I hit it when I am finally dozing off, the night before we are supposed to travel to Ghent. That’s when I decide to double check our hotel reservation - and find out we don’t have one. In fact, we’re not leaving Amsterdam at all, for four days. Then we’re going straight to Paris, with Ghent tacked onto the back of it. This was not the plan. I do a double take and my palms begin to sweat.
The change in logistics is terrifying, but more than that is my fear of Nigel’s reaction, because he booked all our train tickets. Is he going to flip out at my incompetence? Why didn’t I check earlier? What’s wrong with me - do I expect him to do everything? He already built me a bike, took me over a chain ferry and two bike bridges. And by the way, his place is filled with mosquitoes I let in, thank you very much (I can't argue with this).
But then there’s the other part of it. Nigel and I had arranged this trip - but I have choreographed it carefully - one might say too carefully - with my travel agent (Nigel is unaware of this), so that he and I can get acquainted gradually: First Amsterdam (where I have a hotel room). Then together in Ghent overnight (twin beds), back to Amsterdam for a few days (hotel again), then Paris for four days (twins again, just in case).
Control freak much?
On the surface it looks like I don’t want to get to know Nigel at all, but it’s not that. It’s just - my innate travel anxiety. Plus the fact that I haven’t been in a relationship – I haven’t even dated - for 22 years. I know, I know, what was I thinking? It’s not like I’m practiced at this! I’ve been hoping my travel agent’s expertise will buffer me from having to negotiate ticklish personal dilemmas (or any dilemmas frankly); but when I check our email thread and find her mistake, it turns out she’s not any better at this than I am. So now, Nigel and I are getting 5 straight days without a break, sharing a hotel room plus travel. What if we don’t get along? What if even more goes wrong and we start to fight? Then what? Of course it will be my fault. It's always my fault. You may think I’m exaggerating, but I’ve flunked *Bike travel Partner* before (http://www.bikeloveny.com/blog/blind-spots).
I have to call Nigel. This is the moment I was dreading; I instinctively know the rest of our trip will be determined by how we both handle it.
And this is when I begin to discover what Nigel is made of. He doesn’t flip out, he doesn’t blame. He frankly doesn’t care who’s responsible (kind of a pity as I had so many great excuses lined up). Instead, he is the perfect Yin to my panicky Yang. Within moments, he has come up with a plan B. Don’t worry about the money for trains, he says; don’t worry about the change in schedule. He’ll rebook. We’ll have a great time. Why don’t we go to Antwerp tomorrow instead?
Why not indeed.
In my panic, it hadn’t occurred to me that we had options. But we both ride bikes, we’re in the Netherlands; Antwerp is close – how bad can it be? Still, I wouldn’t have wanted to negotiate this by myself; it was my planning that got us here in the first place. It takes me a few minutes to calm down, but I am gradually reassured by Nigel’s resourcefulness. He doesn’t seem worried; if he’s not worried, I guess I don’t have to be. And I begin to realize, this is doable: traveling with Nigel - being with Nigel - it's going to be doable.
I gradually drift off wondering about what Antwerp will be like, and beginning to experience an uncharacteristic sense of calm. Because traveling with someone is essentially a test of chemistry. I sense we’ve passed this test. And now I agree with Nigel: whatever happens we’ll have a great time.