The “Go West” Relationship Test, Part I

One of the surest methods for testing a relationship’s fortitude must be the act of traveling together. The ingredients for a relationship blow-up are all there. Start with tiredness from lack of sleep and time-zone shifts. Then toss in the anxiety of missed connections, lost luggage, and confusing cities. And top it off with the almost-guaranteed discomfort of unfamiliar beds and unpredictable mealtimes. Mix all these elements together, and one minor episode of conflicting expectations or differing tastes in museums can light the spark for an explosive meltdown.

When my husband proposed travelling by Greyhound bus to Vancouver BC from our home near Ottawa ON, I confess I didn’t hold out much hope for either the trip or the relationship. I mean, come on, three days—and by days I mean the whole 24 hours of them?and almost 5000 kilometres on a bus? Sleep on a bus, eat on a bus, use the toilet on a bus? For three days? We’re doomed.

Despite my utter lack of enthusiasm, accompanied by an occasional dose of open animosity, trip planning commenced. As a spousal sweetener, an overnight stay at a hotel in Winnipeg was thrown in. While that extended the journey to four days, it did mean that the middle night of the trip would involve a real bed, not to mention to opportunity to shower and change clothes.

While I couldn’t generate a scrap of enthusiasm for our mode of travel, I tried to remain philosophical. I am a hardy traveler, and I can bear a certain degree of discomfort. I do like to travel by road. I love experiencing the beauty and vastness of Canada, and I had not traveled overland to the Canadian west for decades. Still, four days confined to a bus? I comforted myself that the return journey—by plane—would at least be quick (a blessing if we were no longer on speaking terms.)

Our friends, or at any rate the female ones, confirmed my misgivings. Upon hearing that we would travel from Ottawa to Vancouver by bus, the usual reaction was a look of utter horror, followed by the oh-so-comforting, “You have GOT to be kidding!” or, “Have you ever traveled by bus?” or even, “Oh, God, don’t do it.” Since my enthusiasm was already at rock bottom, these reactions only served to confirm my position.

To be fair, one friend declared that the bus plans sounded “So cool!” and opined that she would love to join us if only she could get the time off work. At the other end of the spectrum, my neighbour offered to pick me up at the airport if I decided to fly home from Winnipeg after two days—not to mention the intervening night—on the bus.

Winnipeg was the magical half-way point. After more than 31 hours on three buses (Ottawa to Sudbury, Sudbury to Thunder Bay, Thunder Bay to Winnipeg) we’d be ready for a break before facing the next 35 hours on three more buses (Winnipeg to Regina, Regina to Calgary, Calgary to Vancouver.) Sixty-six hours and two overnights on the bus. How bad could it be?

On the appointed July morning, with divorce lawyers flying lazy circles in the sky and my tummy heaving with anxiety, we boarded the first Greyhound bus in Ottawa.

Does the relationship survive the Greyhound bus travel test? See part two in next week’s The Voice Magazine.

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario. Follow Barbara on twitter @ThereGoesBarb.