Though long-term travel has its advantages, physical and emotional challenges are plenty. It also involves quite a bit of continual planning and preparation. In order to better maintain our sanity and preserve our marriage while on the road, we’ve recently decided to return to a practice that we applied successfully while traveling through Europe for five months in 2000. This little life hack technique goes by different names, but we call it “My Day, Your Day.”
Though we believe this practice is well-suited to traveling couples, it can be applied anywhere a laundry list of simple tasks, multiple parties and multiple sets of preferences compete for space.
This couples travel hack is simple. Here’s how we apply it:
1. Assign to each person the days he/she will “own” or be responsible for.
We alternate days. One day, Dan. The next day, Audrey. And so on. If you begin to lose track, you can divide days by odd and even numbers.
2. If it’s “your day,” you are:
a. ultimate arbiter on split decisions (a.k.a., “the decider” ☺)
b. responsible for making the hot potato decisions that neither person would like to make
c. responsible for managing the unloved – but absolutely necessary – details like navigating with the city map and negotiating transport for the day
For couples like us who tend to strenuously over-analyze the impact of insignificant decisions (e.g, whether we’ll go to Café Mutton or Café Goat for lunch), this solution impersonally assigns the responsibility of low-level decision-making to one person. For couples who can’t seem to find agreement and have frequently divergent preferences (e.g., “You’d like to do Mutton?!? Well, I’d like to do Goat!!”), this solution impersonally assigns privilege.
Take the Café Mutton vs. Café Goat lunch decision example. This decision, by the way, reflects much of our lunch selection reality while we traveled throughout Central Asia.
If it’s your day, and you…
- feel strongly about Café Mutton while the other person feels strongly about Café Goat, you go to Café Mutton. After all, it’s “your day.”
- are indifferent or are feeling generous, you can defer the decision to the other party. If the other party is likewise indifferent, the onus is on you to decide. Flip a coin if you must. Again, it’s “your day” and it's your responsibility to choose.
Obviously, we’ve chosen a very simple example for the purpose of demonstrating the concept and mechanism. We’re certain that all of our readers can use their imaginations to find some more complex examples in their own lives where this tool can find a comfy home.
Keep in mind, like any decision-making mechanism, this is not a panacea. Similarly, like any tool used to navigate a relationship, it's possible to misuse it to manipulate the other party. However, when used in good faith, “My Day, Your Day” really can work and help you re-focus on the larger issues…and the fun stuff. For those of you familiar with Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), it also allows “N's” (like us) to share the “S” work, thereby spreading the burden of managing those devilish details.
In general, we make most of our major decisions together. However, when insignificant decisions begin to pile up or take up undue time, “My Day, Your Day” can help put the spotlight on the process, depersonalize some of the conflict and cut more quickly to resolution and action.
A word of thanks goes out to my sister Kim. After all, she’s the one who introduced the concept to us before we got married and decided to hit the road for Europe seven years ago.