Travelling for an extended period with anyone can be intense.
In 2007 I took a trip with LP and my friend Jon, travelling around America for a few months. We all spent a lot of time together crammed into LP's now deceased black 1994 Honda Civic.
The trip was fun and it all ended well (Jon remains a close friend and LP is now my wife). But we had our moments. I know I can be annoying. I have a tendency to post hypothetical questions to my companions on long trips that some people find less charming than others. Jon and I got on each other's nerves a time or two. I drunkenly sleep-walked and tried on his clothes (he's a lot smaller than me).
There's a lot involved in maintaining harmonious relationships on the road that didn't really occur to me before setting out in 2007. Travelling with another person brings a clash of expectations, living styles, habits and personality into close proximity.
I found my ideal travelling buddy when I found LP. Through jaunts across Mexico, America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Samoa, we've each become closely tuned to the other's travelling personality; she's ceded to my relentless hereditary desire to be at the airport much earlier than is practicably needed, I've learnt just the right horrible pop songs to play to raise her spirits when she's flagging (ahem... LL Cool J's Hey Lover... ahem).
We've developed a pretty innate sense of the other's rhythm and when to leave each other alone.
But even with all of this prior knowledge in place, travelling with a significant other can still have its moments. You have to always keep a couple of important things in mind.
You're going to get testy at each other.
The other day, LP and I drove the Extra-Terrestrial highway along the border of Area 51, to a small outpost called Rachel in very rural Nevada. To get there you go to Tonopah, itself a small, removed town, take a highway away from there toward nowhere and from there take a right-hand turn down a two-lane road pointed away from everywhere. You then follow that road for 100km.
It began to snow heavily. We were climbing in altitude in a little Chrysler town car. We had chains, but somehow that wasn't comforting enough. There was no cellphone reception. No one really knew where we were. In an hour on the road, we'd seen only one car and about 40 cows. We got pretty tense at each other. LP wanted to turn back. I didn't. Words were spoken, etc.
An hour or so later it was as though it never happened. When travelling with someone, you need to feel okay that you're going to get annoyed at each other - what with spending entire days together out of your comfort zone and under-slept - but it doesn't mean anything bad about either your companion or the trip.
You don't get to do everything you want to.
When I arrived in both Tonopah and Las Vegas, to find that completely coincidentally a Celtics game was starting on the TV, I didn't get to put my feet up and spend a few hours watching basketball. When we got to Las Vegas and LP wanted to throw some glad rags on and head somewhere nice for dinner on the Strip, but I wanted to head downtown to the old casino strip on Fremont Street and sample that particular scene, she compromised with me despite her initial vocal opposition.
If you only want to do what you want to do, you shouldn't travel with someone else.
Many trips down the line LP and I know the things to compromise on: I have an innate need to spend at least 30 minutes in every bookshop we come upon, LP loves to go to restaurants where you have to put your name down and wait two hours for a table.
You need to make sure your expectations are in line.
This hasn't been so relevant this trip because we've been on a preset schedule. But it basically just amounts to constant communication: where are you going on this day? What do you really want to get to? How long do you want to be out for?
LP is prone to taking me on walks that start short and somehow lengthen in 15-minute increments. I like to know what I'm going to be doing, before I do it.
Money and food are two big expectations that you need to align when travelling. It's a bad scene when one party feels like the other isn't considering their budget. You're also going to be in someone else's orbit for three meals a day. But this is much easier when you're travelling with a partner, as these are probably discussions you've already had many times.
Communication. Compromise. If you fight, let it go quickly.
It is all pretty standard relationship advice. But when you're travelling with friend/ stranger/wife/husband/boyfriend/ girlfriend it is all heightened and much more intense.
There's nowhere to hide and another person is relying on you. You can get tired and a little fragile. Travelling is fun, but it wears on everyone at times.
So who is your travelling buddy?
ii) Congratulations to Guy Incognito, you are the winner of the inaugural Best American Books Competition. Get in touch, so we can sort the details out.
This past week I have been travelling through Nevada as a guest of the Nevada Commission on Tourism.
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