Monday, July 18, 2011

Traveling with New Acquaintances

Traveling while on vacation is one of my favorite things to do. In preparation for a long summer tourist season, I was lucky enough to take advantage of a kind invitation to visit a favorite vacation spot with some old pals whom I had not seen in years. When I was told that there would be some new guests along on the trip, I was characteristically thrilled. I love meeting new people and making new friends. We were to spend 10 days together, which is more than enough time to decide how the days would best be structured so everyone would be kept amused or as an option have a low key day if so desired. My host and hostess had appropriately arranged all of the meals ahead of time, as well as which days and nights we would be dining out. As I have mentioned before, it is always a good move on the part of the host to "avoid the avoidable", therefore making these plans was smart and reduced the number of decisions to make throughout the stay.

As a guest, I felt that I should at the very least make an effort to make those people whom I had not met as comfortable around me as possible. That does not mean I had any responsibility for their overall level of comfort, but I wanted a convivial atmosphere around me. Luckily for me the three ladies were great additions to our party and any effort required by me was minimal. It was a pleasure to share time with these new acquaintances.

I gave a tour of the property to one guest while the hosts managed with settling in the others. She had never been to this particular place and was captivated by the natural beauty, the sound of the crashing waves and the songs of the island's birds. Noticing land crabs and tortoise were a new experience and having a pal to share that with made a difference to her. Another guest was unaccustomed to the local flavors and by offering to explain the different foods to it her helped us to forge a friendship. The third woman and I had quite a lot in common including longstanding friendships with both host and hostess and we bonded by sharing some safe stories about our mutual friendships, which of course we expanded upon as we gained trust with one another's sense of humor.

Not surprisingly however, little tensions began to arise. As a professional on the subjects of respect and good manners, spotting these small incendiaries before they flared out of control and diffusing negative energy where possible comes somewhat naturally. However, it requires the agreement and participation of all involved to ease any tensions. It is not uncommon for people to argue about politics and religion or any variety of other subjects, but my feeling is that vacations are off limits for unseemly or aggressive discussions. To my way of thinking, making an effort to put other people's feelings ahead of our own goes a long way to ensuring smooth sailing for our time together. This is a basic cardinal rule of etiquette and one which not only makes sense, but requires common sense, a commodity of increasing scarcity in today's frenetic world.

As a guest who is new to the group, your enjoyment and level of happiness can be more elevated if you make an effort not to ruffle any feathers by bringing up provocative subjects and by refraining from making negative comments about the accommodations or food - unless there is a problem such as a malfunctioning toilet or if you have a real food allergy. When placed in such a position myself, I make an effort to find out as much about the other people as possible before I discuss anything which might be sensitive or controversial. By doing this, I can begin to see where we share common interests and views. To some people trying new foods and seeing new sights is considered a real adventure. To others, such experiences can cause uneasiness. Throw a full moon into the mix and you never know what could happen. I find therefore that treading softly is the better part of valor.

I do also try to follow the lead of my host. If he or she indicates that I may be skating on thin ice or that I have unwittingly touched upon a sensitive subject, I take note and retreat to safer ground. Likewise, however, if I notice that a guest is reacting to a comment as a personal criticism which someone has stated in an insensitive manner, I draw the perpetrator aside privately and quietly share with them my observation, of which they may be completely unaware. If I discover they were aware and simply being rude I suggest backing off, for the sake of the group as a whole. Group dynamics are every bit as important to consider when we are traveling as when we are conducting business. It's really as simple as that. The best advice meeting new people and vacationing as a group is to travel lightly and leave the excess baggage at home. Enjoy the time away in a different environment. Bon Voyage!