Heck, it’s been too long since my last blog! I’m supposed to be doing this more often, not less! But I have a great excuse: traveling. Argentinian Patagonia! (Stay tuned for at least one post about that trip, if not more. There’s a lot to tell!) Anyway! After two weeks of being in the constant company of two fellow teachers, one of whom is not at all compatible and the other being very compatible, I’m compelled to write about the subject of picking people to travel with. This is a transaction that is crucial to the optimal health of a trip, but not nearly as easy as we might think. The person you get along with in other parts of life is not necessarily the person you’re going to get along with halfway around the world. Take my word for it, I’ve learned this lesson one too many times. And I still have not remedied it completely, giving the same wrong co-travelers second and third chances, hoping said individuals have “changed,” or just plain liking them and wishing for the best. Well, following this trip, it’s finally clear to me that if it doesn’t work the first time, it isn’t going to work any other time, either.
I’ve been traveling for almost forty years. Seriously for twenty-five of them. Like crazy for the past fifteen. I lucked out for the first several years of my traveling life, my beloved mom being my one and only partner on the road of life. After she took the big journey to a better place in 2004 I started traveling alone, and though it was tough not having her and being by myself so much, I learned to embrace it, and later, to love it. I still prefer it. But after much trial and error, I can say I have a couple of really good friends that I’m comfy with.
Here are some things to consider when picking who you leave town with.
First of all, what are your objectives when you travel? For a while, I was seeing an increasing amount of travelers going to foreign countries to party. This is not my type of person to go anywhere with. If it’s yours that’s fine, but be sure you have the same goal. There’s nothing worse that trying to enjoy a trip while someone else is drunk and slamming doors when you’re trying to sleep. Or, trying to wake the same person up a few hours after the party is over to catch a flight. Discuss what’s on the agenda before you leave, agree to it, and stick with it to the best of your ability. Traveling can easily invite the unpredictable, but some of that can be avoided by figuring out ahead of time what the purpose of your trip is before you set foot on that aircraft or slam the door of that car.
How about the activity level of the trip? Is your travel mate able to keep up with you, or vice versa? If not, can you make separate plans and carry them out comfortably so that everyone is happy? You don’t want someone rushing you through what you want to do to get to what they want to do, and you don’t want to do the same to someone else. Nor should you be slowing each other down. You’re all putting money into this grand scheme and you want to get what you want out of it. Travel with someone close to the same ability level.
Speaking of money, consider how you think about money and how much you actually have when choosing your running mates. If you’re careful and a budget-minded traveler like I am, dealing with someone who is either a spendthrift or has a lot more money than you can be a downer. You may even be inclined to kick out that credit card just to satisfy the status quo and not appear cheap, only to cry later.
Warning: Don’t leave your hometown with anyone who requires you to be a tour guide. “I’m following you” is what you don’t want to hear. Believe me. It may make you feel good that someone trusts your judgement, but it usually means that your “follower” just can’t bear the thought of researching and carrying out plans of their own. Find followers on social media, not on a trip to some faraway land.
Trust is important in any kind of relationship, but becomes even more crucial in a traveling one. Remember, if you’re sharing a room with someone, they’re going to know about pretty much everything you have in your suitcase, including money, jewelry, and items that may not be valuable, but are special to you in other ways. This is another tough lesson I learned when the wrong roommate made off with a present one of my students bought me fifteen years ago. Gone forever. So is that travel companion!
If you’re having trouble finding the right buddies, I suggest traveling alone. It has its perils like anything else, but has a lot of benefits, too, the biggest one being that you can do what you want to do when you want to do it, and you don’t have to worry about anyone else. Which doesn’t mean that your trip isn’t going to get messed up. It just means that you’ll screw up your trip all by yourself instead of someone doing it for you. Personally, I’d rather have myself to blame for a bad trip than resent someone else for it.
Take my word for it. It’s better that way.