They say one of the best ways to test a romantic relationship is to live in a van together. If you don’t strangle each other by the end of a month you know it was meant to be.

If you want to make it tougher, add a dog. Luckily you don’t have to go to such extremes to test the bonds of your romance, but there is something undeniably intimate about an extended roadtrip. 

Living in a van has the power to tear couples apart or strengthen the knot even tighter. I speak from experience. For a decade I was the proud owner of a 1987 VW Westfalia. It had a silver paint job and mint condition interior. I drove that van everywhere. It was my Rosinante.

From a home base in Portland, Oregon my girlfriend and I — along with our 75-pound newfie mix — took plenty of extended weekend trips to the coast or to the mountains

There really is no greater way to tour America than a camper van, and the Westfalia is among the best. Its broad windshield and upfront seating offers a window to the the passing countryside like no other, which in our case was often the rolling hills of eastern Oregon and the windswept seashore. 

There was one trip we did, however, that surpassed all else. For an entire month we drove 3,000 miles in a giant loop through Oregon, Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Washington.

Without much of a plan, we set out with a general idea of a line of travel through Yellowstone and Grand Teton. The only rule was if we liked it, we stopped. Didn’t matter if we had only driven 100 miles.

We spent a week in Yellowstone, a week in Butte, Montana learning about the history there, a few days in Hot Springs, Wyoming and a dozen places in between.

As far the two of us, we survived the trip, not without a few threats to find the nearest bus station though. Ultimately, however, we did not survive as a couple. The van was sold shortly after and my dog passed away not long after that.

But I learned a lot from that trip, as you do, not the least of which was how to live in a van with your girlfriend and not go insane. So here are some lessons from the road: 

Give up privacy

If there were any intimacy hang-ups going into an extended van trip, you can forget about them ever again. If you had any presumption of keeping certain things private, that too can go out the window. There’s nothing that brings a couple together more than sharing a sponge bath with limited head space.

Mutual decisions

During a roadtrip you want to make it as spontaneous as possible while still holding to some sort of schedule. This can make for lots of choices. It’s important to share the decisions about the trip. Let’s say you choose where to stop and then she chooses the next one. It sounds obvious, but the amount of decisions you will be posed as a couple can become a sore spot as the trip goes on.

Exercising patience

Let’s face it, we all make mistakes. If you haven’t done something stupid yet today, just wait. On a roadtrip, chances are someone will do something that does not make a whole lot of sense. If your partner drives 50 miles with the emergency break on, for instance, try not to lose your cool. 

Making up

Fights are even more likely to happen after weeks of smelling each other’s body odor than they are at home, so it’s important to resolve them without letting the negative energy linger for the rest of the trip. If you do get in a fight, head straight to town and take the girl out for ice cream or something. 

Get a room

Yes, the trip is all about the van, but if you are travelling for more than a week you are going to be dying for a warm shower and a comfortable bed before long. It pays to spend the money at least once a week on a motel room. Get clean, recharged and refreshed to head back out there.

© Wavebreakmedia Ltd | Dreamstime.com – Hipster couple on road trip