Prickly Pair

Posted February 14, 2019 – Narrated by Carmen

To listen to the podcast, click the play button

“I often wonder whether men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.”

We can’t avoid it any longer:

The question that comes up at least once a week by email which is also the hottest topic in our seminars. Even our closest friends – after a couple glasses of wine – broach the subject. Are we pushing our luck?

Is full-time travel together too much of a good thing?

Saguaro National Park West – Bloom is already beginning!

The intrigue merits reflection and a thoughtful answer.

Morgan, our friend of 35+ years, put it beautifully in her comment on When Beauty and Beauty Meet.

“One thing I wonder about is: are there any relationship strategies that you have found helpful in maintaining harmony given your close quarters? I mean, I know you two have extra-calm temperments, but I imagine you’ve discovered practices to help keep the peace. I’d be interested in your thoughts.”
Morgan W.

Wow. Most of our friends just say:

How can you two stand each other day-in and day-out in that small space!?

Up till now, we’ve nervously laughed them off.

Sure Jim and I have a few hand-picked strategies to guard the gates of LIB against marital disaster but who knows if they will help anyone else?

Nurturing relationships is a delicate business. Proceed with care.

Saguaro National Park West – My sister, Deborah, took this photo

Our solutions might be a breakthrough for some but send others straight to Cactus Jacks All Night Cantina to cry into a prickly pear martini.

We feel unnaturally blessed – another dear friend recently told me that we are living a charmed life. There must be something to that because as we near 1,000 days and our third Saint Valentine’s Day on the road, we can cautiously report that in spite of ourselves – being ourselves, as we are – we’re still together and still have no idea why Cupid has favored us.

Saguaro National Park West – lost the trail but found this sweet little saguaro family.

I’m right brained, he’s left. He’s warm-blooded, I’m cold. My glass is half empty, his half full. He’s Star Trek, I’m Northern Exposure. I have a sweet tooth, he craves salt. He reads fiction but I prefer non-fiction. He’s up with the sun and I’m to bed at dawn.

Even our popcorn is unique – Mushroom for him and Baby White for me.

To illustrate our difference in latitude, the Myers-Briggs Personality Test scores us as polar opposites – he’s ESTJ to my INFP. We’re wired as differently as a potato masher is from an atom splitter.

Fiesta moon at Saguaro National Park West

The occasional argument

Of course we have them – but disagreements are not due to our close quarters or exacerbated by our 200 square foot Airstream Excella, because we still argue about the same old crap we always have.

Also, we love our trailer but we’re hardly ever inside. Unless there’s a dust, hail, snow or rain storm, we prefer to be out pursuing our interests, hobbies, chores and workout routines (swimming for me, cigar smoking for Jim).

Certain traits and values bond us – values which align more with millennials who tend to shun materialism for experience – and we’ve always felt alienated from Boomer culture.

Fascinated to distraction with what we don’t understand – like, each other – this curiosity and appreciation for contrast keeps us youthful if not young.

Saguaro National Park West – Amazing views on the trail to Wasson Peak

Keeping opposite hours helps.

In the morning Jim takes Pico for a long walk so I can wake up slowly to greet the noonday sun. Jim retires early in the evening while I stay up late reading, writing, editing photos or playing Scrabble.

Spicy food, good film and craft breweries are common ground – Belgians for me and IPA for Jim.

Tortilla Flat Superstition Saloon

Our Kindles help manage our literature preferences – Jack Reacher novels for him, science and religion for me. But we love to listen to audiobooks together which inspires long conversations from radically different perspectives.

No doubt, this low-stress lifestyle soothes anxieties, reaping the benefits of difference. While I tend to stay focused on natural disasters, Jim is the tech specialist. Due to our differences, we have literally saved each others lives.

Communication is our best tool for keeping the peace. Safety is an ongoing concern so we respectfully talk through our plans, actions, expectations and all potential consequences. This higher level of communication deepens our relationship.

Saguaro National Park West – no crowds!

Watch for the signs …

Personal quiet time is a primary need. Jim’s cigar time is sacred. I figure anyone who lights a cigar prefers solitude, so I use that time to pursue my own interests. Writing in my journal sends Jim the same “do not disturb” signal.

