Let’s just say I’ve been around a bit and have traveled with various combinations of people from small to large groups that have included family, friends, colleagues, and mates; yes, it can make or break a trip. I have traveled on my own too, and with young children, but I’ll say more about that later.
It is wonderful visiting different parts of the world but it can be very stressful and can bring out the bad sides of people. It helps to be familiar with your travel companions. One trip I took about fifteen years ago that still leaves a sick feeling in my stomach was with someone I knew very well, and in fact had known all her life, my daughter. We got into full-scale mother-daughter battles on the streets of Rome and ended up spending the last part of the trip separately, although still staying in the same room. The bad part was my grandchildren, who were traveling with us, went with her and I didn’t get to spend as much time with them as I would have liked.
Travel can also bring out odd sides in people. I went to Mexico with a friend, Mike, who I worked with at the Bagelry in downtown Santa Cruz in the early 80s. We flew into Puerto Vallarta in the middle of summer when it was so hot you couldn’t go out comfortably after eight in the morning. After spending most of two days running in and out of the shower to try and stay comfortable, we decided to take a bus east to the mountains of Michoacán, where I hoped it would be cooler.
Our target was a charming colonial town, Patzcuaro, right by the lake of the same name. The lake offers boat rides to the island of Janitzio whereas you arrive, you can watch fisherman catch little fish called charales in their butterfly-shaped nets. Later, as you climb the steep path to the top of the island to see the large statue of the Mexican independence hero, Jose Maria Morelos, you pass by in little restaurants selling the fried fish.
Patzcuaro, back in the 1980s, had an uneven water supply that was cut off most days during siesta, from about 1–4 p.m. Maybe there was water in high-end hotels, but not in ours. One day it drove Mike nuts. As a Californian, he had never experienced this and he took off out of the hotel in a huff to find water. He finally returned a few hours later proudly displaying a plastic bag full of about four cups of water, just as it turned 4 p.m. and the water supply came on.
I have also traveled as part of my work so I couldn’t always pick who I went with. I’m pretty flexible which you have to be to travel. One time I traveled with an impatient alpha woman who was fastidious about her dress and would wake up at ungodly – to me anyways – hours, to shower, dress, do hair and makeup. This wasn’t a huge problem as I just rolled over, covered my head with the pillow and tried to get a little more sleep. A difficult moment was on the plane on the way back, when she progressively got more and more anxious and then started yelling out loud because someone kept kicking the back of her seat. I was afraid she was losing control so I told her if she didn’t calm down, there was a possibility, the crew might have to land the jet and we wouldn’t get home until later. That calmed her down. I turned around to see who the kicking culprit was, and it was a very young child about two to three years old.
A final example was when I traveled with my husband and a good friend. I made sure I told her several times to pack lightly, which is probably why she brought two long, heavy and large sports bags, one full of food. Our plan was for a two-week trip to Mexico with plans to fly to Mexico City and take a bus to Guanajuato. Every move we made, to and from the airport, hotel and bus, involved carrying and heaving those bags. We actually made it to day four in Guanajuato before she said she was heading home. We never fought, but it was just uncomfortable. Overall, probably don’t travel with a couple unless you are clear about the dynamics. As you may have learned in middle school, three can be as lonely a number as one.
Traveling with anyone can be a challenge. The main ingredient has to be, like with any relationship, that all people have to want to get along and acknowledge that they won’t always get their way.
My traveling suggestion for this column is if you are heading to Southern California and have the time, stay a night in Bakersfield. I have mentioned this before but there are a couple of interesting places to stay and see. One hotel, built in 1928, is the newly renovated The Padre in downtown that is now Bakersfield’s only 4-Diamond hotel. It is very fancy but not too expensive. Around the corner is the turquoise Deco style Guthrie’s Alley Cat Bar at 1525 Wall St. It’s been a dive bar since the 1940’s and contains a large mural by the famous 1950’s New York caricaturist, Al Hirschfeld. Dewar’s Candy Shop is a few blocks away at 1120 Eye Street and has excellent taffy and an authentic old-style soda fountain that sells the usual array plus a light tasting frozen treat called Ice Milk. The Bakersfield Museum of Art is at 1930 R. St and focuses on contemporary art.
The other place where we usually stay is the Red Lion Hotel, right off of Highway 99, north of town and next to Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace. If you’re lucky, you can have a hearty meal and listen and dance to some great, live country-western music at the Crystal Palace. I like catfish. I just checked their website and I couldn’t find too many shows at this time of year. The Red Lion Hotel is a 1960 California modern style with a big pool surrounded by rooms and palm trees. It comes with breakfast included. It is clean and minimal but the staff has always been friendly.