A strict division of labor seems to work best for couples at sea or on the road together.
By DANIEL WEISS
Columbia News Service
NEW YORK - Tim and Cindie Travis were arguing about whether to go out for a fancy dinner. She said yes, you only live once. He said no, they had to stay on budget.
A typical couple's spat. Except that the Travises were at the side of a desolate road outside Morelia, Mexico, six months into a round-the-world bicycle trip.
Cindie started crying and wanted to go home. Splitting up to cool off wasn't an option and, as they were planning to be on the road for another 6 1/2 years, they had to figure out how to get along.
That was four years ago. Since then, the Travises, formerly of Prescott, Ariz., have biked more than 20,000 miles through the Americas, Asia and Australia.
"One of the most common questions we get asked is, 'How do you stand each other?' " said Cindie, 45, by phone from Mt. Gambiar, Australia.
Call it extreme relationships on the road.
Many couples are biking or sailing away from domesticity to embark on journeys that last, in some cases, years on end. Decades before retirement age, they quit their jobs and head off in search of adventure, cultural discovery and a deeper relationship.
But isn't it difficult to get along while pedaling up a 15,000-foot Himalayan pass or while sailing across three weeks of open sea with no one to talk to but your spouse?
"We used to say it was a real marriage maker or breaker," said Greg Siple, a co-founder of the Adventure Cycling Association and an amateur scholar on round-the-world bicycle touring. He rode from Alaska to Argentina with his wife and another couple in the early 1970s. The greatest challenge in their 32-month, 18,000-mile trip wasn't cresting the Andes. It was averting conflict among themselves.
Tim, a teacher, and Cindie, a geologist, sold most of their belongings, accumulating more than $100,000 and set off on heavily laden bicycles in March 2002, as their skeptical friends looked on.
They hadn't given much thought to the challenges traveling would pose to their relationship. At first, they made decisions in concert, but that led to tensions.
"When there's two bosses," said Tim, 40, "then the two bosses can fight."
After the meltdown in Mexico, they divided their responsibilities. Cindie took charge of the budget and day-to-day itinerary, while Tim handled security and chose which continent they would head to next.
"We kind of complement each other," Cindie said, "so that we ended up more of a team."
The Travises plan to bike around the world for another 20 years. They finance their travels with advertising from a Web site, downtheroad.org, and sales of a book, "The Road That Has No End," written by Tim and edited by Cindie.
Not all traveling couples fare as well.
A few months into sailing around the world, Chris Myles, 39, and his fiancée, K.T. Roddick, 32, met a couple who weathered a cyclone with their relationship intact, but three other couples they knew had lost their boats and divorced.
Myles estimates that 5 percent to 10 percent of sailing couples break up, frequently because the woman discovers sailing is not the romantic life of pina coladas and palm trees her partner had sold her on.
To test out the experience, Myles said by phone from the couple's stop, in Bundaberg, Australia, "go and live in your bathroom for a week, because it's about that same size."
In their three years at sea, Myles and Roddick have found the natural division of labor on a boat into "blue and pink jobs" to be the greatest challenge to their relationship. At home in Ventura, they worked as equals at an electronic engineering company, but at sea Myles captains the boat and works on the engine while Roddick cooks and cleans.
"I kept looking at it as, 'Oh my God, all I do is cook and clean. You don't even need me on this boat,' " Roddick said.
After about six months, though, Roddick came to appreciate the value of her work. When they return home in a few years to have children, she says she would like to be a stay-at-home mom.