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By Jane Gilgun
Summary Travel can be one of life’s greatest pleasures—or not. A lot depends upon your travel companions. This article provides questions to discuss with potential travel companions before you travel. You then can decide whether you and your travel companions are compatible. If there are differences, then you can work out ground rules beforehand. Yes, rabbits and turtles can make good travel companions, as can larks and night owls, but this may take some planning. About the Author Jane Gilgun is a frequent traveler with lots of experience in gauging travel compatibility. She is a professor and writer and has many articles, books, and children’s stories available on scribd and for Kindle, iPad, Nook, and other e-‐readers.
Travel is one of life’s greatest experiences—or not. Much depends on who you travel with. Some travel companions are a dream, and your trip is one amazing adventure after another. Other travel companions are from hell, and you count the days when the trip will end, and you can get away from them. The purpose of this article is to suggest questions to ask yourself and potential travel companions so that you can have amazing adventures and avoid the misery of travel incompatibility. The following are questions to ask before you decide to take a trip with others. They are not in order of importance because order of importance probably varies according to the personalities of the persons who are thinking of traveling together. These questions apply whether you travel by foot, train, subway, plane, car, bike, horse, motorcycle, or any other means. Of course, some people like to fight when they travel together. They thrive on tension and recrimination. If that’s you, don’t read this article. 1. Are you are turtle or a rabbit? Turtles like to take their time and think about things. Rabbits are raring to go and don’t take much time to deliberate. At many points in a trip, these differences show up. Here are some examples of how turtles and rabbits behave while on trips together. You look at a map to find a place you both want to go. The rabbit discovers a route right away, while the turtle is still thinking things through. The issue to discuss is whether the rabbit will wait until the turtle has discovered a route, too. If the turtle has identified an alternative route, are both of you willing to discuss the alternatives? Finally, can the turtle and the rabbit come to a joint decision about which route to follow? Planning routes each day. The turtle wants to think about and plan which sights to see each day. This may involve a half hour or hour of planning before setting out. The rabbit wants to take off right away. Can both the turtle and the rabbit accommodate to each other’s styles? How long to stay at a site. The rabbit looks around for a while and is ready to move on. The turtle wants to linger, perhaps sit and meditate upon the sight or event. If one traveler is a rabbit and the other is a turtle, how will you handle this difference? How quickly or slowly do you eat? If one of you eats more slowly than the other, then the person who finishes first may find it difficult to wait for the slow eater to
Travel Companions From Hell: How to Choose Who to Travel with—or Not
finish. This is even more difficult if the person who takes a long time over a meal talks a lot instead of eating. Before you decide to travel together, go out to eat two or three times and test the compatibility of your eating habits. Agree on how you will handle any differences in eating time. For example, will the slow eater be offended if the person who finishes first takes a wander and then returns when the slow eater should be finished? If the slow eater takes offense and the faster eater finds it hard to sit and wait, this is not a good sign for travel compatibility 2. Do you make joint or unilateral decisions? As discussed, turtles take time to make decisions. Rabbits make quick decisions. The following are questions for rabbits and turtles to discuss with each other. Do you discuss various routes with your travel companion before you chose a route to follow? Turtles may want to map out a route, even write it down. Rabbits may prefer a more hit and miss approach. Which style do you prefer? How will you negotiate differences? Do rabbits expect turtles to follow? When rabbits make quick decisions such as which route to take, do they move off right away and expect turtles to go along with their decisions? Do they get angry when turtles say, “Wait a minute? I need to figure this out, too?” Do turtles follow but feel angry about the rabbits’ demands to get moving before turtles know where they are going? While en route, how do you make decisions? The turtle is taking the lead—either on foot, bike, horse, driving, or any other way. The turtle and the rabbit have decided on the route, including the landmarks they will pass as they travel. The turtle takes a left turn. The rabbit says it’s to the right. How do you decide which way to go? Will one of you insist you are right? Will you consult a map and make a joint decision? Will you ask someone for directions? 3. Can you admit you made a mistake? Better, can you laugh at your own mistakes? Travel involves many decisions, big and little. You will make mistakes. Do you think mistakes are part of life, including travel? Do you see them as lessons learned? Can you look for the silver lining in your mistakes? Sometimes there aren’t any silver linings. Can you accept that? Either turtles or rabbits can feel bad about mistakes and think they really screwed up. Mistakes can put you or your travel companions in a funky mood. What happens to you when you make a mistake? Are you philosophical? Do you take say, “I made a mistake?” Do you acknowledge any inconvenience your mistake may have caused. If you get upset when you make a mistake, is there anything your travel companions can do to help you deal with how you handle mistakes you made? How would you
