First we considered Latin America. We'd see Mayan ruins, hike in places where the banditos weren't, maybe ride a river in the rainforest. But it'd be August and insanely hot. Then it was Asia. Lorri had lived in Vietnam and Laos after college and still had friends there. We could flop on the cheap, but it'd also be kind of a reunion tour for her. Briefly it was Russia, but doing it right meant spending the entire vacation there and a whole month off felt too precious to blow in one country.
We settled on Eastern Europe: Romania to Hungary to Austria and finally the Czech Republic. We planned to fly in and out and do the rest by rail or bus or whatever—we'd figure it out when we got there. Separately, we'd both traveled a lot so it went unspoken that the trip would also be a litmus test for our relationship. Most of our year-plus together had happened long distance. We'd never killed hours in an airport side-by-side, never fought and had nowhere else to go, never seen each other in the same underwear for three days straight.
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The big meltdown happened on day 27, which is not to say that we didn't bicker, disagree, and snipe at each other across the previous 26 days. We did. We also saw monasteries painted inside and out in mosaics, drank way too much bad Hungarian wine, and crashed a house party in Bucharest. Along the way I also came to see how differently I—as a man—traveled compared to Lorri. Here's what I learned:
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1. The Game Plan
Take your time when choosing a destination. Fantasizing about different locales is half the fun of getting away together.
"Anticipation is an aphrodisiac," says Dr. Barton Goldsmith, author of Emotional Fitness for Couples. Also, make sure it's somewhere you really want to go or you'll end up sitting on a beach while he surfs or diving with sharks the day after you get your scuba certification. Once you settle on a place, let him book the itinerary if he wants. Men are task-driven control freaks. Use it to your advantage. The upside is he'll let you dictate more of the agenda when you get there, as his work is done. However, keep an eye on what he's doing or you'll end up in a one-star hotel after connecting twice when a direct flight was only $50 more.