“And you’re still married?”
It’s by far the most common reaction we get after telling people we’ve been traveling together for nearly two years. More interesting, apparently, than our favorite destination or even how we’re able to travel for so long is how we’ve refrained from murdering each other.
So as our Valentine’s Day gift to you, our beloved reader, we wanted to share our secrets for blissful (or at least less hateful) together travel.
You have to truly like each other
People are together for many different reasons. Genuine friendship isn’t always one of them.
On too many business trips to count, I recall spending evenings with acquaintances who were delighted to have drinks with me because it got them away from their families. Even complete strangers were happier to have my company than endure another night at home with their supposed “loved ones.”
Something that is obvious but often overlooked is the fact that if you’re going to spend all of your time with someone, you really have to like that person. Not all couples, I’m afraid, pass that test.
Adopt one another’s interests
Part of what makes people friends is the sharing of common interests. Typically you go out with friends to do things you mutually enjoy. The more things you have in common, the more time you enjoy spending together.
In a way, our interests determine our friends. But our interests aren’t things that are written in stone after falling randomly from the sky. We choose the things we enjoy, and choose our friends accordingly. Some of those things come naturally, others are “acquired tastes” that require more effort. Either way, they’re choices we control.
We’ve already chosen our travel partner and that partner comes complete with a long list of things they enjoy. We now have a whole new menu of interests to choose ours from: theirs. This isn’t to suggest we need to stalk them, borrow their clothes, and mirror their hair style in a Single White Female kind of way. But making an effort to adopt some of their interests goes a long way to making all of that togetherness more enjoyable for everyone.
Regardless of how many things we have in common, no two people are identical. There are bound to be disagreements. And the more time people spend together the more often they’ll disagree.
Finding a middle ground is almost always the best way to resolve these conflicts. Each side has to be willing to meet the other part way, giving a little and getting something in return. Do your part.
It’s impossible to find common ground if neither side knows what the other wants. We can’t expect our partner to know what we want if we haven’t told them, in actual words, clearly. If we’re assuming they know, or should know, but haven’t told them, we only have ourselves to blame for not getting what we want.
Listening is not just waiting for your chance to speak. Communication is a two way street. It’s not enough to say what you want. We have to listen, really listen to what the other person is saying. Only then can we understand. And it is understanding that makes compromise possible.
Schedule time apart
You’re best friends, with plenty of common interests, who are masters at listening to one another and sorting out your differences. Fantastic! You’re still going to need some time to yourself.
No matter how well we get along with someone, having some space to do our own thing and think our own thoughts is critical. Getting that space is more difficult when you share a hotel room or an RV permanently.
We’re fortunate in that our living space consists of two distinct rooms. Even though we’re rarely more than 20 feet apart, we don’t feel like we’re right on top of one another.
In situations with even closer quarters, actively scheduling alone time can help. It doesn’t matter if you’re running errands by yourself or just going out for a walk, getting some regular time apart is important for everyone’s sanity.
Entertain thy self
Alone time doesn’t even need to be completely alone. Shannon and I can sit side by side on the couch and be completely immersed in our own things. For all practical purposes, we’re miles apart. We can do that because we don’t need the other to entertain us.
Oftentimes recently retired couples run into difficulty because they don’t know what to do with themselves. For decades they’ve had someone else structure their day. Suddenly, they find themselves in charge of all those hours and don’t know what to do with them. So they follow their spouse around the house like a lost puppy, annoying the hell out of them in the process.
Before you set out on an extended trip, think about how you’ll entertain yourself during downtime. Take up some solitary hobbies or get an e-reader. Don’t expect your partner to keep you occupied. The only person responsible for your entertainment is you.
Everyone should want the same thing
A common challenge we see, typically among the RVing crowd, is for one partner to be more enthusiastic about the trip than the other. This is natural, but sometimes we get the impression one spouse doesn’t really want to live that lifestyle at all. They were browbeaten into it. In most every case, that is a recipe for failure.
Although it’s possible for a reluctant partner to discover the joys of fulltime travel once on the road, the odds are long. Traveling fulltime requires many sacrifices. To endure the hardships you really have to value the benefits. If someone doesn’t see the benefits right from the start, they probably never will.
Worse yet, all of those sacrifices can grow into resentment, threatening not only the trip but the relationship as well.
Channel the stress
Traveling is stressful. Often when under stress, we lash out at the people we’re closest to. This is a mistake. Whatever the situation, fighting amongst ourselves always makes it worse.
Instead of looking at our travel partners as someone to carry the blame, it helps to recognize that they’re with us to help shoulder the burden. Whether we’ve missed our bus or are hopelessly lost, two people have twice the resources to set things right.
It helps to remember, too, that the best travel stories center on mishaps. You’ll more fondly remember the times you overcame adversity than the times everything went according to plan. All the better if you did it together, without bickering.