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Travel Companions: Do you need them?
Travel Companions: do you need them? Let me explain. If you think you do, you probably do! It primarily revolves around your background and skills. By that I mean, do you possess previous travel experience in Central America, mechanical, medical and language skills? If not, you probably do need them!
I spent six months in Central America and, as well as I know the countries, would not travel as a single rig, with or without another travel companion. I know only one couple, John and Harriet Halkyard, who wrote 99 Days to Panama and who appear comfortable traveling with only two people in one rig (read their story here). However, being experienced travelers, and having visited Central America several times before taking an RV into the area, probably contributes to their confidence in traveling alone. I feel both glad because these people appear so secure with themselves, and also envious because I wish I possessed the same faith and courage. In my opinion they epitomize the exception to the rule.
Now let’s talk about the rest of us! Why do I make such a big deal out of this whole issue? Let me explain why I feel this way. The major issue involves a vehicle break down with one or two people in one rig. In a Third World Country, you face a real potential problem! If you are by yourself, unquestionably the rig must be abandoned while you go for help; and with a companion the dilemma becomes “who goes for help” and possibly not return? Either way, a great possibility remains that the rig will be burgled, stripped and bodily harm or theft to one or both persons arises, since both are alone. A truly bad situation! I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the potential theft/danger issue.
Three of us experienced being victims of theft during the trip. In Nicaragua, a thief got inside my rig, stole my TV and other items. In Panama, friends we met in Belize camped with us. A thief reached in and took the wallet from the owner’s pants while they were sleeping in their VW Van despite our closely-parked four-vehicle caravan. Even with a multi-rig caravan, we still fell victim to thefts. I give this example because I want you to understand how BOLD thieves may become.
Everyone in the caravan must maintain constant vigilance! The only remedy I see for minimizing this problem lies in one or more travel companions in other rigs, otherwise known as “Safety in numbers”.
Although “safety in numbers” makes sense, you will likely encounter two problems. I assure you that the problems rise exponentially with every additional rig added to your caravan.
- The first problem will revolve around a rather meager potential number of compatible travel companions. Almost 3,000 miles of mostly terrible roads lies between Lukeville, AZ, to Guatemala, Central America. So at a minimum, your journey may last several months. You will find it somewhat difficult to find people who are willing to leave their families or doctors for that length of time.
- The second problem arises when a travel companion continuously disregards previously agreed departure time, wants to go in a different direction, or decides to break away from the group, effectively diminishing the original concept of “safety in numbers”. Consider our experience! We started with 11 rigs. Within one week, we broke into one group of six, a group of four (my group), and one rig went solo to find some Mayan ruins. To make a long story short, my group went from four to three to two. I understand the group of six broke down into two groups of three and then down to twos and ones. Trust me, in all likelihood you will face this problem!
So, what to do? I recommend a caravan of three to four rigs. If the people involved in different rigs begin as strangers, I highly recommend meeting before leaving. The primary subjects for discussion centers around:
- time table available for each person,
- how to handle problems,
- if possible, determine the compatibility of the people involved.
Differences will always arise, solving them will be a daily challenge, and sharing the experiences a tremendous joy! Travel companions. So, where do you find them? You advertise wherever you believe they may be found, either by word of mouth or in print. I recommend you begin your search immediately!
Disclaimer: The author in no way can guarantee your safety in Central America. After all they are Third World countries and not without danger or the possibility of death. You go at your own risk. The author is only suggesting that with some planning, common sense and caution you may minimize your potential dangers and be rewarded with countless cultural experiences. 🙂