If the Instagram feeds of every attractive, young #wanderluster are to be believed, there isn’t anything more invigorating than traveling with a partner. Exploring the world as a twosome can certainly be gratifying, but there’s a reason why everyone has a vacation breakup story. With hours spent standing in lines, lugging bags, and navigating unfamiliar territory, it’s no wonder traveling is said to be a good determiner of a couple’s compatibility (or combativity). Sharing a single car for a sixty-day stretch can be too much proximity for two people when things are going to plan. When both parties are being pushed outside of their comfort zones, a shitshow or two is inevitable.
When J agreed to indulge me in this trip, it wasn’t my first rodeo. I had learned some hard lessons two years prior when I had similarly gone cross-country. Traveling indefinitely means forfeiting your right to relax. Things that might normally be taken for granted, like where you will eat, sleep, shower, and knowing how to get to these places, all require daily attention. The more variables to your trip, such as time and distance, the greater the chance that these concerns will become incessant worries. Hunter-gatherers became farmers for a reason. This time I had a car and a license, which by definition should make a road trip easier logistically. What I didn’t realize was that having a partner meant I had someone to share the burden. Traveling with a partner means high fiving while crossing state lines, being fed trail mix while driving, and having twice as much protection against possums of unusual size. None of which means it’s always easy.
In 6 Tips On How To Travel With Your Partner, J got to share what six months of traveling together has taught him. These months with him have provided me with my own share of insights. As the slightly older, considerably wiser half of Two By Tour, I’ve compiled those hard lessons into 6 (Better) Tips On How To Travel With Your Partner.
Get Ready To Be Roomies
Retiring to the comfort of a hotel room or tent may be a welcome respite after a long day, but privacy is not included in the standard amenity package. Most of us don’t realize how much time we spend apart from the people who are close to us. Differing work schedules, separate cars, hobbies, exercise, and nights out with friends all provide large blocks of isolated time, even from those we live with. In instances when both parties are at home, activities are still often pursued independently.
These endeavors can become abrasive when plans dictate prolonged stretches in close quarters. Scrolling through videos on a phone is infuriating for the person who is attempting to write. Keeping a light on to read by may distract someone trying to sleep. The ways and lengths of time needed to decompress vary wildly between people, and not properly recharging increases the severity of an impending meltdown. Much like dorm living, headphones and hygiene go a long way. Make your peace with the probability that your only moments of solitude for the foreseeable future are likely to be surrounded by porcelain.
There’s No Moving At Your Own Pace In Team
One of J’s pet peeves is standing in the big middle. After 11 years dodging snowbanks, rats, and deliveries on the streets of New York, I can concur. Moving at your own pace is a luxury that should be reserved for solitary activities, and is downright inconsiderate when somebody else is along for the ride. I’m no stranger to the instantaneous fury that can well up when a tourist, lost in contemplation, breaks up my stride by stopping short, but it’s pretty miserable being the one who can’t appreciate another’s cause to linger.
As two separate people, you’re never going to be entirely on each other’s schedule, but empathy and communication can make it less of an issue. Patience is sexier than it sounds. J gets anxious about missing flights and needs to be at the airport by the recommended time. I like to read all the plaques and do so at half his speed. We’ve grown to understand this about each other and take it into account. More importantly, we have learned these things about ourselves. J now rationalizes that getting upset when we’re 15 minutes behind is just going to stress us both out. I am aware that every minute spent reading about the local flora brings J one minute closer to sunburn. We’re going to be hot, and tired, and hangry, and bored. All we can do is our best not to be jerks.
Control Is Overrated
We are both, what may be politely referred to, as self-possessed individuals, and very much used to getting our own way. We embarked on our trip wielding our control like a mace (perhaps me more than J) but were grappling over whose turn it was to not be in charge within days. Planning is exhausting. I may never concede that my way isn’t the right way, but there are certainly others, and they require a lot less work on my end. I never would have suggested going to the Falls of the Ohio, the Nashville Parthenon, or the Bass Pro Shop in the Memphis Pyramid, but these were some of the highlights of the trip for me. When I allowed J to take on some of the burdens, I began to leave room for spontaneity.
Subscribing to the illusion of control means when your host, DJ Freshy Fresh, accidentally locks you out of your Airbnb, you’re less likely to bounce back and suggest waiting it out with hot chicken and apple pie moonshine. Being a boss is awesome, but being one perpetually is tedious (i.e. every manager you’ve ever worked for). Things you anticipated will disappoint you and things you deemed dull will fascinate. Not trying to control a thing leaves you space to just enjoy it.
Divide and Conquer
I like to consider myself self-sufficient and able to tackle anything that comes my way. Proving this sometimes makes me reluctant to accept help. This pretention is not only annoying, it is ludicrously inefficient. There are two of you. Take the damn help. J hates driving in the rain. It doesn’t bother me at all. I love to cook and he’s happy to clean. He’s built for carrying bags, while I’m exceptional at organizing them. He doesn’t mind folding laundry, and I circumvent hangovers by procuring junior bacon cheeseburgers. Let each other work to their strengths. Just don’t be the tool whose strength is building the fire. Everybody likes doing that.
Be Each Other’s Advocate
If your motivation in bringing another person with you was splitting the cost of gas, I would hope you have independent apartments to return home to. However, If you were hoping to be able to share an experience with this person, remember why you chose them. Be the person who is on their side when they screw up parallel parking or misuse a foreign word at the market. They’ll be the one to have yours when your tow truck driver predictably slips a little racism into the conversation. Everybody makes mistakes, and they can be exponentially more destructive when traveling, but most of us beat ourselves up far worse than anyone else could. Being kind ensures you’ll have someone to reminisce with when all of your friends have grown tired of your vacation stories.
Buy A Tandem Sleeping Bag
Why make outdoor sex more awkward than it needs to be?
Being on edge for 60 days shows you who wants to be on your team when it hits a rough, broken-out, smelly, unshowered patch. Having someone who can speak your same language (figuratively or literally) is precious. Having someone who knows the face you make when you need mezcal is invaluable. Traveling is exhilarating and absorbing and disturbing and intense. This world is vast and beautiful and waiting for you.