travel companions

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
  • 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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Having a great time, wish you were her

by Steve Brock on November 16, 2010

Sometimes you're better off not writing - or thinking - anything more than this...

On my first trip to Europe back in high school, I decided to send my girlfriend back home a rather clever (or so I thought) postcard. The words I penned were simple and few:

“Having a great time. Wish you were her.”

Oh did my male buddies on the trip howl. I’m sure I’d stolen the line from someone else, but to them, I was the epitome of sardonic wit. When word got out to the female members of our traveling group, the opinion was fairly divided. Some thought I was just an idiot. The rest thought I was a complete and totally insensitive idiot. Their reaction and the fact that none of my enthusiastically supportive male friends had a girlfriend of his own should have clued me in to the limits of so-called humor.

But no need. I got the clear message when I returned home. The reception from my girlfriend was about as warm and inviting as frozen worms. And the questions that followed regarding the motivation for the postcard would have made the Grand Inquisitor feel sheepish.

“Having a great time. Wish you were her.” Not words you want to write to a girlfriend as I found out. But ones, when seen from a different perspective, that ring true for many a traveler who has found that his or her choice of traveling companions turns out to be as wise as running with scissors. On ice. Barefoot.

Sometimes the person or people you travel with, the ones who are your best friends back home, turn out to be different people on a trip. The patient, sensitive neighbor at home turns out to be shrill and demanding in a foreign country. The gregarious pal you play basketball with every Tuesday becomes moody and withdrawn outside his comfort zones. Halfway through your trip, you’re asking yourself, “Can I get a do-over?”

You may be having a great time – or maybe not – but in any case, you wish these people were someone else, almost anyone else.

What went wrong? Was this the result of selecting the wrong companions? Or is there something more going on?

If you want a trip to be meaningful, it helps to look beyond your initial reactions to others and re-evaluate the purpose of the trip. Is it to have fun and see all you can of a new place or to discover something new about you? Usually it’s both, but we don’t always gain the personal insights by simply having a good time.

Sometimes God uses the people we travel with, even when they may be irritating or embarrassing us, to help us learn something new, not just about them but about ourselves. Distance from home and that old “iron sharpens iron” principle can do quite a number on us if we’re open to it.

The results may not be your typical definition of “fun” but if you travel with others in a way where you’re constantly asking God to show you what you can learn from them, you may be surprised at how your trip goes.

You may, in fact, pick up a postcard along the way and pen a message to other friends back home.

“Having a great time” you write. And you leave it at that.

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