two other adults, chaperoning 27 middle school students. It was an amazing adventure, I did new things that I am still proud of (giant swing! milking a cow! wearing authentic rodeo cowboy gear! snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, for crying out loud!), I completely fell in love with the country.
However. (Isn't there always a however?)
It was not all sunshine and roses. Besides the learning and the fun and the beauty, there were the people. Now, the Australians were just as friendly and witty as you've heard; I loved talking to all of them, and not just because of their lovely accent. But the part where our group was walking around together, or standing and waiting, or riding in the bus for hours at a time (I believe we covered 1800 miles in the Queensland Outback loop alone, in eight or nine days' time). That was the part that sucked.
The other two leaders were nice enough women. I just didn't fit in, at all. There was no room for me. The main leader is very opinionated, loud, overly animated, gregarious and a bit self-centered. She's always talking, mostly about things she's done or seen or whatever. The other leader is much quieter and calmer, often napping during down time. The two of them were rather chummy, chatting a lot and having plenty in common.
I've never been a good small-talker, and there's just no way to fill all those hours with meaningful discussion. And I learned very early on there was just no need for me to talk. The one woman would just go on without any response from her audience, and the other, like I said, dozed often. So I sat and read, or stared out the window. The loud woman insisted that no one use their ipods, which I found ridiculous. The kids had plenty of time and interest in hanging out with and talking to each other. So I finally began sneaking music, because I just couldn't stand it. Sometimes there was loud music played on the bus that I desperately wanted to drown out, sometimes there were voices and snoring I desperately needed to not hear, and many times I just needed something for myself.
It was really sad and pathetic that I've never felt more isolated or not myself when surrounded by thirty other people at all times.
The preparations for this summer's trip are beginning, and I'm dreading it in so many ways. The leaders are the same (which means the same people dynamics, as well as that every other place we stay, I won't sleep well due to snoring), the food situation will be extremely difficult for me, and I will again have to shut down my personality for three weeks. I feel like this whole thing is just not a good idea for me this year. But I don't know how to back out. I don't know which is a bigger sacrifice--not seeing a beautiful new country or not enjoying myself while I'm there.