Rules for Being a Happy #RoadLife Couple

Cathedral City, California: In what may have been our bravest move of the year, each of us independently came up with a short-list of five road life tips when traveling and working full-time with your partner, in honor of that card-and-flower-slinging holiday y’all call Valentines. We’ll let you judge whether we’re doing it right ;)  



1.     Never be hungry. Ever. For us, this means designating prime real estate in the car (just behind the center console) to a substantially-sized tub o’ snacks. Prevent the supply from dwindling and no one gets hurt.


2.     Pick your battles (because the car is too small for a war). We had an extra busy few weeks last summer and I was too tired to harass Matt for what I think is a slightly unhealthy obsession for all things pretzel. One day, he looked at me and said, “It’s really nice that you haven’t been saying anything about my snacks lately.” So really, the takeaway from that is, doing less (complaining) is more (happiness). Yay!

3.     Be alone together. Of course, the ideal would be to take some time apart on a regular basis, but, because of schedules, weather, and long driving days, that just isn’t always realistic. But it’s possible to be #alwaystogether and not be, you know, together. Sometimes we each putter around our campsite, just like we used to in our house, doing totally separate things. I don’t ask Matt what he’s doing and I don’t think he even notices what I’m doing. It’s a beautiful thing.


4.     Draw lines. You know, like siblings-on-a-road-trip-style. We have the closest thing to his-and-her closets that you can have in a Subaru. Matt gets behind the passenger seat and the space behind the driver’s seat is mine. It alleviates that feeling that your partner is spending all of his or her free time figuring out how to stand exactly where you need to be approximately 14 hours of each day.

5.     Don’t forget to ask. On our anniversary last year, my gift to Matt was asking what I could do to make this crazy life easier for him. Of course, Matt being pretty easygoing, he thought for a while and answered, “Huh. Nothing.” Well, it’s the thought that counts and I got off pretty easy that day. (This is what eventually prompted the pretzel discussion.) But asking what you can do to make life better for your partner when you’re both feeling calm and cool is a great way to check in with one another before little issues become problems.

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1.     Try to listen better. I’m always mis-hearing Jessie, and she has little patience for the fourth, “what did you say?” But mis-hearing is only half the battle when your partner’s voice is pretty much the only constant in your life aside from the divided yellow line. “But you responded!” is a frequent refrain when I act surprised by something that Jessie has (inevitably) told me for the second or third time. That said, I’ve made some progress in the listening department, and at the very least, I try to be diplomatic about asking for a repeat. “I’m sorry, but I’ve forgotten what you said about X,” plays better than “X? You never said anything about X!”


2.     Another in the line of being aware of your interpersonal faux pas, be aware of how you drive your partner crazy. Oh, you’re on the road with someone who you’re not driving crazy from time to time? WRONG! Your partner is just incredibly gracious. Ask him or her. They’ll tell you. The corollary of this principle is to practice patience with whatever little things your partner does that drive you crazy. Like allergies, sometimes the reaction is worse than the allergen itself.

3.     If you’re like us, and you work together, in addition to living out of 72 cubic feet of station-wagon space, schedule time to just be off and do fun things together. I mean really off – sometimes a little hike in the woods can turn into a full video production if you don’t nip it in the bud.


4.     Practice the magical-mystical science of figuring out either (a) what your partner wants, or (b) that he or she wants your honest input in making decisions. This is perhaps the greatest challenge in an egalitarian relationship. I’m notoriously “happy doing whatever” and this laid-back attitude is notoriously unhelpful.

5.     Roll with it. Is this thing the biggest deal and you’re stressed and frustrated and maybe a little hurt and/or hangry and tired and need a shower and haven’t had time off in three weeks? Nope. Looking in the rear-view mirror, you’ll see things might have been a little rough, but definitely not the big deal it seemed at the time.  


Happy Valentines Day!

Jessie and Matt

Leave No Trace's Jessie Johnson and Matt Schneider are part of the 2018 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Deuter, Thule, and Klean Kanteen.