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.
Getting along fine in Cefalù,
and in Istanbul.