Have you ever watched your partner eat an apple? Mine has and it still baffles him how evolution hasn’t made a historic example of me yet. You see I start by eating the tight, crispy bum and then make my way to the softer, main (boring) filling before heading down to the equally crispy dessert edge that surrounds the stalk. He naturally eats the middle first so that he can grip his apple on both sides of the outer edges. Apparently this is the Darwinian standard for all mammals with opposable thumbs.
Pic: The sum of us: practical versus instinctual. It’s a match made in Darwinian hell.
So maybe I don’t have the firmest grasp of practical (or hygiene) issues, but I seem to have survived with both thumbs intact and few good stories to show and tell.
I go with my gut. It’s my life partner of choice. Which explains a lot, including my next choice of adventure…. Two months in India (easy enough) with my boyfriend, Garth. Aha.
He of the good apple-eating technique. Mr Ziploc bag and cable ties himself. In the next 2 months, there isn’t a zip that won’t be double locked or a map that won’t be correctly folded (it’s all origami to me).
Practical vs gut instinct. Organised vs free flowing. Measured vs clumsy. Technical vs Social. Except that in India, there’s no room for “versus”. We have to be a team. We have to bend or we will break, our relationship and each other.
Luckily we both have a great sense of humour, a whole lot of respect for each other’s strengths and the trust that comes with that, and some degree of flexibility. On a good day, when our glucose levels are stable and sacred cows aren’t crapping all over our dreams.
Pic: Just another colonial day in Kolkata, India.
I have spent 4 months in India previously, mostly on my own, but also with a partner and a group. I mostly travel on my own. It’s easier in many ways. It can be lonelier and heavier too. But shared costs and two-minded solutions don’t always halve the burden or double the fun. People bring complications, expectations and personality traits you can’t buy your way out of.
I now know you have to plan for different dynamics. The more you know about yourself and your travel companion the better because you will need to factor these variables in, before you even think about the when, why, where and how.
That’s why my gut instinct tells me that instead of mapping out my itinerary, I need to plan around our most likely challenges being a couple of idiots abroad, as it were. So here goes…
Pic: Want to travel with your partner? Don’t go in blind
FIVE things all couples need to plan for:
1) Hangry (hunger + angry)
You might not know the name but you will probably recognise the feeling. That moment when your glucose levels suddenly drop, chemically transforming your hunger into mild irritability and then extreme anger. Hello hangry! Hangry has the power to turn a simple act of buying train tickets into third act of a Greek tragedy where your relationship is the one on the chopping block (I told you to buy second class sleeper! So typical. You never listen to me.) Hangry is not rational or subtle, but it is preventable. Keep sugar snacks on you at all times to prevent an emotional meltdown that will see you selling your most prized possession down the Ganges.
2) Good Cop, Bad Cop: Budget travelling shares a lot of qualities with infants. They both demand a lot of your time, know how to test your patience, and usually involve some form of sleep deprivation. That is to say they both have the power to turn you into an irritable sleep deprived nightmare that can’t see the joke for the punch line that just hit them in the gut. And when both parents are taking a hit it means no one is calm, rational or in control. Someone needs to play good cop. Someone needs to be making rational decisions and keeping it together. The trick is to recognise who is in the best position to step up to the plate and who needs to take a backseat and offer silent support. It’s tag team time.
3) Budget Blues: If money caused you to fight in the default world, it’s probably going to cause you to fight even more when travelling. You don’t run away from your issues just because you distance yourself from your daily life. Gives yourselves a shared budget for shared expenses like accommodation, travel and food and then make sure you have a personal budget for your extras. That way you won’t complain if your partner has a massage every day or buys a trinket in every town. And if you both have big ticket item, like a balloon ride or transport upgrade coming up, then make a plan to cut back on one of your shared expenses for a few days (give up that en suite or aircon) and use the extra loot to pay for the experience.
4) Make time and room for personal agendas: it’s a rare thing for couples to share exactly the same interests, let alone the same pace and rhythm. You will soon discover your differences on so many levels. If you are a morning person and he’s not, take advantage by making this your personal time where you meditate, take photos or fetch breakfast. You don’t have to do everything together. In fact it’s better you don’t. It’s harder to meet people and have random experiences if your agendas are cable tied together. Give each other the time and space to wonder the streets alone or sit by the river and watch life float by. Your relationship (and dinner conversations) will be richer for it.
5) Respect the portfolios: there is nothing like travelling to help you realise your strengths while shining a 10000 kilowatt spotlight on your weaknesses. All of them. Travelling as a couple means working with these strengths to combat each other’s the weaknesses. Allocate portfolios and stick to them. Don’t second guess the person in charge of accommodation or audit the financial officer after every meal. And if transport is not your portfolio, then suck it up when the minister messes up and you end up taking the longer, more complicated route. You voted them into power so give them the room to exercise it and expect the same in return.
Good in theory, but what of practice? I forsee a “couple” of challenges ahead.
Musing on revisiting India a bit older, maybe wiser and hopefully a lot more relationship savvy.