One early Summer’s eve about eight years ago I mulled the long sundown. Due to a recent break up, my boy friend was absent and I had decided to take the expensive trip anyway… I had paid for it. The thought struck me of the likelihood of at least 100 English speaking travelers in the same situation: sitting in their rooms all across Stockholm viewing their travel time as unplanned and as solitary as mine. How could we connect for companionship and shared experiences?
At the time, MeetUp was a fairly new concept, cheaper and less cumbersome than today’s version. On impulse I signed up as an “organizer” and titled my group “Women with Time and Means to Travel.” I set the first meeting for 6 weeks hence with the only limit being– that no travel agents were welcome; this group was going to be about defining our own trips. My first clue that this would be a challenging venture was clear as the last to introduce herself during that meeting conveyed the promise, “I am a travel agent and I am here to capture all of your business.” A harbinger of what was to come.
Social connections are often fraught with conflict. My years as a corporate coach and feedback provider taught me that 50% of the corporate population are deficient in the skill of conflict management. So many of my one on one sessions evolved to become problem solving oriented—around the “learner’s” immediate conflict situations and what to do/how to handle them. Sometimes, it got to the point of scripting with an occasional move to role playing.
Looking back, I was naive to think that a public group would provide much other than ongoing conflict. Our first trip was traveling to Costa Rica. Eight of us collaborated on when, where and how to get around the countryside . I’ll spare you the details but here are some lessons learned:
Compatibility Test #1: Do potential travel partners drink to the same degree as you do? Pay attention to any differences, as the stress of travel will magnify them. Will their drinking result in groggy mornings to the point of delaying the rest of the group? Test this possibility by having a few social engagements before you fly.
If the first thing they discuss is how to buy liquor at duty free shops, and ask at every stop “when does the bar open?” you may have a few alcoholics on your hands.
In my experience, alcoholics under the pressure and uncertainty of travel can quickly become verbally abusive. Everything becomes someone else’s fault. And their groggy mornings are almost a guarantee.
Stay tuned for next installment on finding travel companions.