Tag: RV

How to travel as a couple and not kill each other

If there’s one takeaway from the book and movie Into the Wild I will always carry with me, it’s this:

“Happiness is only real when shared.”

When I first starting traveling, I trekked solo for the better part of 2 years. It was great! I was able to come and go as I pleased, see anything I wanted to see at any time of day, eat whatever came to mind and experience total and complete freedom.

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Something that came with that freedom, though, was loneliness. One day as I swam alone at the Cairns Esplanade Swimming Lagoon in Australia, I saw a couple playing in the water together and kissing. I tried to not let it affect me, but it shook me. I was completely lonesome. I wish I had someone by my side to experience all the amazing things I was doing: snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, hiking in the rain forest, jungle expeditions and meeting new friends.

Later that year I met my current boyfriend Jonathan and we’ve been together ever since. We fell in love with each other and both loved traveling. The perfect storm brewed and we became a couple that traveled full-time together.

Jonathan and I at the Grand Canyon
Jonathan and I at the Grand Canyon

Traveling with your romantic partner is something every couple should do. Traveling tests your limits and expands your mind. Having new and exciting experiences with someone you love keeps things interesting, fresh and fun.

But, all the benefits of traveling with my boyfriend came at a cost. I could no longer saunter into parties and flirt with wild men. Gone were the days of perusing clothing markets (I couldn’t bare the site of Jonathan in the “husband chair” just waiting for me to be done). If I wanted to eat Mexican food, I didn’t stand a good chance as Jonathan prefers Asian cuisine. Times: they were a changin’.

Traveling together as a couple meant learning how to navigate through the ever-changing and exciting world as a team, not solo. I learned a lot about what it means to make a meaningful relationship work even in the thick of it.

Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way:

1. Make sacrifices: You might not want to hear this, but I believe if you want to successfully travel the world as a couple, you have to sacrifice. You might not to be able to visit a certain site or eat the specific cuisine you had your heart set on. More than once you’ll have to put off getting your haircut or buying yourself a cute pair of shoes because your partner’s ATM card isn’t working abroad. You’ll probably resort to PB&Js for a night or two just to get a private hostel room, whereas before you didn’t mind cramming into an 12-bed room. When you travel as a couple, you have to think of yourself as a collective whole, not as two individual people.

Living in a camper wasn't always easy, but waking up to these views made it always worth it.
Living in a camper wasn’t always easy, but waking up to these views always made it worth it.

2. Practice patience: Whenever Jonathan and I road tripped across the U.S., I was like my dog- my head was out the window and I wanted to stop every hour or two to take pictures, go to the bathroom or stretch. Jonathan was the king of “keep driving,” even at the cost of me whining about “passing up all the sites.” I finally learned that Jonathan was simply waiting for the right moment to pull off so that we could have privacy, use the bathroom AND refuel or find the ultimate scenic spot for a photo opp. Biting my tongue and practicing patience when all I wanted was my way proved difficult, but the payoff always trumped my impatience.

3. Go with the flow: Shit happens on the road. You’ll get a flat tire. You’ll get robbed. You’ll run out of money. Someone in your group will get in a fight and you have to hitchhike home. When traveling, you have to be the master of expecting the unexpected. Letting a little adversity that isn’t anyone’s fault come between you as a couple is a sign of naivitee. To point fingers and blame your significant other during a tough time only widens your gap and decreases the effectivity of safely solving a problem. If you can remain calm and encourage your partner to follow suit, you can take on any challenge with a clear mind.

Sucking it up and finding a way to survive winter before moving to Hawaii
Sucking it up and finding a way to survive winter before moving to Hawaii

4. Respect each other’s alone time: I can’t stress this enough. Yes, you’re in love and you love to do every lovey dovey thing together. We get it. Now that you’re done suffocating, take some time for yourself. I used to get upset when I’d go swimming and Jonathan didn’t feel like getting in the water. It made me feel like he didn’t want to enjoy something with me that I enjoyed doing so much. I realize, now, that his version and my version of “enjoying” vary a great deal sometimes, and some experiences are saved just for me. Those special moments when I can get away and practice yoga, write, swim, go for a jog or do anything that brings me peace is a gift and vice versa.

5.  Make time for just the two of you: You might be thinking: “Make time for the two of you? You’re traveling the world together! What more time do you need?!” Travel is not glamorous. In fact, it’s a full-time job. Between balancing finances, dealing with interesting characters you meet on the road, calling home, arranging stays, dealing with unruly passengers or moody gas station attendants, sometimes you forget to look next to you, see your partner and fully comprehend that you’re in this together. Don’t let the world bog you down. Find alone time to reconnect. If that’s catching a movie together, preparing a meal with each other or simply taking a walk hand in hand, it’s important to find time to celebrate one-on-one the reason why you decided to travel the world together in the first place.

Together in love and travel
Together in love and travel

Are you a traveling couple? What tips do you have for staying sane on the road? I’d love to hear your feedback. 

Finding the perfect vessel

It’s official: I have itchy feet.

