Looking at a lot of RVing couples on social media can give you a false sense of failure because it may seem like you don’t have a perfect partner. Here’s a newsflash: neither do they, and neither does your partner. No matter how well a couple gets along, there are going to be times when the small space you are traveling in will seem smaller. That’s generally not what will end up on YouTube or Instagram.
The problems could be related to a mechanical failure with your rig or Mother Nature doing her best to give you a hard time with the weather. Or maybe your partner made a mistake in something they did or said. In our case, it was mosquitoes — lots and lots of mosquitoes — that triggered a meltdown.
Jessi is from Michigan, and I’ve lived in the Great Lakes State for a lot of years. We have seen our share of mosquitoes thanks to Michigan’s famously humid summer weather. But neither of us could recall the size of the mosquito horde that attacked us on a recent weekend trip to the Manistee National Forest. And attack they did. Trying to do anything in the camp outside of our screen tent was annoying. Trying to hike the trails became overly tiresome because we couldn’t take any breaks for fear of blood loss. And once they found their way into the van, the mosquitoes made for a long, sleepless night. We kept slapping and swatting and trying to figure out any possible opening through which they could be entering.
By the next morning, Jessi and I were both exhausted and frustrated. And while we had a common foe in our biting enemies, we eventually turned on each other. We certainly did not resort to slapping and swatting, but we did end up arguing more than usual over things that normally would have been shrugged off.
We follow a number of RVing couples and families on YouTube and Instagram, and we’ve learned a couple of tips over time that might have helped in our situation — if we had bothered to calm down long enough to implement them.
One thing we’ve heard is that when the frustration level is rising, you should consider getting the camera out, not putting it away. Sure, people would rather see pretty vistas, amazing adventures, and friendly banter on your YouTube videos or Instagram posts. But real life happens, even if you don’t see it much on some social media accounts. So consider sharing your real struggles. It’s refreshing to see people dealing with everyday life. And it might help someone the next time they face a similar challenge. So instead of taking it out on your partner, consider talking into the camera for a video — even if you don’t have a YouTube channel.
Documenting what’s happening may help put things in perspective. You might even end up with footage that you can laugh at later. Consider shooting pictures of the mechanical breakdown or the crazy weather and post them on Instagram. You might garner sympathy from folks there or hear from others who can help you put it all into perspective. Maybe they can help you realize it’s not as bad as it seems.
One of my favorite tips for traveling comes from Marc and Tricia Leach over at Keep Your Daydream. They periodically talk about watching out for “the dip.” Tricia explains it best when she says the dip is that area between what your expectations are for a trip versus the reality. Maybe you’ve built up an experience in your mind to an unrealistic level. Or maybe you’ve fallen prey to the “life is perfect” persona that some people portray. But life isn’t perfect. Your partner isn’t perfect. And their partner isn’t perfect either!
So, to Marc and Tricia’s point, you have to get through that dip as fast as possible. If you spend too much time in the dip complaining about reality vs. expectation or focused on what’s going wrong rather than what had gone right until then, you will waste a lot of time. You will expend a lot of energy but stay stuck in the same spot at the bottom of the dip.
Instead, find a way to hit the pause and reset buttons on your emotions, and maybe on the trip. Do something different. Grab dinner or ice cream. Go for a walk. Maybe go with your partner to reconnect away from the issue of the moment. Or walk alone if you both need some quiet time to reflect. Once you’ve allowed yourself some time to refocus, start working on the problem that you’re facing together.
We all want to take trips that are nothing but fun or exotic and create a perfect memory. But that’s so highly unlikely to happen that you shouldn’t count on it happening.
In our case, the mosquito attacks did force us away from our campsite. We have a great memory of the site from a previous trip but not this time! It was Memorial Day Weekend. We weren’t sure if we could find a campground where the mosquitoes were fewer in number (or had more targets since there would be other campers). On a whim, as we were ready just to call it quits and head home, we detoured to Sand Lake National Forest Campground.
They had spots available, which was such a surprise, I think that helped put Jessi and me in better moods immediately. We found a nice site and set up camp. Before long, we were working as a team again, tackling camping duties and enjoying ourselves. We took a break and shared some ice cream. Later, instead of killing insects and arguing with each other, we spent the evening in front of a campfire making s’mores. Before long, we were marveling over the super bright nearly full moon that hovered overhead and forgot about our mosquito bites.
Was it the perfect weekend getaway? Not at all. But it was a getaway. Once we found our path out of the dip, we discovered why we were getting away in the first place. We were there to make memories with our perfect partner — who isn’t.