Life on the road can be hard. Actually, it can be a real pain in the arse. Before you even realize that all the romance and movie like adventure won’t happen, you wake up with a rodent on your face. It might also happen that you don’t wake up at all. Not because you are dead (although, in your darkest moments, you might wish you were) but because you can’t fall asleep due to being torn by convulsions or a particularly intense bout of diarrhea. A lack of door between your bedroom and a toilet can be, in this case, a real mood killer. For most of the time you stink and do the laundry in the river, more for your mental comfort than to have it really washed.
If seriously low on sugar you may want to kill your partner and ditch the body in a swamp due to totally valid reasons like talking too loud, heavy breathing, being (aggressively) silent and talking too quietly.
Stargazing and admiring the nature by the campfire are brutally taken away from you and replaced with eating old hummus in a slapdash pitched tent while raining. You are tired, cold and probably starting to fantasize about soups and cushions.
The good news is that all these things don’t matter at all. What’s really happening is you’re sharing the time of your life with a person you love.
It took us some time to figure out how to deal with all the obstacles and maintain a healthy relationship while bike touring. Frankly speaking, it’s not always easy to follow the rules we’re about to introduce. Sane and rational decisions are hard to make in a state of extreme fatigue. Nevertheless, as you can see, we survived and still like one another’s face very much. Here are the things we’ve learned on the way. To us, they seem crucial while building up a strong bond and a great team.
1. Divide tasks while cycling and during the resting time considering each others strengths and weak points.
Ben knows our tandem like the back of his hand and is able to fix every flaw, but mysteriously evaporates every time when it comes to doing the dishes. Marta can make a tasty meal out of nothing, but because of her sight problems, she makes mistakes while navigating. Ben is a very experienced cyclist and can maneuver our heavy bike without problems. Marta is good in taking and editing pictures as well as shooting videos. Ben is much stronger and he is the one to keep us going in the hardest conditions but doesn’t have a clue about updating our blog and social media profiles. Marta writes all the posts and skilfully describes the atmosphere of all visited places whilst Ben is very well spoken and therefore is dealing with the sponsors. It’s important to understand that there are things your partner knows better than you. Try to learn from him/her and in the meantime focus on completing your tasks the best you can.
2. Be realistic.
Do not expect a constant fairytale. Brace for rain, wind and cold. Prepare for meeting people who will ruin your day. Expect quarrels and difficulties. Don’t assume that everything will go smoothly.
3. Make it comfortable.
Comfy air mattress and having loads of movies on the hard drive made our camping much more pleasant. A small drink from time to time after a difficult day has also proved to be helpful. Figure out what are the little pleasures that make your life easier and try to implement them in your daily routine.
4. Remember to plan days off.
A relaxing time on the beach or even a day spent watching your favourite series with loads (we need loads) of comforting food can be a MASSIVE MOOD LIFTER.
5. Have something to occupy your thoughts with.
As you can imagine, there is a LOT of time for thinking while bike touring. On particularly difficult days it gives you an opportunity to think over all the unpleasant moments and arguments. Don’t let it happen! Engage your brain in activities more beneficial for your sanity! Listen to an audiobook, a language course or your favourite music. It will surely cheer you up.
6. Figure out when to shut up and when to speak.
If your partner is having a hard time, give the poor one a break. Instead of talking, relieve him from their daily tasks and hug at the end of the day. On the other hand, ALWAYS tell the other person if something hurts, if you are hungry, need a break or if the pace is too fast. Don’t expect your partner to be a mind reader!
7. BEWARE OF H-ANGER!
Learn to listen to your body. It took me (Marta) some time to realize that the occasional tear-bursting, being cranky and annoyed was caused by hunger and a low sugar level. When I felt that the storm was coming I made sure I got my chocolate ASAP. Try to eat before a drop of mood and performance happens.
8. Give each other space and have some time alone.
Even if you love each other madly and adore being together, there is no way you will enjoy your company throughout the whole trip. There will surely come the day when you hate your beloved one, as well as the bike and even this freaking beautiful scenery around you. Make sure you can breathe and don’t be offended if your partner needs a break from you.
9. Don’t dwell on occasional meltdowns.
Deal with your issues immediately and get over it fast. Even little things tend to get very heavy very fast when you are bike touring. Explain what’s bothering you, apologize if you made a mistake and cut the topic. An unsettled argument can stick to you like a leech.
10. Don’t dwell on your partner’s weak points.
Believe me, they know them very well without you reminding. It just takes time to fight them. Don’t forget to appreciate it when they win the battle. Instead of pointing out vices, focus on speaking about them highly in front of others. This will result in much better chemistry between you and will strengthen your bond as a team and a couple.
11. Talk about great things that happened and congratulate each other after an especially hard day.
Tell your partner that you are proud of him/her and yourself. You just did something great together. High fives and hugs are strongly recommended!
12. Have fun!
Don’t forget why you are here in the first place and enjoy the ride. Cherish the good moments and live for them.