The only thing that makes my feet even itchier is being in a relationship with a guy who loves to travel too. At the drop of a hat, we can see ourselves anywhere at anytime. We both are aware of our freedom and the excitement associated with the open road.

Jon and I are both living in Chicago in our studio apartment. It’s a nice neighborhood and we both have good jobs. We go out to eat, get dressed up and relax just like any other normal people do.

But after a few months of hibernation after Hawaii, we both put on a few extra pounds and missed our Vitamin D. I have become increasingly burned out with work, as well as him. There’s nothing quite as exhausting as working as a server in the restaurant industry 5-6 days a week, 8 hours a day. Dealing with people in general is exhausting. Most days, we like to come home from work and just zone out.

I know this is not my personality. I typically enjoy talking to and meeting new people. But when people start talking AT you, it becomes tiring, mentally and physically.

In any case, Jon thought of an idea which I think is a good one and we’re going to try it out together. The traveling couple.

Since both of us work jobs in the hospitality industry, our schedules are pretty flexible. The industry is almost always looking for help considering the transient nature of the business. Both Jon and I have wandering attention spans and get burned out quickly. Plus, we very much enjoy leisure time.

Since our time together, we average about 3 months of work and 1 month off. This gives us enough time to save money for our next “jaunt.” I enjoy the change of scenery, and most of all, I enjoy that sweet month off.

We decided that instead of getting ourselves into a lease, furnishing a place and making a life every where we land, to instead be turtles and live with our house on our back.

For that reason, we spent weeks searching for the perfect vessel.

The romantic idea in which we put into fruition is that we would like to travel and be free agents. We want to be able to go wherever, whenever, within reason.

Both of us have never seen many parts of the United States, Canada or Mexico. So we decided on an extended road trip. This trip will be comprised of work and play. It’s going to start off with camping around various places in the United States for a few weeks, possibly a month. We are going to blow off some steam, camp, fish, hike, and reconnect.

From there, with the help of websites like www.CoolWorks.com and www.WorkingCouples.com, we plan to find seasonal work, preferably jobs that offer employee housing (many of them do), as our perfect vessel can be lived in, but is a bit tight for full-time usage. If we had to, we could, as it’s fully functional.

About our setup

The per-requisites for our vessel became clearer as our dream unfolded. This was our wishlist:

Something small

Has to be relatively stealthy (We want to off road and “boondock” meaning going off the grid for a week at a time)

Good on gas mileage (HUGE!)

Must be attached to or BE and everyday vehicle (We were looking for a Vanagon, but those are very hard to find in the Midwest!)

Affordable (Under 10K)

Relatively new with good resale value

Must have cooking space, shower and toilet,self-sustainable

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As we looked, we discovered the RV world. We looked at and test drove Class A, Class B and Class C motor homes. We popped our heads in pop-ups and considered just roughing it in the back of a van with camping gear. Until we found what we were looking for.

We stopped by the Airstream dealer one afternoon on a whim, as a previous lead that day didn’t pan out. Then we saw it:

Our 2006 Northstar 850 SC Truck Camper!
Our 2006 Northstar 850 SC Truck Camper!

This camper is perfect for many reasons. It was within budget, a relatively decent year (2006), had one previous owner who took immaculate care of it and had every basic amenity we needed. PLUS, it looks stealthy enough on the back of a truck, is completely self-sustaining and would allow us to live in it for weeks, maybe even months at a time. Not only that, but if we ever wanted to, we can leave the camper behind and take our “every day” vehicle, the truck, out for a spin when need be.

Here is an overall view of the layout:

Kitchen, toilet/shower combo, dining area, bed. What else do you need?
Kitchen, toilet/shower combo, dining area, bed. What else do you need?

The inside of spacious enough. When it’s traveling, you fold it down, but when it’s time to get in and live a little, you crank up the ceiling, or pop it up, for extra head space. The unit also has an outdoor awning so we could set up a barbeque and some chairs for a nice evening under the stars.

I tried to capture a few photos, not all of them great. I’ll be updating more with time, but here are some preliminary ones:

From the outside looking in. Notice the awesome USA stickers. I want to fill that thing OUT!
From the outside looking in. Notice the awesome USA stickers. I want to fill that thing OUT!

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Jon checking out the storage under the bed
Jon checking out the storage under the bed
The toilet/shower combo.
The toilet/shower combo.
Hello, new lifestyle
Hello, new lifestyle

In any case, there are many new things to learn with this new lifestyle. Jon and I are studying up about waste removal, water tank capacity, electricity and power. It’s definitely going to be a learning curve, but a very fun one, I think!

We purchased a Ford F250 3/4 ton truck with 4 wheel drive and an off road package. The vehicle is used, a 2004, with about 150,000 miles on it. It has a 6.5 foot bed and extended cab for extra storage space (hello charcoal grill!) Pictures of that and the complete, put together vehicle soon to come.

I am excited for this journey on the open road. The only plan now is to head west. We both love the idea of a week or two of remote camping and hiking in Colorado (and places along the way) before trying to find some work. Oh yeah, and hot springs. We both want to find some hot springs. Shouldn’t be too bad, right?

Good times ahead, me thinks
Good times ahead, me thinks