A death in the family, a divorce, and moving are the three most stressful events in ones life, the latter often inspiring the former. My fiance and I recently embarked on a coast to coast move from Cape Cod to Los Angeles. We got rid of most of our belongings, packed our Prius to the gills, and hit the road with our little kitty cat. Along the way we had many adventures and a few fights. I, ever worried about the safety of our furry friend, was a total nag about my fiance driving too fast. He took my criticism in stride for the most part, as he too at times was critical of my navigational skills. Somehow we made it to the Pacific in one piece. I would like to share with you my top three tips for relieving tension while traveling.
1. Take Your Time
We have all heard the old adage that it is the journey, not the destination. After nine hours in a car with a farting man and a restless cat this may no longer hold true. Stopping along the way for more than just a pot to piss in is key. We planned out sites to see with a cool website called Roadtrippers.com. Although we missed a few sites and took a few detours, the website was very helpful in that it enabled us to create daily distance goals and stick to them. We also used the Food Network website to find restaurants that we had seen on TV and always wanted to try. Central BBQ in Memphis was among our favorite stops. Dining at local places not only supports small businesses, it also gets you away from the fast food chains that litter the highways and onto some funky backroads.
The highways are great when you want to be somewhere 5 minutes ago but the backroads give you more of a feel for the local culture. Cleveland was one of my favorite cities, not just due to my love of Polish food on par with grandma’s, but because of the beautiful parks along lake Erie and the friendly people we met. Historical Route 66 was a total trip and worth the ride if you are into 50s architecture in a state of general disrepair. While you are getting your kicks just keep in mind that not all parts of the road are maintained and it has a tendency to just end every so often, sending you back tracking to find route 40.
2. Visit Friends
We all have that BFF from college who moved to East BumFuck Nowhere and who we have promised to come visit since graduation. Well, now is your chance! We spent 3 days in Dallas with one of my college BFFs and it was a total refresher. We also spent a night in Albuquerque with a family friend. Yes, hotels are great for their anonymity and little bottles of shampoo, but nothing says home like a craft beer with a college friend and a home cooked meal. Not having to suffer through the dry danishes and weak coffee of a continental breakfast that is being wolfed down prior to a rushed 11 am check out is a welcome respite. When enduring a life change it is important to incorporate some vestiges of familiarity, a sort of weaning from the old to the new. Yes, you may be cramped on a pull out couch or a futon instead of a plush hotel king sized bed, but there is something wonderful about waking up to a familiar face in the comforts of an actual home.
3. Unabashed Hotel Sex
Well, of course I can’t get through an article without extolling the virtues of the carnal. Being cooped up in a car for hours creates enormous amounts of tension. Careening through space at 70 MPH inside of a tin can wears you down and even the most loving of couples can be put on edge. My fiance would start yelling at other drivers and being needlessly aggressive. Nobody needs that type of bad vibe when there is no way to go to your separate corners to cool down. On days when I could tell the tension was mounting I found it best to just go at it like caged animals in heat recently released into the wild.
We wanted to see the sites in Nashville and check out some music but we were both just so exhausted that it wasn’t possible. Instead we grabbed a small bottle of Jameson, had a cocktail, and took our road rage out on each other. I know, sometimes when you are angry with someone you don’t really want to be intimate. I say that can be the best time for a little dirty dancing. Passion is passion, be it in the form of love or rage. Through some weird form of sexual transference we were able to take our anxiety about such a huge life change and shift it into a positive sexual experience. Sex just relaxes you, plain and simple.
A cinder block walled hotel room surrounded by fellow transients is the perfect place to let your freak flag fly. I will never forget the nods of approval at check out from the Spanish truckers in the adjacent room in Amarillo. Sure, you could get your excess energy out going for a run in the hotel gym… but there is really something to be said about the anonymity of raunchy hotel sex.
