Adventure Found, January 1998
People Are Strange...
The dos and don't-even-think-about-its of group travel
By Randy Wayne White
You've booked yourself onto a kick-butt adventure-travel exploratory. You're a stranger in a mixed bunch of other strangers, everyone far from home and committed to spending a few weeks together in close and possibly filthy quarters. Then, unexpectedly, a few days into the trip you realize that (1) you absolutely loathe a member of your group or (2) you are emotionally and, yes indeedy, sexually attracted to a member of your group.
What's a guy or gal to do?
Miss Manners not having weighed in on this issue yet, you should consider the following advice as precedent setting and absolutely inviolable.
(1) Dislike a fellow traveler? This is a tricky situation, because if you handle it incorrectly, everyone on the trip will end up hating you instead of the asshole who deserves it. You must first decipher who is allied with whom. Does everyone dislike your particular nemesis? If so, an obvious solution comes to mind: Plant illegal pharmaceuticals in this person's pockets and then casually drop a dime on him. The local version of the DEA ù or more likely the Stasi ù will know how to deal with him.
However, if group alliances are divided, you must be more politic. Try taking your adversary aside and opening your heart to him. Speak honestly about mistakes you've made in your life. With any luck, the jerk's surliness will crumble in the face of your sincerity. The terrors of the wilderness have made monsters of many men who otherwise love their children and share their toys. Open your soul to this enemy and you may be surprised to find him opening his soul in return. But just in case, tape your conversation. If he backslides later, threaten to play his heartfelt confessions to the group and any possibly interested authorities. Remember: If travel were a game, they'd issue uniforms with our passports.
(2) Got the hots for a member of your group? Once again, this is one of those treacherous situations that, if handled incorrectly, can catapult a team into chaos and accusations and even gunplay. Before plighting your troth, answer a couple of important questions: Is your love interest married? Was the spouse of your love interest ever in the military? Answer "yes" to either and your physical longing should best be left unfulfilled.
But if your love interest is uninvolved... you've still got trouble. What you're contemplating is, at best, an adolescent, summer-camp-type romance. It's not likely to last. And it'll distance you from the rest of the group. Don't kid yourself that you can remain undetected. Everyone else will see and hear everything you and your lover do ù at least they'll try their damnedest to see and hear everything you do. There will be snickering. There will be jealousy. So our advice is, Wait until after the trip is done. If your feelings for one another are true and deep and meaningful, they'll survive a couple of celibate weeks on the road.
In other words, you'll probably never see each other again, and it's probably for the best.
Illustration by Tim Bower