It's time to let you all in on a little secret: selling everything you own and embarking on a four month road trip in a van with your spouse is not for the faint-hearted. Sure, you get to visit vibrant cities, hike in beautiful wilderness, and visit numerous (and wonderful) friends and family. However, it cannot be denied that personal and relationship challenges abound and can threaten to destroy your sanity or at the very least, your relationship.
Just in case you are considering an adventure like this, I would like to share a few typical situations we have encountered and some expert advice on how to deal with them:
When you are preparing for your trip, you might find that you have very different ideas about how much stuff to bring. You may think that this is an experience in making due with less and that the less you have, the more comfortable and roomy your little van will feel. Your spouse may think that it is important to be prepared for every possible situation and that you will really appreciate having those particular items when you need them. Unfortunately, both of you are right. The solution is to satisfy your spouse by getting a large car top carrier bag to contain the stuff you don't ever expect to use, keeping it in the van instead, and complaining about it every night when you both have to move it from the bed to the front seat and back again.
On The Road
There will be a point, perhaps many points, when you won't agree on what should be playing on the radio. I do not recommend learning to appreciate your spouse's music. That is a recipe for frustration and resentment. Instead there is an alternative that is quite effective: ear plugs. A good quality pair can help block out at least half of the noxious sound. Moaning while covering your head with a blanket can block out the other half and communicate to your spouse your opinion on his/her choice. Communication is, after all, key in any healthy relationship.
If you are in the passenger seat and see your spouse driving "improperly" (i.e. not how YOU would drive), a calm "Can you please not drive us into the lake?" is more effective than gasping dramatically and yelling their name.
Living in the Van
Unless you are on the more petite side, the van will not provide as much head room as your house. Additionally, there are some tricky spots that will jump out and actually hit you on the head, making your eyes water and your anger rise. Turning to your spouse and yelling "I hate this !#$^&#% van" is not productive. Several swigs of bourbon will do the trick, loosen you up and restore your sense of well being.
If after careful deliberation, you insist upon embarking on a similar trip with your spouse, follow these guidelines and you will hopefully not only survive the experience with your relationship intact but with a greater sense of humor and funny-in-retrospect stories that you can tell your friends.
Photo courtesy of David Sim