Who hasn’t thought up a trip and then looked around for a companion to join them? You quickly discard one person because she can’t take off from work, then another because he just had surgery and then hit up on someone who can possibly go and immediately start lobbying them about what a great trip this will be! Or you’re the person being lobbied. But hang on a minute, traveling with someone else can be delightful and safer or it can be the opposite. Since some trips cement (or split) relationships for life, it’s important to know upfront which of your fellow Travelers tend to be stressed being in new situations or have a fine disregard for death. Not to mention, if they have very different reasons for going on the same trip. Below are some questions to ask your potential traveling companion before you agree to travel together.
- Ask if your potential traveling companion about their level of experiences with the type of travel proposed?
Ask questions based on what you’ve observed of this person and the type of travel anticipated. For example, if her sneakers have only been worn in a fitness class in a gymnasium, how will she do hiking down a slot canyon in the water of a creek because there is no trail to walk on? Is she willing to try it or is this outside of her comfort zone. Has he traveled in a country where he does not speak the language? How did he do?
- Ask if your potential traveling companion is more of a ‘When in Rome do what the Romans do” type of traveler; or “I’m visiting a zoo to view the inhabitants” type of traveler?
Flexibility and being accepting of other ways of living is much easier and sometimes safer when travelling. Will she be open to seeing the good things the other culture offers, or will she disparage them? If traveling to a conservative country, is she OK with wearing modest clothing or covering her hair or is she up for making a stand for western style freedoms?
- Ask your traveling companion if they’re more of a ‘Let’s go check out the new Ethiopian restaurant!’ or ‘I really need Vegetarian food’ kind of person.
Being Veg is fine, but it may reduce your options and perhaps your destinations; or it may mean bringing emergency rations. Not to mention, even without dietary restrictions there are preferences — some people are good with a small espresso and minute pastry for breakfast while others insist on their usual toast and eggs.
- Find out if your traveling companion wants to be part of a nature show or just watch shows about it.
Lets face it, some of us may love nature shows but not lived them. How does she feel staying in primitive lodgings (e.g., no bathrooms, showers or hairdryers)? If travel includes camping, how does he feel about sleeping in a sleeping bag under the stars or eating with sand or dirt blowing onto his plate? Vivid examples are best since some of this sounds great from a recliner chair but is considerably less attractive when you’re doing it live.
- Are they an introvert or an extrovert?
Some might scoff at this question but that’s because they’ve never paired an introvert with a raging extrovert on a long trip. Introverts need time alone and they recharge through solitary activity while extroverts need people and recharge through new experiences. Imagine how rejected and lonely an extrovert could feel if their his companion just wants to read back at the hotel room or how the introvert would feel if the extrovert wants to see yet another sight instead of spending some time painting?
- How are their people skills?
If you know your friend can be rude to the waitress and a little off-putting at parties, can you imagine what will happen if they’re obnoxious to the wrong person on the train? If it’s an issue, either they need to let the more diplomatic person deal with some encounters or you’re best off with a travel partner who won’t get you both in trouble. Also, is this a person who you can talk to if your trip is starting to take a turn for the worse in order to make it better? Ability to communicate when things aren’t as you planned can deepen a friendship and is something travel often requires.
- Ask what concerns or scares your companion about this trip?
Don’t discount the person’s response. For example, if she recently had a broken arm and sprained ankle and is worried she won’t be able to walk as far and fast as you, it might matter a lot on many outdoors trips but less so on a group tour done mostly by motorized bus. Or maybe he is allergic to certain plants or food and must avoid them, which might be fine in some countries with some planning but not in others. Maybe she is scared of heights and won’t go up to the cathedral’s rooftop or walk along the rim of a canyon. How comfortable are you both with one person doing the activity that the other is afraid to do?
- If there is a wide difference of between the travelers’ skill level and experience, how comfortable is the experienced person taking the lead? How comfortable is the less experienced traveler following the person with the expertise?
Differing levels of experience and skills provides an excellent opportunity for the less experienced companion to learn. Or, he may downplay his inexperience, or overestimate his experience because he assumes his skills are applicable to the new type of travel or is embarrassed that he doesn’t know as much as you. It might be critical to discuss that not all experience transfers to a different travel environment. For example, if she is skilled in rafting rivers, she may not know how to select a campsite on desert sandstone. If the travel is to a foreign country and only one of you knows the language, how comfortable is he letting the other communicate on his behalf?
- Does your companion have sufficient equipment and appropriate clothes for conditions that you will/may encounter during the trip?
Have a checklist of needed equipment and clothes. If she needs to borrow equipment and clothes, it indicates that she is not experienced in this type of travel. Also, borrowed items may not be in good working condition or inadequate for the travel purposes. Check all the equipment and clothes to make sure it works and is appropriate for the trip’s conditions.
- Does your friend have a passport, visas and/or permits for the trip?
If she doesn’t have a passport and the plan is to visit a foreign country, it indicates that she is new to this type of travel. Ask what has prevented her from traveling in the past. Look for things that an inexperienced traveler might miss to avoid trouble on your trip. In some cases, if this is a more extreme adventure, this companion is not for you since it would be trouble for both of you. Remember that great part in “Into Thin Air” By Jon Krakeur where they’re supposed to be climbing Everest and one of the folks on a guided trip had never worn their new boots before? It didn’t end well, did it?
- What are the goals for this travel?
Consider the goals that you and your potential traveling companion have. Are the goals the same, similar or very different? For example, one of you might be looking for romance, adventure or pursuing a hobby which is fine, if the other is as well or has compatible reasons for travel. What if he wants to go to an opera and you don’t like it? If agreed to by the traveling companions, at certain times, one may pursue the hobby while the other does a separate activity. Maybe both will agree to do something only one enjoys and trades off so both do something the other enjoys. Or maybe traveling together is a hideous idea because you want to do an art trip and she wants to conquer fourteeners (mountains that are over 14,000 in elevation).
- With regard to travel, what are your strengths and weaknesses?
You are looking for good judgment and traits that will indicate how easy or hard it will be to travel with him and how much responsibility you will need to assume during the trip. If you get a hint, for example, that your potential traveling companion insists on having his way, it doesn’t really matter why, the point is that the trip will be a nightmare unless you are willing to go along with whatever he wants. Does she seem distractible or inept at being aware of the situation? This type of person may be a mark for purse snatching or may be unaware that you two have wandered into a dangerous situation. Will he be able to make good decisions based on reality, as opposed to his preconceptions or fears? Does he regularly lose things and expect you to keep up with his stuff and passport? Many of us know the person we are travelling with, but dealing with them at home is far different than dealing with them in a new place where there are different hazards. And for someone you don’t know much about? This would be the time to discover any issues rather than in a tight situation in the middle of your trip.
Wait, wait, wait — before you even ask a potential travel companion these questions, ask them of yourself. The answers may tell you that this not the right trip for you despite your friend’s entreaties to go with them or it may tell you that you are not the right companion for them. Also, sometimes just reviewing the list will tell you not to ask a specific friend on a trip because it’s better to ask someone more compatible or go by yourself. Solo travel may be the best way to go.
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