Long-distance bicycle touring comes in various shapes and sizes. You can tour by yourself, with a partner, or with a group. On our 2010 cross-country bicycle tour, Debbie and I found ourselves in the company of the optimal travel partner–one another. By the time the tour ended, we better understood what an important factor our togetherness was in contributing to a most satisfying experience. If you are contemplating an expedition like ours, you best choose your travel partners wisely!
Commercial touring companies will agree to accompany you and provide support services in exchange for a handsome fee. Because traveling such long distances translates to time and money, especially when a motorized vehicle and additional people come along, one will want to share those expenses with a group of people to reduce the individual cost. A professionally organized tour has its advantages. You won’t need to carry all of your gear. With a lighter load, you can travel faster with less stress on your body and your bicycle. You will have repair materials and service by qualified mechanics available when you need them. You will also have ready access to food and drink. And the staff’s familiarity with the surroundings and the intended route should mean that you will not get lost.
A self-supported tour, on the other hand, heightens the sense of adventure when traveling to unknown places. It adds to the personal challenge, “stretches” you, and fosters faith in a Higher Power. It forces you to engage with those in your surroundings. These elements are vital to personal growth and achieving maximum satisfaction from what a tour has to offer. Do-it-yourself-ers can find travel partners in family, friends, or riders from a local bicycling club. Some even advertise for travel buddies in industry magazines or on the Internet. One would hope this blind approach includes a thoughtful screening process to weed out the unsavory and the incompatible.
Whether self-supported or hiring the services of a professional touring company, touring with a group comes with pitfalls. Some people in your group, even a small one, may turn out to be “difficult people.” And sometimes personalities mesh well, sometimes they clash. You no longer must simply endure the physical challenges of a long tour, but also some social ones. And how responsible and trustworthy are your travel partners? Will they support you in difficult situations? Will they bear the cost and share in chores equally? And are they “good people” to be with? Or are they conniving villains right from the set of “Survivor”?
Although the common goal inherent in a long tour, to get to the destination, suggests helping and supporting your travel companions, a long tour is just that–long! You will be with these people virtually nonstop for the entire trip. What happens if you just don’t get along? You may just have invested a lot of time and money, with high expectations, only to receive some misery in return.
Just as we can choose who to tour with by bicycle, we also have a choice about who we travel with through life. There is indeed some truth to the adage: you can choose your friends but not your family. However, you still have some control over who you spend your time with. Be intentional about such matters. Your travel partners through the tours of your life will have a direct bearing on your personal experience, whether it is enriching, edifying, simply excellent, or whether it is dull, depressing, or worse yet, degrading. Who do you choose as your travel partners? Do they enhance your experience or make you miserable?