Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Traveling Companions

I was having a discussion earlier tonight with Simon (Simon, by the way, is female and is a nickname...) about travel and traveling companions. We were discussing, in particular, if we would be able to travel together. We met in England, live halfway across the country from each other, and keep planning fantasy trips to England and elsewhere. But we were discussing whether we'd get on each other's nerves. We decided we wouldn't, but not because we're brilliant people or a perfect mesh of personalities. A big part of it has to do with what we've done before in our lives and where (and with whom) we've travelled. So I went through a bunch of pictures and will present them to you now along with some rules for travelling with others.

With Rachel on the top of Monte San Salvatore, overlooking Lugano, Switzerland and Lake Lugano. The secret to this travel arrangement is that Rach and I hadn't seen each other for almost two years and were hanging out in a goat farm in Switzerland before heading to the more touristy areas of Florence and Rome. Also, we both like adventure, aren't afraid of getting lost, and spoke random semi-useful languages. We discovered that part of the perfect travelling duo is making sure that at least one person likes seafood, for when you order what you think is Spaghetti with Meatballs, but it is in fact, Spaghetti with shellfish...
Ben and I haven't travelled extensively together, but part of the key to the Alaska trip was keeping a good chunk of it low-key (i.e. staying in a cabin with no electricity or water in the middle of nowhere). When it rained, I could read and he could walk on the beach. Also, he'd planned 70% of the trip (I planned the part with my friends) so I didn't have to stress about much and could focus on why my parents were so evil as to move me from Alaska to Kentucky. Just kidding. (Kindof. I did call them after we drove by the old house to tell them they ruined my life. I may have been sobbing. My cell phone signal may have then died...)
Mom and I haven't travelled much without the rest of the family either. Here we're hiking, but 3 days earlier, we'd been in Montreal hanging out at a Youth Hostel. I give LOADS of credit to my mom for going on this trip. It was crazy. Something like 9 days, 2500 miles? And in the end she fell out of a tree and broke her glasses and could barely sit in the car. BUT, she's a good person to travel with. Especially once we realized our differences because I was getting grumpy. Namely, I like to take breaks. 100% sight seeing is not my idea of fun, so I'll go out in the morning and evening, but I need a break for my brain and my feet. Taking breaks from hanging with your travel companion is highly recommended. It's ok to not go to every museum, even if they do.
Kate, Keith, and I were part of a larger (9 person) trip to the American Choral Director's Association annual convention in LA in 2005. Because we love to travel and can get around, we started rebelling against the provided bus service and took the subway from concert to concert. Not only was it faster and easier, but we got to see more awesome concerts that way. (And get Eric Whitacre's autograph.) But a big part of that was the fact that we all thought, "subway? that sounds cool. let's go" instead of "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Public Transportation!!!! SCARY!" If any of us had been like that it would not have been as fun to hang out.
I've been on a 90 person trip to Italy and Switzerland. It was fantastic. But, that said, at the time I barely knew most of the 89 other people. Cool thing about the trip? Getting to know some folks and hang out more. Convenient thing about having 89 other travelling companions? If you get annoyed with one or two, you can go hang out with others. However, this is probably not a likely scenario for most of you.
Finally, there is the option of travelling alone. I love it. I've been to England twice for visits on my own (after my semester abroad) and have travelled around the US and Canada alone as well. When I lived in England, I took my Easter holiday and wandered through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland before meeting up with a friend in France. (Why is there no picture of Liz here? Because I am a slacker, obviously.) My favorite thing about it is that I am in complete control (other than the weather, museum schedules, train time tables, etc.) So if I want to bike for a day, I can. If I was going to bike and wake up and decide I don't want to do that, I could hang out at a library. It's all up to me.
That said, if you are venturing out alone I have some suggestions. First, get a good guidebook. Not the one your aunt loves or that your grandma has sitting in the attic, but one you look at in a bookstore and like. One that reflects your tastes in restaurants and museums. Second, bring a journal. This serves two purposes, you can write in it AND writing in it can keep you occupied while you wait for meals. When I travel with someone I never keep a journal. When I travel alone, I write page after page. Third, get a sim card and a local mobile phone. It's amazing how much less scary situations can be if you have a way to communicate. Finally, have a plan or keep in touch with people. The day I went bicycling around the Cotswolds (above) the guy from the rental shop knew where I was biking and had my phone number. I think Ben also knew what I was doing. My parents didn't know I'd left the country, but that's a story for another time.


Simon said...

I have to admit that traveling alone is super fun and often very low-stress. In countries where I know the language, anyway. I would be scared of doing it in, for example, Switzerland, or somewhere, but if I got over my fear of not knowing the language I bet I would like it.

Katie said...

Almost everyone in Switzerland spoke English. I know a few token words of German as well, most notably, "I speak no German." That worked on everyone except the lady at the pharmacy in Austrian who decided I looked like a local, so therefore I MUST speak German.