A new study from Flash Pack has revealed the stark cost of lost friendships as a result of Covid-19, with Americans losing on average seven close relationships since the start of the pandemic.
The survey of 1,000 US adults via OnePoll highlights the isolating effect of the global health crisis, in what the travel company is describing as a “pal-demic”. Nearly 40% of respondents have lost touch with nine or more friends over the course of the past 18 months, while 29% describe feeling cut off from their closest connections.
“These findings shine a light on the hidden toll of Covid,” says Flash Pack co-founder Lee Thompson. “When it comes to the broader fallout from the pandemic, we’ve heard a lot about job and lifestyle changes – but less on how it’s impacted our social circles.
“Research shows that close relationships are vital to happiness and wellbeing, yet it is exactly this life-enhancing quality that our survey shows is being eroded. At Flash Pack, we’ve seen that group travel goes hand-in-hand with friendship – so we’re determined to turn the tide.”
Certainly, the appetite is there. A massive 73% of Americans polled in the latest Flash Pack study say they’re looking to establish new friendships, with 58% crediting their pals for helping with their mental health – a fact that drives home the soul-fuelling effect of the people around us. A third of those surveyed also believe that making new friends helps with self-esteem.
Quality matters more than quantity, too. Nearly a third of people (30%) questioned in Flash Pack’s study say that the pandemic prompted them to reassess who their real friends are, while 40% want more meaningful friendships and 33% are focusing on cultivating deeper ties with their existing pals.
The findings have prompted Flash Pack to launch a mission to create one million friendships by connecting like-minded solo millennial travelers through adventure and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
“As we get older, making new friends can become harder, but friendships also become more meaningful,” says Lee. “New experiences and connections are intrinsically linked and one of the best ways to open yourself up to new people is to take yourself out of your comfort zone.
“As the world opens up again, people aren’t just looking to make new connections, they’re looking for real-world experiences to share them with.”
With the global tourism industry returning post-pandemic, solo travel bookings are up 300% in the US compared to those booking as couples, families or friend groups.
Flash Pack caters to this market by drawing together small groups of solo travelers for adventures all over the world. Each trip is carefully curated to bond groups and create meaningful connections by encouraging them to try something new.
Unique activities such as cave dining in Patagonia, balloon rides in Mexico City or abseiling down Cape Town’s Table Mountain are a recipe for lasting friendships, bonding travelers in the moment and leading to lifelong ties. Many Flash Pack travelers stay in touch long after their trip has finished, arranging regular reunions and even taking more trips together.
The effect of this calibre of friendship is clear from Flash Pack’s latest study, which surveyed Americans of all age demographics and regions in the US. Nearly 60% of survey participants say that as they’ve gotten older, their friendships have become more meaningful, with 62% changing the course of their life as a result of advice from a friend.
A further 35% of respondents think that shared experiences such as travel are more important than ever, even as friendships become harder to maintain (38%).
“The survey results show that friendship is like this magic elixir in life, helping everything from confidence to your overall outlook,” explains Flash Pack co-founder Radha Vyas. “It takes time to craft meaningful connections but it’s well worth the investment. In an age where Instagram likes are fast-won but easily forgotten, real-life friendships bring substance and soul.
“It’s really cheering to see how these kinds of relationships can be cultivated via travel, too,” Radha adds. “When we first launched Flash Pack, we weren’t prepared for the ‘friendship effect’ of our small group adventures, but it has turned out to be one of the most powerful elements of our model – inevitably, travelers always mention how great the people are on their trips, and this chemistry drives a lot of repeat bookings.”
Want to jump aboard the friendship-travel express? Check out Flash Pack’s 17 new adventures, including wrestling masterclasses, snowmobile safaris and experiential street art, right here.