Tiny Spaces … Too Close For Comfort?
In Key Largo, I live in a 33′ travel trailer. With another human being. That’s gives Nikki and I each about 150 square feet for ourself and our individual stuff. Plus we have to give back some of that for common right of way. Tiny, huh? What possibly could go wrong, relationship-wise?
In Barcelona, we’ve had two different apartments. Each about (and sorry, I need to switch here to the metric system) 33 square meters. Which is about 355 square feet to you Yankees. Only slightly larger than our palatial travel compound. Again, turning sideways for another to pass is a common occurrence.
So … how does one keep the divorce lawyer at bay in such situations?
All joking aside, it really isn’t that hard. At least for our physical selves. It’s surprisingly easy to carve out personal space in such situations. As long as you think of those spaces as being only semi-permanent. Stuff is more difficult, as once it finds a horizontal spot, it tends to stay. So space-loving packrats will probably not fare as well as we. But still, there have been learning curves. And I’m sure more yet to come.
Are We Together? Or Not?
A possible issue, which is not limited to physical space, is relationship space. Now I have to be the first to admit that this is more my problem than Nikki’s. I really enjoy being “a couple” and when it comes down to it, I much prefer “we things” to “me things”. And I do sometimes feel some resentment/abandonment when I’m left to walk myself. Close living quarters and our often nomadic placement only seem to exacerbate it. But again, I recognize that this is an issue that typically only hits one half of a couple harder, and in our case, it’s mine to own and deal with.
Nikki has her volunteering and emergency response passion. Something that with climate change has been giving her (sadly) lots more fuel for her fire. And while I join her while I can, this activity seriously takes up her time and energy, and leaves me sometimes feeling like a puppy wanting attention and an ear rub. But again (and I’ll keep repeating this until I believe it) I’m the one who needs to deal with it. Couples are allowed … nay … couples are encouraged to have healthy selves as well as happy togetherness.
So, I needed a hobby. A portable hobby. And what you’re reading is it. (And if you’re watching this as well, then there too). I decided that creating YouTube videos and writing stories could be something that would allow me to be me. Turns out that’s only half true, but it’s a great opportunity to keep learning from my mistakes.
But my hobby choices are not the point of this tale. It’s the higher level struggles of healthy relationships, especially in terms of travel and location. So to put what we have thus far together, physical living arrangements and mental living arrangements can co-exist in tiny spaces. It just takes more attention to detail, and perhaps a tad more patience. Juggling the balls of cohabitation takes a lot of work. And I’m happy to report that for us, at least, we haven’t really dropped a ball yet and couldn’t find it.
Where To Next?
A couple-decision thing that hits us quite frequently is the question of “where”. Now many couples deal with this, usually as part of the question “where would you like to eat?”. Us too, but more often than not it’s “where do you want to fly/train to this weekend?”. If you and yours are “vacation travelers”, then it’s more simple (I say hopefully). You’re planning on a single place that will probably be wrapped up all pretty and neat with hotels, spas, and/or a cruise ship berth. When you’re more nomadic, decisions abound.
Not only do we have to decide on a place (without actually saying we decided on a place, because that would violate the laws of nomadic travel), we have to decide on where to stay in said (non)place(s). And we’re willing to stay almost anywhere. Hotel, hostel, AirBnb, tent, whatever. And usually (seriously) most of that list, all squished together. Wandering is not just a word in the title of this blog, it’s our way of life. If you wander solo, it’s easier. When you wander duo, decisions must be made, which again goes against the notion of wandering.
This, more than anything, is our albatross. When I say things like “we’re moving to Barcelona”, Nikki’s breath gets short and she starts palpating, We are NOT “moving”, she adamantly states. That implies permanency, and we always want to be able to go anywhere, anytime we feel like it. Which also makes our whole Non-Lucrative Visa process more difficult to swallow, because it has rules regarding time and location. I get her feelings, although to me they’re really just words that are used to convey generic ideas. “Moving” doesn’t mean you can’t immediately “Re-Move” if you desire. I suppose she is more of a purist than I am when it comes to labels. But to not stray too far from this post’s topic, togetherness can be challenged by the very notion of place, of concept, and of how to connect dots into a line.
One Step At A Time
I think the bottom line is that the old notion that relationships take work is of course true. In traditional settings where two people live, eat, and work in the same town/house as they always have. And also in non-traditional ones like ours, where houses and towns can change as frequently as we change clothes. Allowing for physical space for the other, along with keeping personal areas sacrosanct, is key. Especially when space is tight. Allowing for private-time space is paramount, and in fact can be used to enhance “together space”. Going forth, experiencing, and then bringing back tales shouldn’t be an activity of exclusion, but of exploration and sharing. And finally, allowing for decisions to be made in such a way that everyone gets their huge scoop of ice cream, and no one else going hungry in the process, is what holds it all together.
These balls are constantly up in our air. We are always aware of them and do our best – together and apart – to keep the pattern going. It’s difficult at times, easy in others. Nikki and I each sometimes struggle with our own shortcomings and unspoken desires, but we do try to keep communications open and free of rancor. Perhaps it’s because both she and I have had more than a few “opportunities” to learn in other relationships, and we consider this to be a final exam. One we want to pass, so we’re paying attention to what we studied. We’ve self-added a lot of complexity with our chosen lifestyle, but I’m happy to report it’s working. And believe me, if I can do this, it’s possible for anyone to do this.