“I have found out that there ain’t any surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” – Mark Twain
I know good team work when I see it. Think: Connery & Caine, Huck Finn & Tom Sawyer, Hunter S. Thompson & Lazlo, Don Quixote & Sancho, to name s a few.
As a human being who is hooked on traveling, I understand that having the right travel companion can make the world of difference between embarking on a dream adventure, or being caught up in an endless nightmare.
In the past, I have made it a point to take prospective romantic partners on a trip to test our travel compatibility. Because if you can make it on the road dealing with logistic snafus, cultural nuances, language challenges, utilizing your Travel IQ, overcoming jet lag and physical dissimulation, well, you can deal with the more mundane daily issues of life. And I firmly believe that.
I remember one test drive romance to Paris. She preferred haute couture window shopping and Michelin-starred dinning; while I was prone to picnics in the park and hanging with Jim Morrison’s friends in a Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Despite the sparks flying, that one didn’t work out. Then there was the test drive to Jamaica for the annual reggae Sunsplash Festival. She wanted to hang by the pool and order room service; whereas I went windsurfing and listened to live reggae until dawn. That didn’t work either.
Then there was the test drive I took with a woman to the downtrodden developing nation of Myanmar back in the ’90s. She didn’t mind getting up pre-dawn to catch the morning Buddhist rituals, spending time in odorous wet markets or taking all manner of 4-legged public transportation to off the beaten path spots. We clicked and I have been with her ever since.
Needless to say, traveling with a compatible mate is important. Our annual travel adventure event takes extraordinary determination, chutzpah, daring, grit, and even some intestinal fortitude to participate — and maybe even win the title of The World’s Greatest Travelers. I firmly believe that we as 21st century members of homo touristicus never feel more alive than when we are overcoming obstacles and personal challenges. And traveling done right is all of that. But there is a limit, because travel clearly takes you outside your comfort zone (your happy box), and how you react to being outside that comfort zone is telling about you — and your relationship. It can be the deal breaker.
Traveling with a mate obviously tests your interpersonal skills on a multitude of levels. Not only because it is necessary for travelers to trust strangers in strange lands; but more importantly, because traveling with someone forces you to have a positive and constructive working relationship — whether you are in Topeka or Timbuktu.
Vacation personalities, travel styles, and interests vary among us homo touristicus. Team compatibility comes down to four essential issues: curiosity, tastes, pace and respect. Travelers inevitably have different goals and expectations, buy being patient, compassionate and showing empathy towards each other is critical. Who needs any unnecessary reality TV show-like drama, right?
So, to that end, below are a few of the things that over years I have learned to consider when traveling with a partner around the world to exotic, and sometimes less than optimally functioning, destinations:
● Are you AM people, or PM people? How will you overcome those differences?
● Are you competitive Type A planners, or more laid back Type B free-spirits? How will you find a happy functioning balance?
● Are you people people or a go it alone person? Which of you is best equipped to deal with and be kind to strangers?
● Are you a three-square meals a day type, or a 24/7 snack-type eater? How will you compromise when energy and blood sugar levels start getting low?
● Are you left-brained, or right-brained? Can it be managed?
● Are you a natural leader, or follower? How will you make tough decisions and compromises when you are both right? Will it be a fair decision?
● Are you an analytical planner, or a seat-of-the-pants spontaneous and instinctual wanderer type? How will you manage that? Can you manage to be early and on time, or will you always be rushing at the last-minute?
● Are comfortable silences okay with both of you? Will you respect each others alone time needs?
● How will the other react when one of you just needs some simple non-dramatic alone & quiet time?
Some other more practical realities include:
● Are you a frugal traveler or a nothing-but-the-best type? How will you deal with on-the-road expenses? 50/50 each transaction? Or keep a tab?
● How will you split duties and create a successful division of labor? Packing, logistics, transactions, safety, currency exchanges, food & water?
● How do you make a consensus decision when you both have diametrically opposed views?
In the end, traveling should be about fun — but whose version of fun?
“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.” – Peter Høeg… Indeed!
Any constructive pointers from past teams?