When we tell people we’re a married couple traveling the United States living out of our car, every third person invariably exclaims:
“Wow. I think if my husband and I were to do that, we would kill each other.”
And we were determined not to.
Traveling with someone is intense, and it can bring out the very best in a person…as well as the very worst.
Traveling (especially long-term traveling) is, in essence, a domestic partnership wherein two or more people set aside much of their autonomy in the interest of the group.
Traveling always seems to generate a huge list of questions.
Where are we going to do our laundry?
Where are we going to find internet to post another blog post?
How are we going to get enough money to drive to our next destination?
How on earth do you dislodge a tick from your body?
How do we stop eating fried chicken?
So in the interest of our group of two, we decided we needed to set some basic ground rules of conduct. As you can imagine, we’re not perfect at this (there’s some video footage you won’t ever see that proves this), but we try.
When it comes to relationships, communication is key, and traveling only brings out the truth that it’s even more necessary. It helps Seth and I to put together a daily, weekly, and monthly plan; if we don’t, our days sort of drift by aimlessly without any structure. Also, when in close proximity with someone, misunderstandings happen. It’s best to get them out on the table as soon as possible, so you can enjoy your travels without the weight of miscommunication hanging over you.
Try a Little Kindness
This sounds so “doy,” but it’s definitely easier said than done. What is it about familiarity with a person that tends to make us easily crabby and irritable with them? I wouldn’t treat my friends that way; why is my husband any different? This is one of the most important rules for us, and yet, it’s always the hardest to keep to. But, I know if I’m kind to Seth, he’ll want to be kind to me and vice-versa. Kindness cultivates kindness, and it can start with you.
Make Time for Alone Time
As much as people may imagine that Seth and I spend every waking moment with each other, we don’t. We’ve found that giving each other a little bit of alone time a day, even if it’s as little as 20 minutes, enriches and reinvigorates the time we do spend together. Seth likes to work on video projects and nerdy internet stuff. I usually blog, read, or write. Even when we’re driving in the car, sometimes it’s nice to be silent to give yourself a little space to think.
When you divy up the work load, each member of the group knows what his or her responsibilities are. This can help to prevent resentment if/when things don’t get done because you’re expecting the other to step in and take charge. It’s also best to divide up the chores/responsibilities based on how much time a person has. For example: if your wife spends thirty hours a week working while on the road, take more of the load yourself.
Seth is in charge of the car (organization, upkeep, cleaning), and I am responsible for the laundry and the finances. Maybe it looks different for you; the point is is that it’s a lot easier to travel when everyone knows his or her role and what exactly is his or her responsibility.
Traveling tends to throw even the most prepared travellers unforeseen curve balls. That’s the beauty and fun of traveling. Approach less-than-ideal situations with humor and flexibility. Oftentimes, if I can’t find the humor at the moment, I tell myself that, one of these days, the situation will make for a really good story. Then I write it down in my moleskin journal to write about later.
Sometimes, you’ll find that those curve balls actually made the trip.
Dreaming with your traveling partner can help foster a we’re-on-the-same-team attitude. Spend an hour at a coffee shop or driving around and talk about places you want to go, things you want to see. Don’t feel obligated to whip out your planner either–just give yourselves the space to dream.
Some of my very favorite times with Seth has been when we’ve gone for a drive and dreamed. I’ll usually say something like, “If we had all the money in the world, where would we go and what would we do?” From this springs a two hour conversation in which we will have made a plan that involves equal parts of our own fantasy. We find that our dreams become our dreams. That’s precious.