Rustic Road Trip Reticence

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This summer, my boyfriend and I are going on a road trip. I’m very excited. We’re going to his family’s reunion. He hasn’t been since he was little, and what can I say, I’m excited to meet some of his relatives. Still, there’s something I’m a little worried about: they live in a rural area. It’s so rural, there aren’t any stop lights, and many of the roads are unpaved, according to him. I’m not from any place like that. We are spending a few days there, and I don’t know what we’re going to do. On top of it all, even though I am happy to go with him, I don’t know the etiquette of being the girlfriend at a family reunion. How do I talk with him about this? How can I make sure A) our trip is super-fun, and B) we make it in one piece?


It sounds like you two set yourselves up for a fun summer. This new experience will be an adventure for you. Even though it’s often frightening to go out of our comfort zone, it is almost always worth it.


How well do you know his family? You may have met his parents, but what about the rest of them? Are they formal? Are they laid-back? At what type of venue is the reunion? Is it at a fancy hotel, like this one that hosts functions in Brisbane? Or is it an informal backyard BBQ? Know before you go. That way, you can settle little details like wardrobe, as well as big details, like the important people in his life. Imagine yourself as a spy, compiling dossiers on your subjects. You may hear all sorts of stories about them, as well as some stories about him. To ingratiate yourself with the family, bring some stories of your own.


If you worry about driving in the boondocks, one thing you can do is to make sure your car is in good shape. This means taking care of the normal things, like oil and wiper fluid, as well as things you check less often. For example, how’s your coolant?. Make sure your insurance is up to date and, that you have a service like AAA. You also might want to buy a map of the local area. If cell or GPS service is spotty or non-existent, you don’t want to get lost.


What type of car do you have? Something big (aVolkswagen Atlas), or small (the microscopicMesserschmitt)? If the quality of the roads are especially bad, or if you car is light enough to skid on dirt roads, you may want to get your tires rotated, or switched out your tires for something a little more durable. Just be ready to come up with contingencies if you get a flat on a bad road, or worse (fun fact: according to Erik J. Conrad of Conrad Law Offices, amotorcycle accident lawyer, if you crash because of poor road conditions, the government agency responsible for maintain the roads is legally liable for your crash).


I don’t know where you’re going, but if you’re looking for things to do, take out tricks to pull out of your sleeve. Talk to your relatives that live there first. They can give you the live and local rundown of what’s cool to see. Once you’ve heard from them (or if they aren’t really to your taste) most cities, counties, and states will have a convention center and visitors bureau—if you wanted to explore Henry County, Georgia, for example—these city and state sites show what a place is proud of. Barring that, check out a community’s Reddit thread or Wikitravel page, which, while a little more unreliable, can always hold gems. But, putting the digital aside for a second, there’s nothing like lacing up your shoes and checking out the weird and wonderful wherever you are, especially when it’s with someone we like.


That brings us to what is perhaps the crux of your question. Reading between the lines, here is what we see: you’re worried about going on this trip with your boyfriend, meeting his family, and what that might mean. It’s not just his family, it’s his distant family, including aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins whom he never sees and who may or may not remember him. It is a lot of unknown factors for him and for you. We can boil our final piece of advice down to this: let him know your worries about this trip. Your worries about transportation, your worries about meeting his family, and your worries about being, as you put it, “the girlfriend at a family reunion.”


Say this wasn’t a family reunion and you were just going on a trip: would you still feel like “the girlfriend,” or would you feel like it was a choice that you made to go on the road trip with him? Part of your reticence—your feeling like “the girlfriend”—can be explained by the fact that you are going into his world. But another part might be because you want more agency. Travel can be stressful, and even though we often find ourselves “along for the ride” (and some people prefer it that way!), you should consider what you really want to do and what goals you really want to set for the trip. You said those include coming out of the trip in one piece. What would it look like if you didn’t come out in one piece? Answer that for yourself, then talk with him about it. It is always a good ideato talk about our fears with our partners, and we think it is the first thing you should do in this situation.


The more that you show that you care, not only will he be more comfortable, but you will as well. You are building that all important thing—trust—that is the bedrock of any relationship (check out this TED Talk by Dan Ariely). You say you want your trip to be super-fun, and honestly, there is no way to guarantee that. But you can takes steps to ensure that you come out of your trip in one piece, as part of a stronger whole.


“The road is there, it will always be there. You just have to decide when to take it.” –