Thursday, April 12, 2012

Traveling with Friends

      We have gone on vacation with several of our friends, but traveling with them to the Third World is another matter. For the most part, it is more challenging and more complicated to go to places where one is not really certain about what to expect around the corner. We usually go alone. In the past several folks have indicated they would like to take a Third World trip with us and we have had a few successful voyages with good friends. It takes a bit of planning and one needs to evaluate a few things first. People who travel together have to be socially compatible of course. That is a sine qua non for any kind of travel but especially where the going can be rough. No complainers welcome. Pleasantness and flexibility required. Waiting at unexpected obstacles on the road or stretches between acceptable restaurants are common. Hotels may not meet usual standards but they are what they are and that is where we stay. So we start out by voyaging with those few friends who don't care too much about minor inconveniences along the way.

      Flexibility is the most required characteristic for couples who journey to out of the way places together. One may well have to change plans in midstream, move along with a piece of luggage missing for a period of time, or tolerate discomfort for part of the trip in order to access the places that need to be visited. I wrote earlier about our experience in the monsoon in the Philippines and how we had to completely revise our trip in midstream. Although most trip alterations are not so dramatic as that, we do try to do things that are unique and we often thrust ourselves into the unknown from time to time. If our companions cannot tolerate risk at about the same level, the trip may be lacking surprises and excitement. Time and travel are too precious to sacrifice the serendipity that makes the Third World so inviting.

     Personalities need to mesh during as intimate an experience as adventuresome travel. If one person does not care about time, meeting arrangements are not kept and the rest of the group may be waiting in a lobby for a half hour for the other person. That can be especially aggravating when more punctual members of the group have rushed to make sure their companions are not waiting for them. Morning people and evening people may have to adapt by modifying those tendencies when they are with others for breakfast or during an evening excursion. One sad sack can drag a group down and diminish its level of pleasure. Folks who like museums or ruins have to compromise with those whose interests are more focused on the outdoors or hiking or other more active undertaking and vice-versa. People who are shy about participating in ceremonies or activities of people in the places they are visiting may have to put themselves out more than they otherwise would. People who are germ adverse may need to just let some things go that they would react to at home.

     There are many such matters which folks need to be sensitive to before embarking on a two or three week endeavor to experience some place in the Third World. It is unlikely that travel companions will make an otherwise potentially pleasant trip into a failure but an inability or unwillingness to change one's behavior or an insensitivity to others' wishes and needs can certainly make such an undertaking less enjoyable and less productive. We know our friends in the social context where we usually associate with them but travel is something else. It is hard to know for certain what people will be like on the road but one should take as full measure how that might turn out as possible before taking a risk on a diminished journey or even worse, a diminished friendship. Traveling with company can be lots of fun if the group is truly compatible and on the same page about what they want to do and what they hope to get out of the experience. My wife and I still prefer to wander the Third World on our own. That's how we do it most of the time.

Buddhas in Temple, Mandalay, Myanmar

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