Relocating is not easy. When we decided to move 850 miles south, my wife and I were faced with several challenges. There were easy questions, like which of our three armoires we liked the best, and there were hard questions, like where our rent money would come from. Fortunately, we are both rational people with a wealth of experience and knowledge that would be coming with us. Our resumes would not be deleted, but we would have to find new jobs, new friends, and a new brunch spot. That’s a tall order and everyone reacts to serious life-changing events differently. There needs to be a balance and a way to limit stress if you want to stay together through this journey. Here’s a few ways we kept each other sane during the transition period…
1. Start with Love
It sounds simple, but it’s not easy. There are moments in a time of great change where you want to run out of the house screaming and waving your hands wildly above your head like Kermit the Frog. The details of a move are enough to drive anyone mad. The day before our move, Penske confirmed our truck would be ready to go at 8am the next day. At 7:30am on move day, we got a call saying it was not ready. I flipped. I yelled at the incompetent truck rental guy “are you fucking serious?!” I reminded him of Seinfeld’s explanation that anyone can take a reservation, but keeping it is the important part. Then I found a Budget truck nearby that was available for immediate pickup. Instead of letting a drawback set us off schedule, ruin our day, or start a fight of epic proportions, I was able to keep my cool, laugh about it, and find a resolution. Searching for a job, decorating a new place, spending money without income, and deciding the most efficient use of time can all be difficult situations during relocation. It’s important to put your partner first and start with love. That includes sex (and plenty of it) but also the emotional intimacy that makes a person feel connected to another person. If you keep calm, speak rationally, and start with love you and your partner will have a much easier path toward eventual normalcy.
2. Stay Positive
The hardest thing to do in a relocation is to stay positive. There’s a song by the Hold Steady with that exact title. Stay Positive. That’s what we tried to do. The entire time we were planning the move, packing, driving, unpacking, searching for jobs, getting familiar with the area, and trying to meet good people, we made a concerted effort to stay positive. It’s too easy to get discouraged and dwell on negativity. The feeling of rejection when a company passes on your resume can feel very personal and have devastating effects on the ego. There are going to be lingering regrets and voices in your head that ask if you’ve made the right decision. We did our best to brush those off. Every day whichever of us was feeling good would do everything possible to encourage and support the other. We each thanked the universe daily for the amazing opportunity we had not yet received, but knew was eventual. We took turns choosing an album to listen to on the drive (Alice in Chains… Alanis… Offspring… the Hold Steady…) and we even listened to a podcast called How Stuff Works, until Chuck and Josh bored me to sleep and nearly into a ditch. We played driving songs (Truckin’… Turn the Page…) and had deep conversations about life, death, preferences and politics. We really got to know each other, and my wife leaned how much I love Slim Jims on the road.
3. Have Self-Compassion
The best thing you can do is go easy on yourself and your partner. We each helped with the packing process. We limited stress by reminding each other to keep perspective. We made a healthy routine of alternating tennis and the gym every day. We had coffee and a good breakfast. We took time to be affectionate and passionate. Self compassion is defined as the act of forgiving yourself and allowing yourself to be imperfect. It’s too easy to say “if only we had _____” …hired movers… updated LinkedIn before sending that application… taken the #RUFKM rants off my website… followed up on a job opening sooner… it goes on and on, and hindsight is 20/20. You need to relax and go easy on yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for things you cannot control. Let go and allow the universe to sort things out. It’s often easy to have compassion for others, but hard to have compassion for yourself. Make it a priority to be easy, like a Sunday morning. Smile, sing, and live without regret.
We don’t have all the answers. I am getting freelance work doing graphics for Golf Channel events and Titan FC MMA, but I’m still looking for a full-time design position locally. It’s going to happen. It just takes love, positivity, and self-compassion to be patient until it does. My wife and I have grown stronger and closer through this process, not just on the 16-hour ride in the moving truck (…and again the following week in my convertible) but through helping each other get through this. We now live in a beautiful place where the emphasis is on work/life balance, family, and community… and we could not be happier.