Traveling companions head list of travel's risks

August 25, 1996|By John Flinn | John Flinn,SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER

Not long ago, in Outside Magazine, essayist Randy Wayne White laid out one of his fundamental tenets of travel: "Two things guaranteed to ruin a trip are dysentery and bad traveling companions, and I frankly prefer the former, because dysentery at least ensures some quality private time."

Having endured some long, sweaty nights swatting insects while perched over Third World toilets, I'm not sure I can stand with White 100 percent on this one. But he does have a point.

Bad traveling companions can suck all the joy out of the good times and render the bad times positively unbearable.

Good traveling partners, on the other hand, double the pleasures and halve the burdens of the road. They supply fresh insights, infuse you with energy and give up the window seat without complaint.

The conundrum, of course, is that it's all but impossible to know what you're getting until it's too late. Friends who are splendidly RTC agreeable companions at home all too often turn into churlish, paranoid hypochondriacs the minute you clear customs in New Delhi.

The requirements of a good travel partner vary a little from trip to trip. A wonderful companion for museum surfing in Paris might turn out to be someone you're tempted to drown while rafting down the Zambezi River.

Some people function well in a duo or trio, but come unglued when hemmed in by the social constructs of an organized tour.

Everyone has their own list of travel partner pet peeves. Here's mine:

Complainers: These killjoys are probably near the top of everyone's list. Hey, stuff happens -- rain falls, trains are delayed, mattresses are lumpy. A good travel partner laughs and makes the best of it. Complainers treat it as a personal affront -- and let you hear about it for hours on end.

Cheapskates: In a Guatemalan market they'll bargain for half an hour to get the price of a hand-embroidered shirt down from $3 to $2, and they'll insist on staying at a hotel above a busy street to save another dollar. One woman with whom I once traveled never missed an opportunity to take offense at imagined slights from waitresses so she could avoid leaving a tip. Once I caught her pilfering some of my tip money to cover her own bill. Good companions cover all their own expenses, and maybe toss in a little extra.

Compulsive packers: They're the ones who keep you waiting each night at dinner time as they rearrange and repack their gear, folding it and unfolding it, and distributing it into neat piles all over their bed -- and yours.

Habitual laggards: I'm always reminded of the fortune cookie message that said, "People count the faults of those who keep them waiting." Everyone gets delayed once in a while, but we all know people who show up late for everything. I've lost track of the number of times I've cut short a fascinating exploration to keep a rendezvous, only to fume for half an hour as I waited for a habitually tardy person to wander in. Good travel partners never do this to you.

Pub Date: 8/25/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.