Traveling with someone you love is an experience like no other. It can bring you closer, but if you’re not careful, it can push you apart. This Valentine’s Day, traveling couples can keep the romance alive by taking a temporary break from each other.
Don’t panic – sometimes five minutes apart is all it takes.
The crowd was growing at the roadside bakery, and I could sense the salesman getting impatient. People pushed and jostled to make eye contact with him, but he was looking at me. It was my turn.
My boyfriend, Jared, was getting impatient, too.
“Just pick some,” he said, nudging me forward. “It’s not that hard!”
Rage flared up in my chest. It was that hard. I was tired, hungry, and overwhelmed by Luxor. For some reason, the task of choosing pastries pushed me over the edge.
“I don’t know,” I shouted at him. “I don’t know which ones I want! Stop rushing me.”
Tears welled up in my eyes. The men around us chuckled and nudged each other knowingly.
I wanted to punch them. I wanted to punch the salesman. I wanted to punch Jared.
Sensing danger, Jared quickly pulled me aside.
“It’s okay,” he said in his most soothing voice. “It’s just pastry.”
Of course it was just pastry. So why was I so upset?
My mother operates under a theory she calls The Five-Hour Rule. She claims that she read about it in an ‘online study,’ but I can’t find evidence of it anywhere.
The foundation of the theory is this: after five consecutive hours with someone, you need to take a break from them.
Read a book. Go for a walk by yourself. Take a nap. Whatever it is, block out time to do something alone. When you feel recharged, feel free to lay eyes on each other again.
Although its origins are dubious, I have to admit that my mom is on to something.
I love my boyfriend. For the last 3 1/2 years, I’ve loved traveling with him, living with him, and even – occasionally – working with him here in Korea, where we were placed at the same school. (How’s that for being in each other’s pockets?)
But sometimes when we’re traveling, I want him to step off.
It doesn’t happen often, but it happens.
Suddenly, everything is annoying: butterflies, laughing children, ice cream cones, and especially, my poor travel partner, Jared. I’m thinking only of my personal comfort and have lost the ability to consider anyone’s feelings but mine.
He calls it the ‘Hunger Rage.’ Admittedly, he has a point. Things get ugly when I haven’t eaten. But to my amazement, it usually happens at the five hour mark.
Worse, the same thing is happening on his end. He’s tired, the money belt is too tight, and he can’t work out why his girlfriend has morphed into a wailing banshee who can’t choose a bloody pastry.
The five hour rule doesn’t just apply to your partner. It applies to everybody you spend time with: your best friend, your kid, complete strangers, the Dalai Lama – everybody.
We all need a little ‘me’ time when we’re on the road, even when we’re with the ones we love.
Emotional deterioration starts subtly, but progresses rapidly.
Hour one: What the – ? Oh, he just stepped on my shoe.
Hour two: Why does he insist on walking so fast behind me?
Hour three: Get off my shoe.
Hour four: Step on me again and I’ll claw you in the face.
Hour five: One more time and this relationship is over.
Accidents become unforgiveable. Your loved one becomes your whipping boy. It’s not their fault. It’s not your fault.
It’s the five-hour rule. You’ve been side-by-side for too many hours, navigating foreign territory in a language you might not speak.
Sometimes you’re not in a position to separate from your travel buddy when the five-hour mark looms. It’s dark, crowded, unfamiliar, and you’re too far from your hostel to feel comfortable going solo.
That’s okay. Just ignore each other for a while.
Don’t talk unless you have to. Sit at separate tables of a coffee shop. Pretend you’ve never even seen that person before. Eat something and don’t share it with anyone.
Eventually, you’ll simmer down. Your energy and coping mechanisms will return, leaving you capable of travel and human companionship again.
At that point, go ahead and scoot your chairs closer together. Make any necessary apologies and have a good laugh.
If you feel up to it, you could even share a pastry.
I have traveled with boyfriends before and I completely understand where you are coming from, I hate it when he stepped on my shoes! Agh!
What’s worse is that I do it to him all the time – probably even more than he does it to me!
Traveling as a couple can definitely be challenging at times. I’ve never heard of the Five Hour Rule before, but it doesn’t sound like a bad idea. 🙂
Luckily, we’ve learned to travel well together – recognizing the warning signs of when one (or both) of us is getting cranky is the key!
That reminds me of a quote by Mark Twain – “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”
I”ll be sure to take this into account no matter who I travel with! But, especially with those that I see on a daily basis. Thanks for the tip.
You’re welcome! That quote is so true – travel really can be make or break when it comes to all kinds of relationships. It was such a relief to me that Jared & I do travel well together, despite the occasional need for alone time.
Mark Wiens says
I do understand the 5 hour rule – I’m not really a person to get frustrated often, but I think it’s probably because I enjoy not talking for a few hours, every few hours (before 5 hours comes around). Once you know this rule, you can definitely try to spare some hardships!
I’m the same. Sometimes I just am not interested in having a conversation, no matter who I’m with. It’s not them, it’s me – but telling them that doesn’t help, either!
That rule doesn’t only apply to travel. I need a LOT of space, everywhere.
Ha! Hopefully your loved ones are aware of that!
Scott - Quirky Travel Guy says
I definitely agree with the concept, but five hours seems really short, doesn’t it? If I couldn’t stand to be with someone for more than five hours, I’d have to seriously question whether they were the right person for me!
It does seem short – I’ve definitely spent well over five consecutive hours with Jared without feeling the need for a break, so I’d say the theory still has a few flaws! Usually, though, it has nothing to do with him – I can sense that I’m becoming irritable, so for both of our protection I need to have a little rest/alone time. Hmm. Maybe this is a girl thing?
Ok, so I’m reading this at 11.55pm, after nearly FIFTEEN EFFING hours with my two-year-old. Can you please come over here and explain this five-hour rule to her???? She is yelling “NO BED, NO SLEEP” and jumping on the bed ….
Yet another flaw in the five-hour rule: it’s inability to translate to toddlers. Maybe you should send her out to buy some pastries.
By the way, I checked out your blog and your daughter is REALLY cute! Easy for me to say when she’s not jumping on my bed, right?
Katherine McKeon says
I love the five hour rule! I also live, work and travel with my boyfriend. Like you I also love it 90% of the time but occasionally need some time alone (or risk committing a violent crime!). Glad to know this is true for you and that you’ve found a way to keep your relationship in balance. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for your comment – I’m always relieved to hear that people are having similar experiences to mine! It is great to spend so much time with the person you love, but time for yourself is so important. It must be working because we just got engaged!
Love this post!
And I think it applies always, not just when traveling:)
Definitely agree – and it’s probably easier to follow when you’re not traveling, too!
I am the worst when I’m hungry and I hate admitting it. When I’m hungry, the world needs to stop and I need to get food. :/
I hate admitting it, too. So I keep it quiet until it’s too late and before I know it, I’m a raging beast.
Being in a relationship means recognizing when you are turning into a raging beast and when it’s time to be alone!
Ashley of Ashley Abroad says
This is soo true! The stepping on your shoe thing made me laugh also, so true of boyfriends. I actually really prefer to travel solo because I think it’s easier to meet people that way (ironically) and you don’t run into the problem of getting sick of someone else. But obviously both ways of travel have their pros and cons.
It’s definitely easier to meet people when you travel solo – sometimes I do miss that aspect of travel, but in the end I wouldn’t wish it any other way, shoe-stepping and all!