How to get along with your spouse while traveling (hint: snacks)

HOB is the love of my life.  His relentless curiosity, long attention span, and considerable knowledge of art and music makes him an ideal traveling companion….except for when he’s a pain in my substantially-sized ass and I wish I could leave him in a locker at the train station.  To be fair, my fear of flying, internal combustion metabolism and tiny bladder hardly make me HOB’s travel dream date.

Traveling is amped-up life: it’s thrilling and often stressful.  You’re out of your comfort zone and possibly jet-lagged/cold/hot/hungry/have to pee.  And there’s your main squeeze by your side, just as human as you, also possibly jet-lagged/cold/hot/hungry/has to pee.  HOB and I have learned the hard way that traveling can bring out the worst in us, and we’ve worked out a plan to get along under duress.  Here are our tried and true techniques for avoiding conflict while traveling:

  • Always and forever universal cure-all = SNACKS!  Always. Carry. Snacks.  The next time you find yourself snapping at your spouse, or you’re exhausted or stressed out, reach right into your backpack.  Have a handful of nuts.  How about a yogurt or a protein bar?  Nom nom nom.  See?  All better.
  • Manage expectations and never ever expect a “trip of a lifetime.”  High expectations are a psychological trap: you worked hard for this trip and it was expensive and took a lot of planning so you have this sub-conscious pressure to be constantly overjoyed, the interior voice that says “I am on vacation so everything has to be amazing all the time!!!”  But your honey is there, maybe cranky or hungry or complaining and it’s just so easy to get pissy and blame them for ruining everything.  Best solution: travel a lot–then you can tell yourself “Ah so what?  We’ll be back again soon.”
  • Use the code immediate needs.  Immediate needs is a term HOB came up with to identify a body function that urgently must be dealt with.  Let’s say you need to use a bathroom–that could be “Keep your eyes peeled for a convenient bathroom” or “Gotta go right now!” “Gotta go right now” is your immediate needs situation and calls for emergency action, like sneaking into a hotel lobby or buying a coffee at the first available cafe in order to use the bathroom.  You might be looking for a place to eat later or, if you have immediate needs you should stop at the next cheap Chinese restaurant you see and order crappy fried rice to go.  Immediate needs also comes in to play in extreme weather as we often travel in winter and sooner or later need to take urgent measures to get warm and dry.
  • The code red eye is also essential to our travel peace.  Red eye is basically get-out-of jail-free relationship card.  Have you ever been in a pointless argument with your spouse?  Well I confess that HOB and I have been in many of them, no doubt fueled by sleep deprivation and travel stress.  If we find ourselves arguing over nothing, either one of us can say red eye and that has to put an end to the argument.
  • Try not to be too obvious about ogling hotties.  We all do it, and why not?  Just be discreet for the sake of your spouse’s dignity.  HOB has a thing for French women and there have been times his eyes will glaze over at the sight of one of those elegantly chic creatures and I have to poke him to break the spell.  Not that I’m an innocent party.  The farther South we travel in Mediterranean countries the more distracting I find the eye candy.  Andalusia = yummy.  And Lord-have-mercy Puglia!  Fortunately, I’ve learned the art of the Hot Guy Fake Out: “Oh my, mmmmmm, would you look at that!  Would you look at that…nice building!!  Isn’t that an interesting building?  Definitely Renaissance.”
  • Give your spouse a treat.  I bet you know something that will make your main squeeze happy under any circumstance.  HOB loves newspapers.  I’m fairly certain that if I handed him a New York Times in a burning building he would stop and read a few headlines while flames tickled his feet.  If I buy HOB an International Herald Tribune before a long train or airplane ride he’s content.  Me?  I like dumb jokes. Hey HOB–you know all those times I was waiting to board a plane and you gamely exchanged lame jokes with me?  Thank you.
  • You will get lost—that’s just part of traveling, so have a plan for following directions and what to do when you get lost.  It’s works best when one person is in charge of navigating.  While I am good at procuring maps and printing directions in advance, HOB is far more capable than me in actually navigating once we reach our destination, so he is responsible for our way-finding.  (Seriously, we are talking about a man who wears a tiny compass on his watch band every single day.  He’s dorky but he’s cute…)  The main problem is getting lost: I always think we should stop and ask a person for directions and HOB wants to keep trying to find his way without help.  Our solution is to set a five minute window: once we are officially lost, we have five minutes to sort out directions.  After five minutes, it’s fair game to ask for help.
  • Find (or fake) a bit of privacy.  I enjoy HOB’s company, but I also like being alone.  When we travel, we are together 24/7, often in a tiny room.  To preserve our sanity, HOB and I will carve out a bit of private time by pretending we are alone.  It’s accepted practice for us to say “Don’t talk to me now!” and we can each retreat to a novel or email or a long shower with no resentment on either side.

HOB and I actually review and practice these techniques before every trip.  Yeah, so its practical, unromantic and occasionally hard work–still, it’s worth it.  Because whenever I open an art history book and ask “Do want to take three flights, four trains and a bus to see this tapestry/sculpture/fresco/cathedral?” HOB always says yes.

hobwob

Getting along fine in Cefalù,

as

and in Istanbul.

HOBWOB

and Conques.

20 comments

  1. A lot of really useful tips! I like your codes, this is something I have to keep in mind!

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    1. Thanks KleesButterfly!

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  2. Puts a whole new meaning on Renaissance…Man…

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  3. Sarah M · · Reply

    as someone who often travels alone, I always feel smugly superior when I come across bickering couples. The worse ones are the ones who are bickering at the airport; haven’t even gone anywhere yet and already they’re fighting.

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    1. Ha! We may have been one of those couples you saw bickering at the airport….

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  4. Yes!! All of these! We travel with two kids, which means snacks for everyone!!

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    1. Traveling with a spouse AND two kids–now that’s some serious snack co-ordination!

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  5. Great article. Not a fan of the snacks idea, though. If I was to eat every time It gets stressful… Chewing gum or snacking on carrots, perhaps? Do you think that would work? 😉

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    1. Thumbs up on the low calorie snacks!

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  6. Thank you for visiting my blog! 🙂 It is making me hungry though!

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  7. Oh my gosh, yes! 🙂 when my boyfriend and I travel it’s him doing the snack dispensing.

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    1. You have the fellow well trained! 😉

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  8. I’m guessing you exaggerated on the size of your posterior. You are so cute. In fact you both are. I liked your traveling tips too. The saying an army travels on its stomach applies to everyone. Everything is better with snacks.

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    1. Thanks for the compliment, janjoy52. The description of my posterior is accurate, but I’m not complaining (what’s wrong with a bit of junk in the trunk, eh?).

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      1. Reminds me of “The pear shaped O” song on cinderella. Lovely how God loves diversity. Just visit an arboretum or an aquarium. You are an expression of His endless imagination. Cheers!

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  9. hahaha hahaha hahaha! Love it. I am a total bitch from hell when tired and jetlagged and hungry and feel so ashamed of myself I often travel alone. Maybe I could tentatively go back to traveling with a companion if I learn my codes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Or just never stay in a B&B or a guest house. The best reason to stay in an anonymous hotel is so that you can have proper fight with your spouse without the innkeeper’s family listening in.

      Liked by 1 person

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