But if regular routines fail to deliver enough solitude and one must leave the premises alone, then Pico can always use a walk or some therapeutic grocery shopping is in order. Our partnership is as much about respecting space as it is about being together.

But, as Morgan wisely suggests, there must be “practices.”

GPS Tracking:

If one of us leaves the site to walk the dog or go for that therapeutic shopping trip – whether on foot, in the truck, on a bike or in a kayak – we must have tracking capabilities and use them. This is primary because while living on the road, communication can save a life. The iPhone “Find Friends” app usually works for us but if we don’t have a good cell signal …


Walkie-talkies are handy for tracking purposes and also prevent misunderstandings while parking the rig – at least, if one of us gets frustrated the entire campground doesn’t have to hear about it.

Share equally:

Housework, grocery shopping, cooking, driving … Setting up and striking camp is teamwork. All jobs are fun jobs. If you don’t think it’s fun, then imagine the alternative: painting a fence, mowing a lawn or dealing with a troublesome neighbor. Ugh.

Good headphones:

We thrive on radically different content but with the right equipment we can indulge separately – Side-by-Side By Sondheim for Jim and Live at Pompeii for me.

Every day is a holiday!

Flowers are everywhere!

Chocolate and champagne are always on board! Keeping secrets in a small space is a nerve-racking ordeal. It’s probably easier to hide a Russian sub in San Diego Bay than a new Tommy Bahama shirt in a 30′ Airstream. So LIB gifts are usually outings to museums, concerts or some novelty to increase brain plasticity.

Saguaro National Park West – this photo is not filtered! These are the true colors in the afternoon light! Gould Mine Trail.

Crowds are a hassle – so on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day we either grill something special or go out for a Costco hot dog – a rare treat.

Just Do it!!!

When we lived in Coronado, it was common to walk past public beach weddings. Occasionally, a critic of the institution would holler, “Don’t Do It!” We understand.

Regardless of the living situation, life-long commitment is a crazy path. Yet, forty-three years later, here we are … none the wiser, but joyful and always marveling in the energy of small (4-3-2) steps.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of our lovely followers!

What are your interpersonal coping strategies? Care to share them in the comment section below?

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.

40 thoughts on “Prickly Pair

  1. Another great blog. Enjoyed meeting you at Saguaro National Park on 2-12. Thanks for the pics.

    Larry & Kathy – Oklahoma City

    1. Thank you Larry & Kathy. So happy to meet you on the trail (literally!) We must meet up for a longer visit sometime. Your travel history is fascinating – and your friends too! But what a dramatic/traumatic day for you … I couldn’t stop thinking about that poor man. Health and life is such a gift. So happy to meet you. We’re not done!

      Safe Travels

      – Carmen

    1. And I love you Mickie! I’m so grateful you made the time to get together at Napolene’s – my new favorite restaurant – but you and Helen are my “happy place” xoxo

  2. Happy Valentine’s Day from Ixtapa, Mexico. You know I love to travel. The longer the better. Hopefully, I’ll be in country the next time you’re in San Diego, and we can talk travels! Safe travels to you, too!

    1. Whoa! You get around Kathy! We’d love to interview you for the blog sometime. Are you game? Be well and safe travels!


  3. Happy Valentine’s Day! I enjoyed this post and the pics very much. Perhaps because there is some resemblance to us.

    1. Thank you, Barbara! It was a gorgeous V-Day in Tucson. Moving on to Texas now. Great to have you with us!


  4. Well said. What’s that saying … opposites attract! My husband and I have been together 40 years, and we are different in most aspects, but seem to make it work. The RV lifestyle is addictive and we love it (we’re in year 6 of living full-time in less than 300 sq.ft. with no end in sight anytime soon)

  5. I would like to add a thought that I know makes a huge difference in my marriage and it’s a quality I can easily spot in other successful couples, like you guys.

    My husband and I are on the same team; we don’t compete with each other. Our goal is a shared one and we are working together. It doesn’t matter if we are trying to solve a problem, accomplish a task or what – we do it collaboratively, not competitively.

    So many individuals are looking to win, be right, or have the upper hand. When you’re married you become a team. Your spouse is your partner, not your adversary.