like your travel companion to respond when you make a mistake? Would you prefer not to be yelled at? Be blamed? Get the silent treatment? Can you say to your travel companion, “I made a mistake. I’m sorry?” As the travel companion, can you accept that fellow travelers make mistakes? Be sure to discuss with potential travel companions how you respond when you make mistakes. 4. How do you respond to the mistakes of others? Your travel companions will make mistakes. It does not matter whether they are turtles or rabbits, they will make mistakes. Do you hold them to high standards? Do you make sure they understand they made mistakes. Do you explain to them the mistakes they made? Do you inform them of the effects of their mistakes on you. Do you stop trusting their judgment? Do you believe they are human and make mistakes? Are you forgiving of their mistakes? Do you look for the silver lining in the mistakes of others? What happens to you when there are no silver linings in the mistakes of others? 5. How do you respond when things go wrong? In travel, things go wrong. The car breaks down and that stops you from being at a place when you had planned to. The hotel or campground is dirty, crowded, and noisy. After noting that things have gone wrong, do you then become philosophical and let it go? Do you keep complaining and grumbling and don’t look for something to enjoy? Or do you act as if everything is all right? Or do you think it is your fault and you have to fix it? Do you get into a funk when things go wrong? Think about these things and discuss them with your potential travel companions. 6. Can you give others the space to feel dissatisfied and angry? When things go wrong, some people believe it is natural to express dissatisfaction. Some people do not. Which are you? Do you express dissatisfaction and then go on? Do you express dissatisfaction and won’t let go of it? Do you pretend that everything is all right and act like Little Mary Sunshine? If your styles of expressing dissatisfaction are different, you may drive each other crazy. Be sure to discuss your styles of expressing dissatisfaction. 7. Can you discuss angry feelings toward each other? Traveling can mean being with another person many hours a day, including sharing a room or a tent. There will be times when traveling companions annoy you. You
feel angry. Before you leave on a trip, be sure to develop some ground rules about how you will handle how to express annoyance and anger toward each other. When someone is angry at you, are you eager to hear what is bothering them about you so you can work things out? When someone is angry at you, do you feel hurt? Do you become silent? Do you get angry back? Do you yell, “You don’t understand” and the proceed to list all of the things that the other person has done to cause you anger? 8. Can you carry on a conversation? A conversation is like a tennis match, except that you want the other person to hit the ball back. You say something, and the other responds. The other person says something, and you respond. A conversation is reciprocal. It involves being interested in what others say. It involves active listening. When you engage in conversation, do you respond to what the other has said before you bring in your own experiences? Are your responses brief and to the point? Does the other person feel heard? Do you feel heard? What do you do when you feel as if the other person is not interested in what you have to say? Are conversations proving grounds where you want to show the other how much you know? What great experiences you’ve had? What a wonderful person you are? 9. How tolerant are you of the moods of others? Travel can be stressful. At times, you and your companions will be grumpy and tired. How do you want your travel companions to respond when you are not in an up mood? Do you want a little breathing room to relax? When your traveling companions are grumpy and tired, can you accept that? Can you be understanding? Or do you think you have to cheer them up? That their mood must be your fault? Do you go into a funk? When you are stressed and grumpy do you tell the other person how you are feeling and request a bit of emotional space? Do you think it is ok to feel stressed and grumpy? 10. How much time alone do you want? Some people want to be with others much if not all of the time. Others crave and thrive on alone time. Talk about that before you travel together. Do you believe you have a right to be alone at times? Do you worry that your travel companions will be hurt and angry if you say you want some alone time? If your travel companions want to spend time alone, do you think they are tired of you? Want to avoid you? That you have done something wrong and they won’t tell you? Do you complicate simple situations?
11. What time do you go to bed and get up in the morning? Are you a lark or night owl? Larks are early risers and may go to be early. Night owls go to bed late and sleep late. Larks and owls can make excellent travel companions, but that means they have accommodated to each other. Can you tolerate sharing a room or traveling with someone who might want lights off early or lights on early? If you are a lark, does it bother you if the owl reads at night or watches TV? If you are an owl, does it bother you if the lark gets up early? Do you expect the other person to go to bed when you do? Get up when you do? If larks and owls travel together, it’s a good idea to work out ground rules ahead of time. 12. Do you respect the rhythms of others? Some people take a long time to get ready, while other people wait. Can you wait with patience and understanding? Do you expect other people to wait for you? Do you expect them to be ready to leave as soon as you are ready? Do you expect to wait for the other people? Do you get angry if you have to wait for other people to get ready? Do you expect other people to wait for you and then be ready to go when you are when they, after waiting for you, become engaged in something of important to them? Discussion Think about these things. Discuss them. If you spot serious incompatibilities, I suggest you don’t travel with that person or persons. Travel with others involves a lot of time alone together. Working out ground rules beforehand can help you have a happy and relaxing time. You may not think you need to talk about these things when you travel with long-‐term friends. You could be right. On the other hand, long hours together day after day may bring out things in yourself that your friend did not expect and can’t handle well. Long hours together can bring out things in friends that you can’t handle. Answer the questions honestly. If you find you have shortcomings in some of the areas, work on them. Travel is wonderful. There is nothing like a compatible travel companion. Travel can be hell if there is travel incompatibility. If you don’t discuss these questions beforehand, or if you don’t have a natural compatibility, you will have a stressful, tense time.
You can still enjoy much of the trip especially if you can figure out how to stay fair, balanced, and serene, even with someone whose style is not compatible with yours. Even if your travel companions tell you how incompatible your styles are. Happy trails! (Not trials)
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