Trip Planning - Choosing your travel companions wisely.

Sunday, Feb 21, 2010 at 14:17


One of the greatest things about travelling in this great country of ours is quite often the people you meet and the experiences you share along the way. Having largely been a solo traveller, I have invariably meet like minded individuals along the track who for a time, have shared the same path as me. These moments are often rewarding making for great memories and perhaps creating friendships that will last for years. I am often asked “how” do you pick someone to travel with and I can honestly reply that I don’t really know. Sometimes these things just happen along the way. I’ve met some great people along the roads all around the world who I’ve ended up spending a lot of time with and still enjoy their friendship to this day.

Travelling with companions can improve the quality of your trip and experiences. A group provides a pool of experience and expertise that you as an individual might not have. It makes for a safer journey and provides some great opportunities to improve your skills by learning from others in the party. As part of a group you may also have the confidence to travel into areas you may not have so willingly gone as an individual. Conversely I have participated in an organised trip where the organiser portrayed himself to be an outback legend of sorts. Out in the bush, the reality was entirely different and his lack of preparation, skill and sheer contempt for his travel companions caused the entire trip to disintegrate within 10 days, well short of the planned two month itinerary. While this can be a bitter experience, it also provides a clear lesson in the frailties of individuals. What this person did do right was surround himself with a group of individuals he knew to have the expertise, skills and experience to greatly improve his chances of successfully completing the trip. This is always a careful consideration when embarking on a journey with a higher degree of difficulty. Again, if your dependant on others it’s imperative that you have an ability to listen and behave as a member of a group (a skill sorely lacking in that experience).

If I am organising or contributing to organising a group of travellers I’d make the following recommendations.

Plan, Plan and Plan!

I cannot overstate the importance of having good planning and ensuring that those plans are inclusive of all members of the group. If planning is the backbone of a successful trip, then flexibility is the key to making it all work. Everyone in the group must have an understanding of the route, the conditions and what they can expect along the way. Will they have to change and fix tyres, will corrugations cause bits and pieces to fall off the vehicle? If they are towing, will that trailer be up to the task mechanically and load wise. Trip planning should be inclusive of all participants after all, it’s everyone’s trip, not just yours.

It’s always important to outline and agree on some basic aspects of the travel first up. For example, there can be a vast difference in peoples ability to get up and get going in a morning. If some of you want to be away at first light and it takes someone else 2 hours extra to get organised each day, cracks will appear very quickly. Likewise end of day travel. I always like to stop in enough time to provide that at sunset, camp is complete and everyone can enjoy the sunset with a refreshing beverage or dinner in hand. Some like to push on getting as many kilometres under the belt as possible driving into fading light. Not my cup of tea so simple parameters like this need to be discussed by a group and decided on as a group. Believe me, on a hard days travel, the fire at the end of the day is the great leveller. It gives everyone the chance to sit down, relax and discuss and hopefully laugh over the trials and tribulations of the day. This is why I prefer to stop with plenty of time to get camp set.

In any group it is important to know who’s going with you, what level of experience they possess and that they have a vehicle set-up that is appropriate to the trip. Has their vehicle been serviced and inspected professionally prior to the trip? It’s crucial that the group is prepared with the right vehicles, the right tools and equipment and the right skills. There is a lot of difference between bragging on the club website about your vehicle and the "ant-hill knocker-overer" you welded up and actually having a qualified mechanic do a pre-trip inspection and service. Vehicles should always be in top mechanical condition prior to leaving. There is nothing worse than trying to effect roadside repairs or have your well laid plans go astray due to an ill prepared vehicle. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. Younger travel companions have a lot to impart in enthusiasm and a keenness to learn (plus they can do a lot of heavy lifting LOL) where as older and more experienced travellers have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share.

If you have the time and ability, a great option is to do short trips together first to see how things gel. A weekend spent in the nearby bush provides everyone a chance to get to know each other, talk about their past experience and the upcoming trip. Another good plan is to divide the trip into separate tranches with a specific goal on each and a proposed start and end time. Planning a trip in segments provides options to go your separate ways once a point has been reached. If it isn’t working, this gives participants a chance to bow out according to the itinerary.

Choosing people to travel with isn’t easy. From my experience, the best trips are those where your travel companions choose themselves. Having said this, planning a trip well, planning as a group and maintaining a degree of flexibility will go a long way to ensuring the success of a journey.
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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