Group Dynamics

When you are planning a trip the first decision is where to go. The next decision is probably who to go with. Many people prefer the independence of solo travel. Others prefer traveling with a partner or a group. Each has its benefits…and drawbacks. As a frequent traveler I have experienced and enjoyed all of them and I could write a blog on each of them. But today I’d like to focus on group travel. I have traveled with groups domestically and internationally and as a travel professional, I have even led groups. Although groups differ in size and makeup, they always contain some of the same types of people. Here are a few examples:

TAMMY THE TALKER – She talks all the time. She carries on a continuous stream of conversation, with any and everyone around her, about all kinds of topics, often that have little or nothing to do with the destination. Consequently she never hears instructions from the guide and always asks, “What did he/she say?”

TARDY TINA – She never gets anywhere on time. No matter what the meeting time is, she’s not there. After everyone has loaded onto the bus, she rushes on, disheveled apologizing to everyone and making excuses about how she forgot to set her alarm. It’s not long before she is everyone’s least favorite person in the group because they always have to wait for her. However, sometimes it backfires, since cruise ships do not wait.

oasis sailawayCARL THE COMPLAINER – This guy doesn’t even like travel and probably should not have gone on the trip. The weather is too hot/cold. The food isn’t up to his standards. The people don’t speak English (even though he’s in a non-English speaking country). We met a guy like this at a gorgeous midnight buffet during a Caribbean cruise. The cruise line had set out an amazing display complete with ice sculptures, petit fours and shellfish towers. As my husband and I sat down to enjoy our food we happened to be seated next to a fellow who felt it necessary to let us know how displeased he was with the cruise and how much he really preferred vacationing at hotels. Although I suspect that if he’d been at a hotel, he would have complained about that too.


chubby haterTHE UGLY AMERICAN – This person has not done any research about the destination and has no idea about what to expect from the food, transportation, etc. He/she has little knowledge about local customs and constantly compares everything to his/her hometown. This person is often rude to local merchants. They have made little or no effort to learn the language of the country that they’re visiting; not even a few phrases. After all, doesn’t everyone speak English? They are especially difficult toward guides who often speak more than one language. For example, on a recent trip to Beijing our guide spoke English and of course Mandarin, her native language. When one of the group members complained repeatedly about not understanding her, she remarked, “If you’re having trouble understanding my English, I can speak to you in perfect Mandarin. “Touche! As James Michener said, “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home”.

whatnottowearonplanesbhpSUSIE THE SPACE CADET – The only way to describe this lady is clueless…totally clueless. She booked the trip at the last minute and did not do any research about the destination. She over packed and has much more luggage than she can possibly handle. Even with all of that luggage she did not bring the right clothes/shoes for the climate or terrain. There was a lady on our recent trip to China who did not bring an umbrella; although it was November Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai are known for heavy rain during that month. She packed the wrong shoes, so she had real difficulty climbing the Great Wall in Beijing. She almost had a meltdown when we visited the Longjing Tea Garden because she’d had a traumatic experience with tea when she was a child. Yes, she traveled to China…..and didn’t like tea….smh.

The space cadet always has her cell phone in hand and often has long, very audible conversations with her friends at home. Then there’s her selfie stick. While there are no written rules about using them, a little common sense is in order. For example, she’ll stand in front of an iconic structure like the Eiffel Tower or Leaning Tower of Pisa and pose there….forever…totally oblivious to the fact that there are lots of other people who have traveled halfway around the world to take pictures in the same place.

If you have traveled in a group you’ve probably met one or two of these characters….and could probably describe a few more. So when it comes to traveling in a group, be sure to choose your travel partners wisely. As Mark Twain said, “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”





Travel Connections

I have a serious case of wanderlust. Travel has been my passion for several decades and during that time I have been to numerous cities in 25 different countries. Travel has enriched my life on so many levels. I have developed a deep appreciation for other cultures – and a deeper appreciation for my own. I’ve learned that no matter where I go, people are just people; and we are more alike than we are different. I have especially enjoyed making people-to-people connections. Some have been brief encounters while others have developed into lifelong friendships. Here are just a few of my “global connections”.

In 1984 I traveled with a choral ensemble to Ecuador to participate in an international choir competition. In Guayaquil I met a lady named Gladys, who was a member of another choir. We were drawn to each other, probably because we looked a lot alike. Although I could only speak a little Spanish (muy poquito), and she spoke even less English, we made a sister connection. Between some very animated sign language and my poorly conjugated Spanish verbs, we managed to communicate.

santorini greco gold familyLEES WITH KERAMYDAS FAMILY

In 2005 our family took a Mediterranean cruise and Santorini, Greece was one of the ports of call. I’d seen pictures of those whitewashed buildings with the azure rooftops, but they were even more spectacular in person. We spent a lovely day strolling through the charming shops of Fira town. Santorini is known for beautiful jewelry, and there are lots of jewelry shops to choose from. We wandered in and out of several, but were drawn to one in particular. It was run by a family; parents and two identical twin sons. It was a pleasant experience (no hard sell), just like visiting with old friends. The father even offered us some of his homemade wine and it was delicious. We made several purchases and went on our way. In 2007 we returned to Santorini and paid another visit to our friends. We have continued to stay in touch and hope to see them again next time we’re on the island.

ac with waiters_thumbADRIENNE WITH WAITERS

In 2010 the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in Iceland. It was notable because the volcanic ash plume disrupted air travel in northern Europe for several weeks. The eruption occurred 3 days before we were scheduled to depart on a cruise that was going to sail from Lisbon, Portugal to Oslo, Norway. However, many flights were cancelled since most of the major European airports had to close. As it turned out, the Lisbon airport did not close, so we were able to make it to the cruise ship. But many of the other cruisers did not make it. So the cruise ship was only 1/3rd full. That meant that the crew had fewer passengers to serve. The dining room was very sparse at dinner and there were lots of empty tables. It worked in our favor because our waiters were especially attentive. We got to know them well since they had lots of extra time on their hands. They told us all about their homelands, families, and future plans. Both were fairly young (about our son’s age) – and homesick, so they also enjoyed a little parental advice.


In 2014 we spent some time in one of our favorite cities, Paris. One afternoon we discovered a little cafe near the Montparnasse Tower. We sat outside to enjoy the lovely spring weather and struck up a conversation with a young lady at a nearby table. We don’t speak much French, so it was nice to chat with someone else who spoke English. She was a student who had spent several months studying there. We exchanged travel stories and contact information. We’ve stayed connected on Facebook, and hope to meet again – maybe in Paris.

rob and kevin_thumbROBERT AND KEV

During a transatlantic cruise we made friends with 2 wonderful people from the U.K. We started chatting over drinks one evening and found out that we had lots in common. Even though we were from different countries we found that we shared many of the same opinions and challenges. We exchanged contact information and promised to host them if they ever came to San Francisco. A few months later Kev took us up on that promise and we had a great time hosting him in our City by the Bay.


In 2014 we also spent time in another of our favorite cities, Barcelona. Since we had been there several times before we decided to leave the city and go out to the Penedes Wine region. It was a group tour and they took us to several delightful wineries. At each one we enjoyed tasting and delicious tapas. Our group was comprised of 15 people who were from various parts of the world. 3 of the ladies were from Osaka, Japan. I don’t speak any Japanese but one of them spoke a little English, so with the help of a few glasses of wine and some very animated sign language we managed to communicate. Kaori and I exchanged contact information and we have stayed in contact on Facebook. Of course her posts are in Japanese and mine are in English, but pictures transcend language barriers.


As I write this I am already planning my next adventure, and looking forward to making more travel connections.