Monday, July 19, 2010

Duelling Travellers

Travelling alone can be a wonderful, life-affirming experience, but sharing new and exciting experiences with a travel partner can be an adventure in itself. Having another set of eyes and ideas can make even familiar destinations seem new and exciting. Of course travelling with another person can also be absolutely miserable if you don’t do your homework.

In my case, I knew all about my travel partner, and we assumed that everything would run along smoothly with the two of us enjoying a much needed get away to New York City. Although we did foresee some of the bumps in the road, there were potholes that come up along the way that had us stopping frequently to recheck our route. I started to wonder if maybe we weren’t the best travel companions after all. You’d think that eleven years of marriage would have given me some sort of clue.

Research and planning can help greatly when you are paired up with someone with different travel tastes and ideas. This was our first trip alone together since our honeymoon, although we did have numerous family vacations and trips to visit relatives. I knew our interests were vastly different. I enjoyed wandering through neighbourhoods, poking through little shops and museums, and taking in a show or two while my Darling Dearest couldn’t wait to scale the Empire State Building, visit the Statue of Liberty, and check out Times Square.

What to do?

This was the easy part, and compromise was the name of the game. We made a list of things we wanted to see and do, then did up a quick daily schedule. For a longer trip this may not have been necessary, but we were working with just a few days. Our plan of attack was to get up at first light and do the major touristy things first to avoid the crowds. We could then relax and enjoy the rest of the day the way I envisioned.

Things were great, right up until we actually walked out onto the street. Our hotel was just a few blocks from Times Square, so naturally Darling Dearest wanted to check that out as soon as we arrived. I very quickly realized that our difference in travelling style didn't end at our interests. My dear hubby, I found out, is terribly uncomfortable when he is out of his element. The busy streets of NYC were about as far out of his element as we could toss him. My approach of pretending to be a local didn't sit well with him at all.

We remedied this first bout of anxiousness by walking though a quiet neighbourhood near our hotel. It gave us a chance to relax and get used to the city before diving into the craziness. After the first evening he was much more relaxed and was jaywalking with the most daring of them.

The subway continued to be a sticky point. We took the underground every day, and got quite used to the stops and schedules, but on the few occasions when we hopped the wrong train, hubby's distress was clearly visible.

It bothered me that he was so stressed about each new experience or obstacle, and it bothered him that I wasn't concerned about things going wrong, or ending up in the wrong place. He thought I was being foolhardy and I thought he was being a worry wort.

We never really did come to a middle ground there, but we did manage to work around it and salvage the trip. It was a learning experience for us both, and on our next trip we were much better prepared to handle our differing travel styles and away-from-home personality clashes.

Some things we learned:
* Do your homework in advance. Knowing what each person expects from the trip saves a lot of time that might be spent arguing later.

* Take time each evening to go over the plan for the next day and make any necessary preparations or changes. Do the same thing in the morning.

* Rest. Cranky travellers are more likely to make each other miserable in the heat of the day, or when things don't go according to plan.

* Relax. Stuff happens. There are things that are beyond your control. Take it in stride and count it as part of the adventure.