Sex toys and cherry pies: Jenny Block on traveling as a couple (and the greatest adventure of them all)
People apply all kinds of standards when it comes to evaluating your viability as a couple: Some people say it’s surviving a visit to Ikea; some say attending your first funeral, or moving in together, that will be most telling. For me, traveling is the activity that can reveal an awful lot about your partner … and about your compatibility with that person.
Whether someone is your travel-twin or travel-nemesis, you will inevitably learn a heck of a lot about him/her while readying to spend your time away.
Packing is the first major indicator. I don’t like to check bags unless there are some serious extenuating circumstances. If it doesn’t fit in a carry on, you probably don’t need it. (What constitutes an extenuating circumstance? Meeting the Queen. Going on adventures that require serious equipment. Trips over three weeks. You get the idea.)
Packing light and carrying on means less chance of luggage loss, ease of getting around, less stuff strewn around your accommodations, fewer things to leave behind. In other words, less stressors for you as a couple. Packing light says “I care about the experience — not having eight million pairs of shoes to choose from.” It means I care enough about our relationship to not put additional strain on it.
Then there’s airport behavior. Being well-matched on this front is incredibly important. Do you both have pre-check and Global Entry clearances, or are you both novice travelers? If one of you is muttering under your breath while the other is apologizing for having a bottle of water in his/her carry-on, the magic of traveling together will likely dissipate too quickly.
You can also learn a lot by watching your partner navigate an airport or train station, a bus depot or car rental desk, a ferry dock or a helicopter pad.
Traveling generally means sharing quarters somewhat smaller than what you’re used to at home. How you treat that space says a lot about who you are and how you feel about the person with whom you’re supposed to be graciously sharing it. Fights can be swift and fierce if accommodation mayhem ensues.
Unpacking is another indicator. Do you immediately split the drawers and the hangers and unpack your things while expecting your partner to do the same? Do you fling open your suitcase and spend the trip digging through mounds of clothes and shoes? Is one of you an unpacker and the other a digger? Do you – gasp! – hog all of the unpacking space and leave nothing for your floundering companion?
Then there’s the trip itself. Adventure or culture? Far-flung or never too far from home? Exotic or familiar? On the ritz or on the cheap? Once again, it’s about respecting each other’s wishes and needs and desires as well as about managing expectations. Don’t surprise your sweetie with a trip to your favorite campground if his idea of roughing it is eating somewhere without tablecloths.
Insisting on a place that isn’t comfortable for both can lead to a plethora of bickering, although compromising and stepping out of your comfort zone can say a lot about your ability to work together. So be mindful of how your partner both plans and responds if you want some insight into how he or she may tackle what life throws at him or her.
My fiancé has done some pretty highfalutin’ traveling. I’ve had my share of fancy trips myself, but I don’t always have the master suite or the grand casita. So when I took her on our first trip together, I was pretty nervous. I was a guest on an Olivia Travel cruise and had a very nice room with a portal. But I knew in the back of my mind it had to be small in comparison to the suites she had been in on a number of cruises.
So I had to laugh when we arrived and she took one look at the digs and said, “Ummmm… Where are we supposed to put everything? And where are we supposed to be?” I told her to trust me; I quickly and efficiently unpacked and put everything neatly in its place. By the next morning, having gotten ready for dinner the night before and for the day that morning and even having both done some work, she said, “Wow. This is super-comfy.” Crisis averted.
For the rest of the trip, we did great, managing the tight quarters and even-tighter bathroom. We were respectful and neat (for the most part) and we didn’t even have a bump.
We’ve traveled a number of times since then and have had equally grand travel experiences from modest airport hotels to glorious rooftop digs on a Mexican island. We’re both seasoned and similar when it comes to traveling and that is ideal.
We’ve also learned a lot about each other — fast — from taking those trips. I unpack; she doesn’t. I like to get coffee first thing; she’s happy to wait until breakfast. I don’t need a plan; she likes to have an activity on tap. But — most importantly — we’ve learned that we really dig each other and that traveling reveals just how well we really do mesh.
So, I guess it’s no surprise that it was on a surprise trip for my birthday this very week that she popped the question; I enthusiastically said “yes.”
As we boarded the Mackinac Island Ferry, she asked me what was in my tote. “Sex toys and cherry pie,” I said without a hint of irony before we both started laughing hard enough to concern the little old ladies next to us just a tiny bit. We did a little shopping before we got to the dock and not everything fit into my suitcase. And, once again, our travels proved to me that being with her is going to be the biggest adventure of our lives.
Block is the author of the The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex by Jenny Block, foreword by Betty Dodson.
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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2016.