Friday, November 19, 2010

The art of choosing the right traveling companion

by Steve Brock on November 19, 2010

Here I am with my favorite traveling companions in Mexico. I'm just glad they choose me...

Last time we looked at what happens when you travel with someone you don’t get along with. In those cases, you can still have a meaningful trip if you rely on God to reveal what you can learn from them.

However, if you’d rather spend your trip discovering something new about the place rather than the limits of your interpersonal conflict management skills, then ask yourself these questions when choosing your travel companion(s):

How long will you be traveling together? You can handle almost anything for a day trip. Get beyond a week or month and you may find your differences cause you to fit together like a country western band at an NAACP convention.

Do you have an overriding passion or purpose for the trip? It’s far easier to ignore people who irritate you if you’re focused on something else. Moreover, you may find that the shared interest actually helps you see that person differently. And vice versa. Remember: they may not be the only irritating person in your two-person team…

Is difference the issue? Quite often, the people that produce that eye twitch and barely concealed snarl in us are the ones who are most like us. We see traits in others we don’t always see (or like) in ourselves. I, for example, tire quickly of overly sarcastic people. Yeah. Like who wouldn’t.

Are you aware of how you’re different? Below are some common ways in which people differ. Use this as a diagnostic for your traveling companion, either to determine if you should travel together or if you’re set on it, to be aware of your differences so you can manage those better and discuss them…before you leave.

  • Myers-Briggs “I’s” vs. “E’s.” Basically, those who get energy by being alone vs. those who are energized by other people.
  • City lights and action (human-made) vs. rural peace and quiet
    (nature).
  • Vacation for rest vs. vacation for activities. A person desiring to lie on the beach with a book for a week doesn’t appreciate the one who wants to visit 14 tourist attractions – in the next hour.
  • Art lovers vs. sports enthusiasts. This isn’t always one or the other but there are extremes on both ends (though I can’t recall anyone painting their body a certain color before going to a museum).
  • Foodies vs. fuel-fooders. Do you live to eat or eat to live?
  • Risk takers (who think everyone should seize the moment) vs. risk avoiders (who think someone should seize the risk takers).
  • Cheap vs. Luxury. Most of us have a budget, but what that is can differ dramatically. Moreover, what one person considers “luxury” may be the “bare necessity” to another.
  • Detailed planners vs. spontaneous souls.
  • First-timers vs. seasoned travelers. Sometimes this can be a great combination. Other times, the one feels patronized and the other held back.
  • Morning larks (who like to start their day at 5:00 a.m.) vs. night owls (who only – if ever – see 5:00 a.m. on the backside of their “day”).

This list could go on and on, but you get the point. And if you have experienced firsthand some other trip-ruining differences, please share them here.

Finally, let me offer you the best advice I had prior to getting married. Why? Because it also applies to choosing your traveling companion:

“Realize that the things you like about the other person will only get better over time and the things you dislike will only get worse.”

You won’t be able to change the person, especially on a trip. And when traveling, those contrasts will only be more pronounced.

Choose wisely.

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