    Happy Trails Lovebirds!

    1. Victoria, yep, teamwork and not competing with each other are important aspects of a good marriage. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Loved the blog! Get food for thought for those of us moving toward full-timing. I also appreciated the linked 4-3-2 post.

    1. Cathy, thank you and congratulations on your decision to move toward full-timing. You will love the lifestyle.

  7. Carmen and Jim what a wonderful comment on marriage. I truly appreciate the vulnerability of your sharing. It is inspiring to read of your profound differences and yet commitment to each other and joy in your journey. Thank you!!!

    1. Kerrie, thank you for your kind words. Yep, marriage is an adventure! We sure miss you and your family. Maybe the next time we are in San Diego, we can connect! Say Hi to Ted and the rest!!!!

  8. Wow, you two have surely figured out this 24/7 lifestyle. I always thought my husband and I were a good team because we have so much in common and so many of the same interests… and that that was the reason we could manage being 24/7 together from the start (2004). But, reading your account – and listening to it as well, such a soothing voice! – made me realize how differences could be beneficial.

    I totally agree with the concept of me-time and I especially see the advantage of having a car to use separately from the RV. My husband and I (and our 60-pound dog) live, work, and travel in a 19ft campervan. In those three years (and the eight on a 35ft sailboat before), I never quite realized that more space and flexibility could be, would be, beneficial. Until someone pointed out while we were WorkCamping at Amazon last winter, how they usually see singles in vans and asked “How do you take a break from each other when you don’t have a car?”

    All RVs are a compromise and while we enjoy this lifestyle (I’ve been a nomad since 2003), living in a house sometimes beckons because of the comfort level – a couch, flush toilet, non-military showers, unlimited electricity and water, but, more importantly, a separate room for me and for him!

    Great post, you two! I love the humor sprinkled on as well.

    1. Hey Liesbet! We are so happy you dropped in to say, hey. Yes, 200 sq.ft. and a couple of privacy doors is all we need. We love the camper vans – my dad had a Travato for a while and I tried to imagine us living in a smaller vehicle. The low-profile stealth possibilities are tempting, lower maintenance … but I just can’t picture it for us. We don’t need a lot of personal space, but we need some. We chose our 30’ft Airstream after reading up on The site has great information about how to “fit” a crew to a unit. We just followed that advice, and so far we agree. Thank you for being with us. We love your very informative and well-written blog. We look forward to hearing more about your adventures. Safe and Happy Travels!

  9. A great post. Thanks. 💞 Just one correction: Katharine Hepburn’s name is misspelled. I was named for her. 😁

  10. I really enjoyed this post…I hear “mutual respect” throughout! It’s the key! Thank you for the timely reminder and inspiration for married life whether on the road or stationary. Have an enjoyable Valentine’s Day, LIB, wherever you may be.

    1. Thank you, Julie!

      Yes, thank you for sharing that Valentine message to the world. Mutual respect between men and women, I think, is the most important attribute of a civilized home, society and religion.

      Wishing you a joyous Valentine’s Day 💌

      Safe & Happy Travels!


  11. We recently crossed the 43 year anniversary threshold. We have been living in our RV full time for 2.5 years. We’ve lived in a garage apartment, a single wide mobile home and a few beautiful spacious homes. So the truth is before moving into a tiny home on wheels we knew we could be happy anywhere, together. After years of privacy we suddenly had none! But we knew that going in and just accepted it as part of our new adventure. We wanted to go places and visit friends and family and this was the choice that made the goals achievable. Our game plan has changed multiple times (I am recovering from spine surgery, didn’t plan for that!) but had to be done so I can hike and bike (and buy food) again. But it’s all good as long as we are side by side. We don’t even feel like our home is small, (except when elbows hit the wall) it’s just home.

    1. Laura, congratulations on 43 years of marriage and living in your RV for 2 ½ years. Living in a small RV does no longer allow for any privacy. AGREED! Glad to hear you are recovering from spine surgery. I had major neck surgery 11 months before we hit the road back in 2016. If it had not been successful, Living in Beauty would have never happened. WE can agree with you that home is where we park it! Thanks for sharing and being a part of Living in Beauty. Jim

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