Travel companions can easily become your best friends for life. The hard part is working out a way to differentiate between someone you could have one beer with and someone you can travel with. I love solo travel, but one of the many benefits is making new friends for a few days of sightseeing. It can be great to have someone to share a meal with, though I also love eating out alone while travelling.
The are you someone I want to associate with conversation is something that happens in all walks of life. If you work in a big city the conversation usually starts off with “Where do you work? What industry are you? Where do you live? Oh, do you know so-and-so?” These first vital questions when you meet someone can often determine how much energy you are going to put into getting to know them. If their answers demonstrate that you have absolutely nothing in common then you may not try so hard to get past those initial impressions.
Of course, there are other factors that may determine how you build your relationship with someone. Attractiveness, charisma, sense of humour or they may have another interest that is completely aligned with your so that you can look past the fact that their answers to the initial inquiries were the complete opposite of your own.
Questions we ask when we are getting to know our fellow travellers
Imagine your first day in a retirement home, you would ask the standard identifying questions “Are you married? Oh, a widow? What doctor do you see? How many grandchildren do you have? What does your son do? Did you watch Better Homes and Gardens yesterday?” How would you feel if every answer you received from someone was the complete opposite of your own interests? Like a fish out of water. Then a random comment, randomly said about your passion for para surfing lights a small fire in the other person’s eye – instant friends for life!
Travellers are exactly the same when you first meet someone you go through the questions that determine whether they are someone you wish to hang out with.
- Where are you from?
- Where have you been?
- Where are you going?
- How long are you travelling?
- Are you travelling alone?
- When do you leave this place?
- Have you tried/eaten/seen that amazing thing that you HAVE to see/eat/do?
What does this really tell you about someone? You could have a very different travel style and different interests in where you are going and what you are seeing but that person may just be the ideal best friend/husband/wife/travel companion/cribbage partner.
So, how to find the perfect travel companion
Relax there is a way to find out if the amazing people you are meeting have more to offer than what the common identifying questions offer. What you need is a maverick question – a question that will exhibit responses from people who will satisfy your need to get to know them with ease and speed. A way to break out of the mould and standard answers and pull back the layers to find their inner passions.
After a full moon party in Thailand several years ago, in need some time to recover and regenerate I hopped over to the island paradise of Koh Tao. The island is so relaxing that the two days I had planned there extended to three, then four, then five!
My days were simple, I would get up, wander down the main street parallel to the beach sipping a fruit smoothie until I found a great place to relax, every time I got too hot I would roll into the water for a splash or a snorkel. When hungry I would find a restaurant, hanging over the water so I could continue to eat noodles, relax, snorkel, eat, relax, snorkel. During the evening I would sneak back to my hostel for a nap before heading down to one of the many beanbag bars on the beach. Sitting in a beanbag slowly sipping on my beer watching fire dances and laughing with my many new friends – suddenly the sun would rise, which meant hurrying to grab a pancake before flopping back into bed. Repeat!
I have worked hard to save enough money to travel the world. I have given up a lot, by choosing to live the travel life I do. None of this was handed to me, I earnt every mile I explore. Therefore, I want to connect with like-minded people. People who have that same passion for seeing what is around the next corner.
Great white shark v’s a saltwater croc
During one of these Thailand beanbag conversations, the question was posed – Who would win between a Great White Shark and a Saltwater Crocodile? Debate ensued almost immediately. Parameters had to be defined before any serious conclusions could be met.
- Both creatures are fully grown: full grown great white is 6 meters, the saltwater crocodile is 6 meters (evenly matched)
- Water depth is deep enough that both creatures have room to manoeuvre
- Both are hungry and are extremely cranky!
By the end of the evening, there was a clear split in the group, half thought the crocodile would have a better chance of grabbing and thrashing the shark by the tail or fin taking it into a death roll. Others argued that the shark could grab and rip off a leg or arm and that its body mass is too big for the crocodile to get their jaws around.
In the end, the answer didn’t really matter – what did matter was that by the end of the conversation the four people who were left discussing it turned out to be the best people for me to spend my time with on Koh Tao – and in fact, I am still in contact with them.
A maverick question is my barometer for choosing a likely travel companions
I decided to take this question and try it out when I met other travellers. This question is my barometer for connecting with people. If they don’t understand the question or think it/me were weird – they clearly don’t enjoy the absurd and ridiculous the same way I do. If they immediately jump on google to find out the answer they don’t see the point. If they can’t give a reason as to why they thought either the crocodile or shark would win then they weren’t giving it the proper consideration.
What I found is that when you give someone a strange and out there topic to discuss they tell you a lot more about themselves than if you were just discussing the road from Chang Mai to Bangkok. Suddenly people would explain personal anecdotes, fears, pet peeves, bucket list items and even fetishes. The best answer I have was from a German guy who I ended hanging out with for a few days, after pondering the question for a while he said: “What if we added a fully grown anaconda into the mix” – Wow, mind blown!