When you travel, either domestically or for long stints overseas, your travel companion is a vital figure in your life. They are the person who is (nearly) always there. They are the person you need to rely on if anything goes wrong. They are the person you share great adventures and experiences with.
They can also be the person who brings you joy and makes you laugh.
Let me introduce you to my frequent travel companion, Arbee. Arbee is a known entity; we live together when we’re not travelling. But somehow, things emerge about your life partner when travelling, things that don’t appear at home, but become evident when travelling.
What is a good travel companion? Characteristics like strength, good humour, a sense of fun, adventure, and flexibility spring immediately to mind. Luckily, Arbee is blessed with all of these – in varying amounts. On many occasions I thank the stars that he’s the one sitting next to me at the bar in Barcelona or swinging wildly in the cable car as we ascend a Swiss mountain shrouded in cloud.
But it’s those other moments I relish. Those moments when the tears roll down your face because of your laughter. Those moments of exasperation at inconsequential things that magically lead you to a wondrous sight or to an encounter with an intriguing stranger stopping to help you. Those unmissable moments due to your travel buddy.
Take one example from our last trip to Barcelona. We just arrived off the long haul flight from Australia, stopping at Dubai, then taking a second plane to Barcelona. We’d wobbled off the plane with our jelly-legs, feeling stiff and strung out from 24 hours of travel and very little sleep. We found the carousel with luggage from our flight and mingled with the other passengers waiting for our bags to fall alarmingly from the conveyor belt before retrieval.
I quickly found and lifted my bag to safety. I wheeled it away from the melee of passengers clustered around the carousel. “I’m going to wait over there” I called to Arbee, pointing at a ledge about five metres away where I could sit down and wait for him.
He waited; he watched all the bags. A few suitcases came at a time, falling dramatically to the belt with a large thump and an alarming impact. Still, he didn’t find his bag.
A man, obviously an airline official hovered nearby, available for people to report lost bags. Arbee appealed to him, “My bag hasn’t come out” he said. The official told him to wait, there were still bags being spat out of the chute.
We waited, trying to quell our impatience. Along with all the other passengers from our plane, the official eventually disappeared. Only a few lonely bags continued to circulate on the carousel but Arbee was bereft. He was getting agitated. He wanted to report his lost bag so off he went in search of the airline official.
I got up from my perch on the nearby ledge and wandered over to the carousel. I reached over and pulled Arbee’s bag from the carousel to land safely at my feet. I waited.
Arbee finally returned having been unable to find anyone to report his lost bag to. “Where did you get that?” he asked gazing incredulously at his suitcase. “It was on the carousel,” I replied, trying not to grin. Arbee looked at me sheepishly, “I didn’t think I brought that bag” he said, “I was looking for a different one!”
Arbee is a touch disorganised – even his friends and family would agree. Sometimes careless you could say. Why just today as we were covering the last metres to reach our departure gate about to finally leave for our next great adventure, he made me laugh. “Hey mate,” a laconic Aussie voice reached us from the nearby escalator, “You dropped something.” Looking back, we spied a small piece of white paper lying forlornly on the almost deserted path we had just taken. Just one small piece of paper.
It couldn’t really matter, could it?
It was Arbee’s boarding pass! That magic token that allows you entry to the big silver time capsule delivering you to another time and place. You’ve checked in, left your luggage to be sent along, you’ve gone through security with its various trials (today Arbee got stopped because he left a tissue in his pocket), and you’ve passed the customs test that requires you to find the right way to place your passport on the scanner and then pose successfully for the picture.
It was that special piece of paper, essential for you to take the next step on your journey.
“Oh, I might need that” said Arbee scampering back to retrieve it. We made it past the last checkpoint, we got to our seats and we’re on our way. I smile to myself and wonder what other joys Arbee is going to bring me on this adventure.