There we sat, huddled together at the newest brewery in town, first time together in months. With a slideshow of photos at the ready, I couldn’t wait to hear what intrigued my friends the most about our summer of adventure. Would it be the unforgettable seaside climbing, from which we lived minutes away? Perhaps they’d want to learn our ‘secret spots’, discovered from living, and playing in a well known national park? Or maybe it would be the laughable details surrounding how I had just spent every Saturday evening of summer wearing a Bigfoot costume, in exchange for free camping? Four months, and a deluge of topics from which to choose, led to a few moments of silence before, “So…you lived in a tent all summer with your wife?…And you’re still married? How did you guys not kill each other?” “Yeah”, said another friend. “I mean, my wife and I live in a 1,400 square foot townhouse and sometimes we just need our own space. How does that work in a tent?”
It became apparent that the most interesting feature of our summer in Acadia National Park was, simply, the fact that my wife and I had survived each others’ company. I went home that night pondering an aspect of adventure that I’d never given significant thought to before: sharing it with someone you love.
It wasn’t hard to recall memories so intertwined with this unique dynamic of exploring outside alongside my better half. There was the time my wife and I disagreed on where to set up our tent, while on a windswept coast in Newfoundland. I vowed for the epic spot, perched atop the signature 80-foot cliffs protecting the coast beneath us, while she argued for the wind-sheltered site 100 yards back. We went with the former, and I got some incredible pictures as a result. We also got no sleep, and ended up moving the tent to her spot, in the dark, at 3am, because things were whipping so badly out of control. In case you were wondering, the eye roll of an angry woman can, indeed, still be seen in the dark of night.
It became apparent that the most interesting feature of our summer in Acadia National Park was, simply, the fact that my wife and I had survived each others’ company.
I began to see why it was such a topic of intrigue for my friends. Unlike peanut butter and jelly, or rice and beans, love and adventure don’t always mix. In fact, that controversial pair of words likely just gave you either immense joy or left you cursing the invention of so called two-person tents (honestly, do they actually test these things with full size human beings?). It’s not hard to see why finding a partner with whom to share your adventures is such an elusive feat. After all, in order for it to work, a lot has to go your way, in a world where it often does the opposite. Weather changes, gear fails, bodies get dirty, muscles get tired, opinions differ, and tempers get short. It may not sound like a recipe for creating love, but when done correctly, sharing your world of adventure with a romantic partner can give you both immense satisfaction. Difficult to describe, and even harder to replicate, the feeling of walking through wild places with the one you love will forever be with you.
Of course, just as likely a scenario when you set out with your dear amore is that your once sacred weekend adventure is now filled with life-sucking arguments and bickering. Tread carefully, my friend. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, and there will probably be times when you wish you were alone. Finding the right person is the biggest hurdle, but if love is in the air, and you’re set on bringing it with you on your next adventure, here is some advice from my own experiences to make it a success.
1. Know your partner’s limits
You may not have the same goals or comfort levels on a trip or in certain environments. That’s okay, as long as you understand the difference from the start. I know my wife skis slow (sorry babe, it’s true), would rather leave her climbing harness at home, and thanks to a crying fit of terror in Kolob Canyon, Utah, is terrified of mountain lions. In the same way, she knows how much I struggle with camp dishes, and how swimming in the ocean freaks me out (have you seen the size of marine animals?), despite her complete comfort with the notion. Although being outside your comfort zone is often part of the allure, we both try to remain aware of how far past that line we might be getting for the other.
2. Flip flop the leader
Unless specifically requested by your partner, you shouldn’t always be the one leading, whether selecting the day’s goals or actually out on the trail. My wife and I will often alternate who sets the day’s objectives. This can be as simple as selecting what we’re doing, or more complex, involving the overall feel of the day (i.e. ‘I’d like today to feel relaxed’). Often, while hiking, my wife and I will flip flop who’s up front. This is a great way to ensure that neither of us are always second to that amazing view around the bend. We both maintain that feeling of discovery and setting the pace, with neither subjected to the backpack in front view for too long.
3. Share camp chores
You’re tired, you’re hungry, the sun is going down, and all you want to do is sit still, while your partner sets up camp. If the hike has revealed that you never want to see this person again, then
by all means continue with this brilliant strategy. Otherwise, get up and do something! Maybe your
‘never ever’ chores are things that they don’t mind doing, and vice versa. If you both dread the same chores, alternate who has to do them. As
long as you are contributing in some way, you’ll avoid the sour mood created by a partner who was just forced to do all the work at the end of a long day.
4. Maintain your own space, however small it may be
Whether it’s a saddle bag on a bike, a vestibule in a tent, or the lid of a backpack, you should always keep an area to which only you have access. People need their own space, even in the healthiest of relationships and the smallest of spaces. A lot of it just comes down to organization, but it’s also a mental boost. I’m a lot happier knowing I can find my chapstick, headlight, or whatever it may be without having to dig through my wife’s gear too.
5. Don’t forget about hygiene
Baby wipes, a cloth with clean water, and a toothbrush can go a long way towards happily inhabiting a small space with someone else. This should apply whether you’re thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail or just looking to transform your tent into a love shack on the next car camping trip. Admittedly, it will never be the same as a hot shower at home, and if you’re not at least a little dirty, then you’re not trying hard enough. Just keep this in mind: love and adventure can be a wild mix, but you’ll have a lot more fun together if it doesn’t always smell like one.