Friends and Companions, by Rich Paschall
“In life, it’s not where you go. It’s who you travel with.” – Charles Schulz
If you can travel with someone and come back as friends, then you have a good travel companion. I have had the good fortune of traveling with some people who were an absolute joy to spend time with. There were others I would prefer to leave at home. You may have had that experience.
“If we travel together again, he stays in YOUR room!” Perhaps you have had this conversation. It is the one where a group of friends all agrees that one of you may be a good friend, but a lousy travel companion. Living with someone for a few days will reveal all of the other’s characteristics that you absolutely do not enjoy. Perhaps couples should take the honeymoon before marriage to decide whether they really want to go through with it. Sharing a small room, a small bathroom, and small seats on an airplane might reveal just how close you want to be to the person next to you.
Some friends and I have been to out-of-town football games, baseball games, and even basketball games. Most of the trips were a lot of fun, but a few might have you asking “Should auld acquaintance be forgot?” Some remained friends but were definitely to be forgotten as travel companions.
What could be wrong with traveling with friends? Let us count the ways. There is the person who is always joking around, every moment of every trip. This might be fine for a night out with the boys, but no one likes a week-long running joke. Well, I don’t anyway. Sometimes you want the other person to take it out of hyper-drive for a few hours and relax.
Another is someone who has an opinion on everything and those opinions are opposite to yours. Last year I had to explain to some friends that I had asked not to be seated at their table at a banquet. They were all friends but I did not want to be with certain friends who might find it their purpose in life to fill me with Republican talking points, many of which have already been proven to be lies. A few hours of that is hard to take, a few days would be next to impossible.
We have a few friends who like to have something to do every minute of every day. Your vacation plans might include scheduling every minute, mine don’t. Parts of my relaxing vacation include…uh, relaxing. Sometimes we can just decide on things as we go along.
Some like to fill any void with the sound of their voices. This is totally unnecessary. It is not radio. Dead air is OK sometimes. Talking just to have noise is like fingernails on a chalkboard just to…uh, have noise. Believe it or not, there are times when I might prefer the absolute silence my grandmother would get when she would glare at us when we were children. I don’t think she ever yelled at us. Her angry glare was enough to bring silence. On a trip, my angry glare apparently never seemed angry enough.
On the other hand, there are people who you want to be on your travels. For all of 2009, I worked along with a French intern. Not only did we become friends, but frequent travel companions, both here and in Europe. I think that it did not matter where we were going because we knew we would have fun. Yes, we had specific goals sometimes. We made some USA stops that he absolutely wanted to see while working here. I never thought to go to Hannibal, Missouri before. It is, of course, the hometown of Mark Twain. We saw Niagra Falls and toured Florida. We went to the 2012 Olympics in London and the Canstetter Volksfest in Stuttgart. Other times we just set out for wherever came to mind that day. Every trip was a great adventure. Every one!
One year I went to Medellin to meet a friend I only knew from online chats. John and I became friends and years later we were travel companions to Europe. Although I was sick for two days in Stuttgart, we found the rest of the trip to be pleasant. Of course, we went on to Strasbourg to meet up with my friend from France.
This time I have gone to Toronto with a frequent travel companion. Lewis and I have been to London, Paris, and Strasbourg, not to mention many day trips around town. We have seen baseball in both Chicago ballparks as well as in Milwaukee. Garry will be pleased to know that this adventure included a stop at Rogers Centre to see the Blue Jays play the Boston Red Sox. At least they have a dome in Toronto they can close. It may be much more comfortable than our stop this week at Wrigley Field where a windy day can be brutal in the spring.
We had no other specific plans for three days in Toronto besides the ball game. We discovered that the Ripley’s Aquarium was right near the ballpark after we arrived, and we added that in. I had only been through the airport once and had not seen the city before, and neither had Lewis. So we will bring back our report soon. I am certain I have a good travel companion again.