Around a year ago we wrote a ‘Travel Couple Etiquette’ post. After our recent trip driving the vineyards of France, we realised that there was scope for a ‘Part Deux’ – there’s nothing like intense camping time to learn more about travel couple etiquette!
Putting Up Tents
R: We have been together for six years now, and we do not argue. I know, I know, that is a super annoying thing to say, but it really is true. What do we have to argue about? We love each other, our goals align, and we both hate confrontation and nonsense. When we disagree we talk about the issue, shake hands and move on. But if there is one thing that may cause an argument, it is putting up a tent. Daniel is a very easy going person, but he does tend to expect an element of mind reading from me when putting a tent up. We both have different ways of doing things like this, so we may go about our business and then pause to stare at each other for a moment in frustrated silence. My big tip? Take a deep breath, and ask what the other person is planning. Putting a tent up after a long journey is annoying, especially in the heat or rain. Explain what you want to happen, and who will take responsibility for which element.
D: As Rach has said, we both take different approaches to different tasks. Part of the fun of travelling as a couple is celebrating those differences and learning to work together. That being said, my way of putting up a tent is correct. Mind reading isn’t necessary, just do it correctly and everyone (me) will be happy. Is that too much to ask?!
R: There is nothing like sitting in a confined space in the middle of a lake to bring out a temper even in the most placid of couples. Why? All that steering, paddling, and fighting against a current can be hard work. We have this pretty much down now, but the first time we played in a kayak was a little fraught, as we had different ideas on direction, speed, space, and well, everything.
Again, communication is the key element here! Asking ‘Could you paddle on the left for a bit?’ is much nicer than saying ‘Which way do you think we are going?!’ – Being on a lake is a beautiful feeling (and if you choose the back seat, as I do, you can close your eyes and drift off for a while without the person in front knowing).
D: The first time we went kayaking together was a little fraught with minor bickering and arguments. We both still enjoyed the peaceful moments in-between. After the experience we saw some friends and were asked instantly “So, how long did it take you to argue?”
For those who haven’t partaken, a kayak, much like a tent after a long drive, is an incubator to the petri dish of your temper. It doesn’t take a lot to set either person in the boat off. This isn’t to say that it isn’t brilliant. Just be aware, before you go, that you both need to understand exactly what the other person is asking all the time. When it doesn’t go right, find the funny side of your failure and when it does go well celebrate what a good team you are. Do not see another couple in a kayak and decide to compete.
Fixing Bikes onto a Bike Rack
R: Essentially, anything that requires a little bit of physical exertion, planning and team work, can be irritating. We only got a bike rack recently (note: £10 from a car boot! Always look for a bargain first, we later saw our bike rack for £100 new), and have LOVED being able to take our bikes with us to France and further afield. Putting the actual bikes onto the bike rack is simple enough, but it is the securing that can cause tension – if you are the sort of person who just pops a bike on and drives off, think again. You need straps and locks and more to secure those wheeled beasts! From my point of view (Daniel’s may be different), if one of you is securing the bikes well enough alone, leave them to it. Too many cooks…
D: Couldn’t agree more! Securing a bike isn’t difficult. It doesn’t require multiple people so if one of you is on the case, the other can stand to the side and only needs to step in when asked. If you do ask, be clear. I do expect a little mind reading if I’m perfectly honest… an instruction like:
“Can you just untwist that bit?” without direction to the twisted bit, or, “Can you help?”, without saying what you need help with.
These aren’t helpful. I did think that what I wanted was obvious. However, I have since also managed to mildly piss off friends when loading bikes onto a rack, not explaining what I want from them and just say “No, not like that”.
Turns out that I am the common denominator in the fury of bike fastening. So, try not to be the dickhead and make sure that you are clear or, that you can step back from a situation long enough to realise that you are being annoying.
R: In the days of Satnav, Google maps and, well, the future that we live in, maps aren’t really a must have item anymore. That means that the pressure of being map reader is off. However, I have sat behind the wheel in the one way system of Marseille, France, and cried and cried because we couldn’t work out how to get out of the city. We have driven without satnav, air con, and as a result have driven off a map in France previously. The way to deal with it without arguing? Stop often for nougat treats, be kind to one another, know that one day, in some way, you will make it out of Marseille. After all, I’m pretty sure the city wasn’t created by people just being stuck there.
D: Even when driving with a satnav; if you’re on the opposite side of the road, driving an unfamiliar car, it doesn’t hurt for the passenger to help out. Even if it is just a reconfirmation that; “Yes, I too think that you are about to take the correct exit on this roundabout”, it isn’t all up to the driver and you can really help to share the load if you let the driver focus on the road, and you keep an eye on the satnav and street signs.
Marseille was an interesting trip as it resulted from a single wrong turn which happened to send us just off the edge of the map which we were using. As a result we ended up in the one-way maze of the city, no map to guide us and only a limited knowledge of French geography to help us starring at signs and trying to follow something that sounded north-eastern. In this situation at least one of you must keep your cool and, as Rach was already crying and driving, I didn’t have much option but to take this role.
To further exacerbate the issue, I was the navigator. At this point, I couldn’t even drive. So Rachel had done all of the driving, everywhere, my only responsibility was to navigate. So, as we missed our turn I started to feel deeply guilty. As we hit to city’s labyrinth of streets and Rachel panicked, my stomach sank. And, as she started crying, I felt nauseous with shame. There was no choice but to stay calm and unravel the mess that i’d gotten us into. Success, we aren’t in Marseille. I’m not sure we would ever go back.
I don’t think that we’d head out on a road trip again with only a map, unless our destination was unknown and the purpose of the drive was exploration, but this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t definitely have a map with you. Even if it only comes out to work out where you are in a country and where you’re headed to next, always carry a map.