I just got back from France, and boy, are my arms tired. Plus my eyes, from all the looking, and my feet, from all the walking, and my jaw, from all the eating. Also my nose, because I caught a bonafide Parisian sinus infection. So really, my arms had it easy.
We spent a week in Paris, took a day to hop over to Amsterdam, and then another week in a little village outside Lyons. Our destinations were chosen on the same basis: we knew people in those places. Knowing the locals is a great way to travel, because they can take you to the cool spots. Plus, sometimes they can provide you with a bed/futon/tent, which helps on expenses. If they really like you, they may feed you.
We like to keep a loose schedule when we travel. I've been on trips where everything was scheduled down to the minute, and it seems like you spend more time thinking about the schedule than you do enjoying whatever you're actually doing. The fun happens when you let your trip be a journey, rather than a series of destinations.
I've been to France before, back when I was thirteen years old. We'd come from an overnight flight, and were waiting in a train station for a train to Rome (we'd spend time in Paris later in the trip). We were all sleep-deprived and hungry. I think I was kinda delirious actually, past the whiny stage, and basically just a walking zombie. We had hours to sit in a train station, but we decided to go take a walk instead, because there was Paris outside. So we left the Gare du Nord and strolled the streets of the 10th arrondissement. We went to a bakery and ordered a baguette and ate it by tearing off big chunks with our teeth. It was just what we needed. And it was seriously one of the best moments on the whole vacation. That memory has guided my trip planning ever since. I research things to do, and then we decide what we do when we're there. We don't get to everything, and we find things we didn't even know about.
Josh has never been to France; in fact, he'd never been to any foreign country. When we were thinking of things to do in the city of light, I was ho-hum about doing the touristy things: the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame. I don't like being told that there are things that I have to do. It makes a vacation seem little more than a checklist. But I worried that it was because I had already done those things and that Josh would feel he would be missing out. But we talked it out, and he said that if all we did was sit at a cafe and drink wine the whole time, he'd be happy. That's Josh, being a good traveler (and a hearty drinker). He enjoys what he does instead of wondering about what he's missed. That's how I see it, too. If you spend a week in Paris and come home bemoaning the things you did not do, then you are looking at it the wrong way.
Travelling can be a real test on a relationship. Being out of your element, not to mention possibly sleep-deprived and stressed, many of your deep and less civilized traits can rear their ugly heads. You have to really like each other in the first place if you want to come out as friends in the end.
There were a couple times during the trip when Josh looked at me and said, "You're not a good traveler." Well, no, when we are about to miss a train and someone stops to take a picture of the security camera which looks like an eye, then, no, I am not a good traveler. There seems to be two parts to being a good traveler: being where you need to be when you need to be there, and then being easy-going about the things that will happen to you. Josh and I are both good at exactly one of those two things. It seems to work out. I get him on the train, and he keeps me calm. I pad the schedule so that he can stop to take pictures of security cameras, and he doesn't fight me when I say we need to go or we will miss the train.