Travel

How to Survive a 12,000 Mile Honeymoon Road Trip (Without Trying to Kill Each Other)

We converted a cargo van into a camper.

My wife and I love to travel, so picking and planning all the details of our honeymoon ended up being much more fraught than the wedding itself.

We planned and subsequently scrapped three separate itineraries—for Europe, Iceland, and Southeast Asia—before landing on a plan that was both closer to home and far more ambitious. We were going to buy a cargo van, somehow convert it into a custom, solar-powered camper van, then spend the entire summer traveling to National Parks across the United States and into Canada.

Whatever insanity could possess two people with basically zero DIY or building experience to undertake such a task must be imbued with some kind of magic, because we actually managed to pull it off—driving 12,000 miles in a massive loop that took us through 17 national parks over the course of two-and-a-half months.

A work in progress

In January, five months before the wedding, we bought our bare Ford Transit van and started the work that would last us until mid-June, creating our little summer-home on wheels. If you're interested in following suit, there are dozens of instructional videos and tutorials that can illuminate the process. What all those resources tend to ignore is the real challenge you'll face once you're done—surviving ten full weeks in 60 square feet of fresh marital bliss.

Keep Your Plans Flexible

Be prepared to add and subtract some of these dots

You should absolutely make your itinerary as detailed as you like, but be prepared to throw those details out the window. In any road trip, but especially a road trip on a continental scale, things are bound to go wrong. You'll have car trouble, road closures, bad weather, or you'll just like a stop so much you'll decide to stay a little longer. My wife and I only made it to our second stop—Great Smoky Mountains National Park—before realizing we needed to adjust our schedule. We managed to book another night at the campground and gave ourselves a chance to enjoy the beautiful surroundings, as well as the abundant black bears.

Give Each Other Space (Even When There is None)

McArthur-Burney Falls

Are you the type of person who's always in a good mood and never needs alone time? No? That's because that type of person doesn't exist. Be prepared to get on each other's nerves and to adapt. Going for a solo-walk is a nice remedy, but when one or both of you wake up in a bad mood, only to be stuck in a confined space for a rainy morning or an eight hour drive, you need to get creative with how you give each other space. Headphones are a great resource at times like these, and even a superficial barrier like a curtain can serve to divide your tiny home into distinct territories. If you handle it right, the time you spend apart will reward you with happier times together.

Get to Know Some Strangers

Vancouver Is Awesome

As much as you love your road trip partner, chances are they are not the only voice you want to hear each morning and the only face you want to see each night—regardless of what you said in your vows. Phone calls to friends and loved ones can provide some social stimulation, but cell phone service is not universal, and nothing can really replace the value of in-person interactions. No matter how terrifying the thought, you will eventually have to embrace the concept of a conversation with strangers.

So strike up a conversation with your campground neighbors, the family hiking ahead of you, or some locals in a bar. And yes, those strangers could turn out to be obnoxious or dull or personally offensive, but even if the only benefit you get is the bonding experience of judging them with your new spouse, these interactions with strangers will make the whole trip more memorable and rewarding. And on the rare occasions when you meet people you actually enjoy, the rest of the trip will pale in comparison.

Give Yourselves a Break

Luxury never felt so luxurious

A basic camping spot will generally cost somewhere between $0-$35, making this sort of road trip far cheaper than most types of travel. It can also be rough. On our trip, my wife and I spent nights cuddled against the cold, rocked by howling winds, and plagued by sounds of passing traffic. We wouldn't have lasted—or certainly wouldn't have enjoyed ourselves—if we hadn't gifted ourselves an occasional night in a hotel. A nice warm bath, a TV, and a big comfy bed that someone else will sort out in the morning: These are luxuries you can only truly appreciate once you've spent a few days parked five feet from a busy highway. A night of relaxation and romance will restore you for the long road ahead.

If you keep this tips in mind—and you manage not to kill each other—I guarantee you'll have the time of your lives.

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