Wednesday, 7 February 2018
The Amazing Race 30, Episode 6
Prague (Czech Republic) - Harare (Zimbabwe) - Marondera (Zimbabwe) - Harare (Zimbabwe)
There was a new twist on this week's episode of the The Amazing Race. For part of the episode, the teams had to swap partners, so that each of the racers had to complete one of their assigned tasks with someone other than their regular travelling companion.
That led to complications for some of the racers who had counted on one member of the pair being able to handle certain tasks, such as driving a stick-shift car, for which their partner didn't have the knowledge, skill, and/or confidence.
In a race, or in a real-world travel situation where accomplishing some task quickly or getting it right the first time is of the essence, it's important to have an accurate shared understanding of which travel companion is better at, or will take the lead at, which tasks.
Even when you aren't in a hurry, dividing up tasks makes sense, and can make preparing for a trip with a companion or a group a lot easier. Perhaps one of you has been studying maps and planning transportation, while the other has been studying the local language(s) of your destination(s).
While there are times to double-check your travelling companion, there are also times to trust their judgment in areas where you know they have more expertise. Sometimes you have to go along, even if you are uncertain about the best course, recognizing that uncertainty is inherent in travel decision-making and trusting that mistakes are more likely to lead to annoyances or adventures than to catastrophes.
But there's a catch, as the racers found out in this episode. Your partner may not always be available to do things for you both.
I've arrived in the middle of the night in a country where I didn't speak the language, expecting to be met by someone who had been studying that language, and discovered that my companion had been hospitalized and couldn't meet me. I've had to come back to the U.S. unexpectedly in the middle of a trip, leaving my travelling companion by themself on another continent. Medical and family emergencies at home and on the road make this sort of unplanned separation more common than most travellers predict. I've gotten separated in a crowd without a cellphone.
And that's without even considering the relationships between travelling companions that break up on the road (not always a bad thing), or the times that you and your travelling companion(s) want to do different things for a day, or one of you wants to take an overnight side trip.
There's a tricky balance between trusting and being willing to rely on your partner's ability (good), and being dependent on someone else to the point where you can't cope, or don't have the self-confidence to try to cope, on your own (bad).
How can you prepare for the possibility that you might get split up, one of you might get sick or hit by a car or break a leg, or you might want to separate for some reason?
Here are some things you can do before you find yourself travelling on your own or with a stranger or strangers rather than your expected companion:
- Take turns. Practice when the stakes are low. Let the partner who is less fluent in the language do the talking for both of you some of the time. They will learn a little more of the language, and -- perhaps more importantly -- they will gain confidence that they can manage on their own if they have to. Let the person with no sense of direction lead sometimes, when you can afford to enjoy getting lost.
- Split up sometimes, for an hour or a day. Get some practice doing things on your own. It might be scary at first, but if you are like most people, a little experience by yourself will do wonders for your self-confidence. Getting to spend more time with your travelling companion can be one of the joys of travel, if you don't get enough time together at home. It's easy to take that too far, though, if one (or both) of you lacks the confidence to go out alone. You don't have to spend every minute together. On an extended trip, there can be many benefits to planning some occasional time apart.
- Be prepared. Think about, "What if...?" List the travel tasks that you mostly leave to your companion, and consider how you would deal with each of them yourself. If you have to split up, do you each have your own stash of emergency money, and your own ATM card? The details of your itinerary and key contacts (and not just in your phone, which could get lost or stolen)? A map? The address of where you are staying? Are there passwords you both would need, that only one of you has? What if they are unconscious? Do you have a plan (not involving cellphones or e-mail, which could both get hacked and erased) for how you would reconnect if you get separated in transit, or if one of you is delayed or diverted or has to stay behind? It can be as simple as agreement on which friend or family member you will both call, but talk about it and have a plan before you set out on a trip together.