There are two types of couples in this world: those who have travelled together and those who haven’t. My relationship falls into the former and by what I can only assume is divine intervention we’re still an item.
I broke every rule in the book. Several times. Occasionally for my own amusement. But mostly because I really was naïve enough to think sunsets, dolphins, starry skies – and whatever other travel clichés you care to mention – would inject a sufficient dose of romance without me having to lift a slightly overgrown finger nail.
And this, fellas, brings us to the first commandment on how to survive travelling with a girl.
Thou shall groom
Maintaining a visible distinction from your primitive ancestry is important. Allowing your body to sprout forth unchecked – be it hair, nails, miscellaneous fungi – will not result in animalistic passion from your other half, rather a notable coldness once the lights are out. For weeks I was confused at the lack of enthusiasm for my untamed look, but all was explained one night when she informed me if she wanted to be nuzzled by a grizzly bear she’d sleep in the woods. That hurt but it was a good point well made.
Thou shall remain conscious
Overnight journeys are an unavoidable rite of passage on your gap year. They’re usually grim. Trains are tolerable – romantic even – but buses are uncomfortable and nerve-racking. This is particularly true in lesser developed parts of the world, where highway codes are low on the priority list and drivers seem to become more psychotic as the night wears on. Anyway, all you have to do is stay awake. At least until she’s asleep. Something about emotional support. Don’t, whatever you do, guzzle your carefully stowed alcohol and mumble things like “what will be will be” before slipping into an impenetrable slumber. Trust me.
Thou shall compromise
This is crucial in any context but none more so than travelling. Certain situations will crop up which produce two opposing lines of thought. Let’s say, for example, you’re in the Australian Outback and you’ve pulled into a layby for the night. No one else is around. You’re 200 miles from the nearest town. Night falls. Weird things start happening – inexplicable lights, silhouetted figures watching you through the bushes, that sort of thing. You think it’s nothing to worry about. She thinks you should drive off wildly into the night. If you compromise – that is, drive off wildly into the night – you can’t really lose: your safety is guaranteed and you earn lifelong brownie points in the process. Think of these points as bargaining coupons which can be redeemed later in the trip.
Thou shall provide space
Let’s turn to the late and great Mark Twain for a moment: “I have found there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” Couples don’t tend to travel the world as a first date, so presumably you’ve already had ample time to decide you’re quite keen on each other. But beware: being in each other’s pockets 24/7 for a prolonged period does have an unfortunate way of magnifying minor character defects into major flaws. In short, there will be times when you get on each other’s nerves. This is perfectly normal and the only way to cure it to is to spend some time apart, even if it’s just a couple of hours.
Thou shall interact
As an extension of the above, it is so important to interact with other people. This may sound like the most obvious thing ever said, but when travelling as a couple it is frighteningly easy to cocoon yourselves from the outside world. Ironic when you think about it. Never forget that one of the joys of travelling is making new friends on the road. Sooner or later this will happen naturally, usually around the moment you decide you’d rather attend a conference on the origins of the universe where the keynote speaker is Paris Hilton than have another conversation about the benefits of dry shampoo.
Thou shall book private rooms
Having said that, you have to draw the line somewhere. Sleeping in a shared dormitory can throw up certain challenging games – namely, just how much you can get away with without raising suspicion – but for the most part you need your own room to facilitate full night time activity. Furthermore, while us blokes tend to be less phased by the grotesque condition of most shared dorms, girls are more prone to squeamishness. For them there are few more effective turn-offs than a lingering aroma of unwashed pants, farts and the thunderous snores of an anonymous beast in the bunk above.
Thou shall not judge
There will be times when your darling doesn’t look a million dollars. Most of the time, in fact. She just doesn’t have the same resources to make it happen. You must never, ever openly acknowledge this. To you she is perfect, just the way she is. Oh, and news flash: girls have the same bodily functions as you. You probably knew that but had just decided to ignore it. It’s easier to ignore at home. Not so much on the road. When you’re cooped up together constantly you become acutely aware of each other’s bathroom activity. Deal with it.