Favourite Travel Companions

Last month I was in Pondicherry to run the Auroville Half Marathon. I had gone with my 'running friends' while one of the runners I knew had come there with an unlikely travel companion – his wife! I am raising my eyebrows because running is such a ‘my-own-time-and-space’ sport for many of us. I look at all these people who are married for decades and still have enough to talk about with their spouse and wonder – what the hell is going on here?

Don’t get me wrong - I am sure there are couples who genuinely feel that 24 hours in a day are not enough to share their life with their spouse. It’s just that I don’t personally know any. Forget about a vacation, my husband and I run out of conversation at a lunch outing! There are many things that he and I enjoy doing together (even if I cant think of a single one to substantiate this statement at the moment) but travelling together is not one of them.   
Over the years, I have realised that for a marriage to be happy, one should be married to someone unlike them. And for a vacation to be happy, one should to go with someone who is more like them. It has nothing to do with love, in fact I suspect that in our case, our love gets the better of us and we always end up doing what the other person wants to do. As a result, neither of us does what we really want to do. Or maybe I could say that we have both do a bit of what we want to do, but not all of it. Not that we don't vacation together, just that he is not my best travel companion. And, I assure you that I am not his either.
And, going by the growing number of women who are willing to leave their husbands and get away for a all-women getaways– with friends, sisters and even strangers – I am guessing that I am not alone. Check out WOW or Girls-on-the-go Club if you don't believe me (and they are just a couple of the many 'women only' travel clubs in the world). Now, have you heard of any 'boys or men only' travel groups?

I have always had the travel bug. When I was in college, in other words – broke, I worked on part time basis only so I had enough to travel. Those days, I travelled alone or with my sister (when I could afford paying for her). She was the first person I ever shared my love of travel with and like me, she was ready to jump into an adventure at the word go! We were great travel buddies because we both knew and understood our financial limitations. We stayed at the cheapest places, ate at the roadside joints and travelled third class or by bicycles if it cost less. Plus, we could gossip about everyone else in the family and our boyfriends, at times – their families too.
Over the years I have travelled with many different people. I love people and being with people and I have enjoyed travelling with many. But I have also discovered many a city on my own - completely alone. I must admit, that experience has been awesome as well. Being footloose and fancy-free, not having to plan your day, not having to agree with another person on a schedule, not even having to discuss it and changing it as often as you want – is all great.
Though, I come close to being my favourite travel companion, I am not the one to top my list. That position belongs Geeta Amin! Geeta is something else. She was my room-mate for 3 years when I was in college. Despite being a Gujarati, she has led a very unorthodox life. In the early 90s, at a time when many Indians were still looking at pictures of destinations in magazines, she took off to back-pack all of Europe on her own - completely alone! On that trip, she spent a night in a dormitory where a couple in the next bed ‘made funny noises’ all night long!
She and I are ready to travel together to any place - as long as one of us hasn't visited it before! Of course, it helps tremendously that she is single and runs her own architecture firm – a free bird with the ability of accommodating travel plans to suit a mother-of-two-school-going kids and corporate slave - is what that makes her. We are both passionate enough about travel to spend, and at times overspend, on travelling – in the spirit of discovery, adventure, friendship and fun! We are off to Jordan next week - and we proposed, discussed and firmed up our plan in less than two hours a few weeks ago - no kidding!

As a travel professional whose life is consumed making other people travel, I like to travel light - that is mentally light. Thus, Geeta is my unpaid tour guide when I vacation with her. Believe me when I tell you that she sleeps with the Lonely Planet guide to our destination next to her pillow. She is the reader (of places to see), the thinker (planning what we need to visit), narrator (of all the stories about a place that she thinks I need to know) and accountant (budgeting for how much we need to survive the next few days). In other words, I carry my wallet and leave my mind at home when we travel together.

Oh, I may have missed telling you that she humours me by agreeing to take the hop-on hop-off tour in every city –only because I love them! She doesn't sulk about how touristy it is (though she says it). She also takes great pictures and I never have to worry that she may end up thinking that I am behaving like a Japanese tourist if I ask her to take a picture every few minutes (she does exactly the same). Plus, she's not exasperated if I delete a photo she has taken, just because I was looking a bit fat in it. Or when I change five outfits before leaving the hotel room because I wasn't  satisfied with the colour coordination.
We live in different cities and so, we never run out of conversation. In fact I think a holiday with her is emotionally gratifying! We laugh a lot, gossip a bit, we fight about stupid insignificant things, we sulk like kids, we make-up like adults and yes we even cry together – at least once on every vacation. So you could say that travelling with your best girlfriend is like vacationing with a shrink. I return home ‘all sorted’.

I spend a lot of time away from home and when I am travelling my husband often takes my daughters to the jungles close to Bangalore. He's a 'live with nature' kinda guy. So, last year, I decided to take them to the big and glitzy cities of Paris and London. Just us – my girls and I (the destinations were too ‘passe' for my husband to come along). That vacation helped me add a couple of little girls – aged 8 and 10 years - to my list of favourite travel companions! I am pleased to report that they share their mothers love for travel but at this point I especially love the fact that they are old enough to follow instructions but too young to protest if they don’t want to follow them! 
Who’s your favourite travel companion?

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