This was my first trip anywhere with a girlfriend. My female friends said the trip would make or break the relationship. My guy friends said I was bringing sand to the beach. Karen's friends said she was crazy to travel to another continent with a guy who wouldn't even leave a contacts case at her apartment. As excited as I was while packing, a little part of me wondered if I was courting disaster and should be traveling solo like I had talked about so often in my twenties.
So Karen and I landed in Thailand with a strict itinerary that included scuba diving, seeing a shitload of temples, and returning to Los Angeles not hating each other's guts. And to our surprise, we traveled along with no major emotional blow-ups or vacation horror stories. I felt a smug satisfaction as we approached the last day of our trip in Bangkok. The plan was to blow the last of our baht on knockoff jeans and an upscale curry dinner, then get a good night's rest before our morning flight.
But that afternoon, I flipped through my travel journal without finding any seeds for a novel. I clicked through my digital camera and found only the photos I imagine a million couples take each year on the same travel route, more family-album than Vice Guide to Travel — nothing in there to elicit awed, envious comments on Facebook. I'd shot my vacation wad with this trek and we'd had an experience not so different from one my parents would have.