Picking a Good Travel Companion

What is your travel personality?

Suppose you are looking for a travel companion and a friend or acquaintance expresses an interest in taking a trip with you. Do you set a travel date and start packing your bags? Not if you value your sanity and your friendship.

Take some time to determine your travel personality. Travel personality refers to personal habits and preferred travel activities. For example, you could be a(n):

  • Early riser or night owl
  • Talkative or quiet
  • Big spender or budget conscious
  • Fast food devotee or local restaurant explorer
  • Independent or  interdependent
  • Driver or passenger
  • Social drinker who enjoys a glass of wine with dinner or a person who never drinks alcoholic beverages

Knowing your travel personality gives you a good start in getting to know   how you and the potential travel companion get along.  Start the conversation over a beverage or a meal. If the first conversation goes well, take a low risk  overnight or day trip together to sample how your might interact while traveling. Do a debrief after the trial trip – what went well, what did not go well.

One final bit of advice is to trust your instincts. If you get a sense that traveling with this person might reduce or eliminate your enjoyment of the trip, say no.

(Originally published in 2008)

7 Hints for Overcoming ‘No Do Overs’ Traveler’s Angst

Set priorities, plan, and relax

For most people, the opportunities for travel do overs are rare. How many trips of a lifetime can the average person take? A bad experience (or no experience) at that one important sight or activity could ruin an entire trip, if you let it.

Happily, there are ways to overcome this:

1. Set priorities. What are the most important places? What are the one or two things to see/do that will make your trip? Identify those things and place them prominently in your itinerary. Instead of visiting all of the ancient architectural/historical sites, for example, pick the one or two that interest you the most.

2. Allow extra time for unforeseen situations, like inclement weather, missed connections, and traffic jams. The corollary is to plan light, non-critical activities on the first and last day of the trip. If your flight is cancelled on Monday and your bucket list item is scheduled for Tuesday, you will miss it.

3. Accept the fact that unfortunate delays and miscommunications do occur. It is your attitude that influences how you handle them. The story of how you handled a delay or miscommunication might seem funny when you retell it at home. For example, misreading a road sign in Ireland and driving on a hiking path to the Cliffs of Mohr might cause anxious moments when it happens but it does make a funny story.

4. Have a Plan B. What would be a good substitute for your top place/activity if you miss it? Sometimes Plan B turns out to be better than Plan A.

5. Try to spend 2 nights in each town or city unless the area is small or does not have much that is important to you. Alternately, pick one strategically located town or city as your home base and take day trips from there.  For example, from Padova, Italy, you can easily reach Vicenza, Milano, and Verona by train.

6. Relax. Enjoy the travel experience as it unfolds. Sometimes the best memories are a result of unexpected changes.

7. Allow for the possibility of returning  at a later date.  For most people, thinking that they might return relieves some the stress of ‘seeing it all’.  This works especially well if the places you defer to a later time are lower priorities.

(Originally posted in 2011)

Memorable Moments in Rome

Finding quiet in the Eternal City

Sometimes it’s difficult to image what Rome was like in ancient times or even what it might be like today if all of the tourists suddenly were to disappear. But there are moments and images that, if you are in right frame of mind, might take you back . . . or at least create a special memory that is uniquely yours.

For example, you may find yourself on a sidewalk in Trastevere, and realize you understood a conversation in Italian that you overheard.

A Trastevere street
A Trastevere street

Or when you catch a glimpse of peace through a window while moving with the crowd through the Vatican Museum on the way to the Sistine Chapel.

Glimpse out the window
Glimpse out the window

Or when you stumble onto a ‘magical doorway’ known as the Porta Alchemica in a public park (Piazza Vittorio) not normally explored by tourists on their way to Santa Maria Maggiore.

Porta Alchemica
Porta Alchemica

Maybe it is when you notice the gate through which the East Roman troops entered the city in 536, reclaiming it for the Byzantine Empire. The Porta Asinaria is close to San Giovanni in Laterano.

Porta Asinaria
Porta Asinaria

My best advice is to be open to the moment without expectations of when or where it will occur.

Movie recommendation

Borrow or rent the movie Pranzo di ferragosto (Mid-August Lunch) to see footage of modern Rome relatively tourist-free. Filmed in Trastevere, it is a light comedy about a middle-aged man, his elderly mother, and what they do to avoid eviction from their apartment.

(Originally posted in 2011)