Tricks to surviving a family road trip
You know how it is when you first meet "the one" and fall in love. The all-consuming intensity of it. The need to be with that person, every hour of every day. Even that's not enough.
Fast forward 40 years. You're still in love, but it's a more, shall we say, mature interpretation of the concept. You tolerate each other's weird little habits. You both cherish your personal space. You do some things together, others apart. You have friends to escape to.
Then you decide to set off on the big lap around Australia. Just the two of you. How romantic. You'll once again be the centre of each other's universe.
Side-by- side in your vehicle during the day, then sharing an intimate caravan space - including that exceptionally cosy ensuite - when the sun goes down, your relationship will become even deeper, closer and happier.
That's the theory. In practice, it doesn't necessarily work out that way. In fact, for a relationship to survive a long road trip requires even more consideration, tolerance and respect for each other than is normally the case because when things get a bit, err, tetchy, there is no escape. You have to work it out, there and then.
My partner of 20 years and I did the big lap a few years ago, and we've since done several other extended trips together. We also got married recently. So while I would never claim to be an expert on the subject, I can offer a few tips for keeping love alive on the road, hopefully ensuring that your last stop before you get home doesn't end up being the Family Court.
1. DON'T CRITICISE EACH OTHER'S DRIVING
Blokes, especially those of a certain age, are much more sensitive about this than women. You can call a bloke useless, lazy or stupid, but if you really want to hurt his feelings, tell him he's a hopeless driver.
There are two ways to manage this. If one of you doesn't want to drive, let the other do it and keep quiet. If you decide to share the driving, it's in both of your best interests to keep your advice to yourself when in the passenger's seat.
2. WORK OUT A ROUTINE FOR EVERYTHING
During the first few weeks on any road trip, you will both have your own ideas on how simple things should be done. Stuff like setting up camp at the end of the day and getting organised to hit the road next morning can become one long argument if each of you insists on doing it your way.
Work out the most efficient process, share tasks, and stick to it with military precision. We're so good at this now we don't even have to talk to each other when setting up or packing up. Silence can be a happy place.
3. BE NICE TO EACH OTHER WHEN REVERSING THE CARAVAN INTO A SITE
This manoeuvre is a common cause of spectacular dummy spits in caravan parks, usually at around 3-4pm. It's great entertainment for your fellow travellers, especially when the inevitable punchline - "OK, you can @#$%ing well do it yourself, then!" - is delivered by the hapless helper giving directions. There is a technique to reversing a caravan, and one-day courses such as those offered by Tow-Ed will teach you how to do it. Treat the cost as an investment in your relationship.
4. LEARN HOW TO SURVIVE A TRIP TO THE SUPERMARKET
At home, one of you probably does most of the shopping, so that person is used to making the decisions in the supermarket. On the road, you'll probably be walking down the aisles together, so a power-sharing arrangement needs to be in place. The best way to do this is to put it in writing in the form of a shopping list. One of you (I'm guessing you know who) should then just push the trolley while the other fills it up.
5. OPEN YOUR MIND TO EACH OTHER'S TASTES IN ENTERTAINMENT
On our lap, my iPod died in the first week, so I spent the next 10 months becoming very knowledgeable about my partner's favourite music. I've only just been able to begin listening to Paul Kelly again.
We just did another three-month trip, and this time she learned to appreciate the great music of Steely Dan, plus Eric Clapton's dexterity on the Fender Stratocaster. Well, she didn't say as much - in fact, she didn't say anything at all when I suggested a few tunes - but I'm sure she enjoyed it.
6. NEVER, EVER, EAT THE LAST TIM TAM WITHOUT ASKING FOR THE OK
Trust me on this. It's not worth it.
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