He Said, She Said: road trip roles – driver or navigator?

The most exciting thing about He Said, She Said is wondering if we’ll still be married by the end of each post! We both write on the same topic but we don’t read the other’s work until after it’s published.

Mr and Mrs Romance - what's your road trip role

He said:

I do the driving because, if I wore one, I could get lost in my own hat!

She said:

Hand me the map. I don’t ask for directions, I give ’em.

What’s more, he says:

It’s not that I don’t like navigating; I do. And I can find my way on a map ok – though I have to refer to it very frequently. I’m also fine with asking for directions…

The problem is I have no sense of direction whatsoever, so any instructions usually just confuse me. It can mean I get lost so suddenly, it’s as if I’ve been transported to a completely different part of the world.

I’ve learnt to make the most of this ‘talent’ though, and I’ve discovered so many interesting places and met great people I’d have missed without of it.

Mrs Romance, on the other hand, has a sense of direction that bests most GPS devices. So on the rare occasion we do get lost, it tends to stress her out.

We’ve tried reversing the roles on road trips – she drives and I navigate – but it’s ended in terrible arguments. We embrace the ‘why rock the boat’ philosophy, so now I point the car wherever she tells me.

Mrs R is very much at home in the passenger seat. Although she does enjoy driving, she has a tendency to stress out and, over longer drives, she’ll start talking to the cars around her. It’s very disconcerting. And she hates parking.

Instead, we work to our skillsets, which I think is how our relationship has lasted so long.

Mrs R has got us out of some pretty bad fixes with her map-reading skills. She’s navigated us through the centre of Paris, for goodness sake. That takes some doing.

I can park anything anywhere – I’ve even been applauded by strangers. I’ve taken a Nissan Tiida off road through rivers, driven an ORV on tiny teetering cliff-top back roads the full length of the Cinque Terre and I’ve pushed my way through the angry rush hour traffic of Naples.

Together we make a pretty formidable team – but if we switch roles, we fall apart!

Mr and Mrs Romance - getting lost on road trips

And another thing, she says:

You don’t have to ask me twice to go on a road trip. We’ve taken a few in our time and it’s one of our favourite ways to travel. You have so much freedom to go where you want, when you want.

Just this week we decided that we would drive to Melbourne the next day. That’s a drive of almost 900km but it doesn’t faze me. Growing up in Australia you get used to the distances.

Mr R and I have pretty defined roles on our road trips. He is the driver and I am the navigator. He excels at parking and I have a keen sense of direction. He loves to drive while I love to read maps.

I hate the stereotype that women can’t read maps. I’ve been reading maps since I was a kid and I pride myself on a strong sense of direction. I do get messed up with left and right, but I’ve managed to keep it in check when giving directions.

It’s important to play to your strengths when choosing any job, and a road trip is no different.

We tried switching roles and it didn’t go so well. We were off on a short 4 ½ hour trip and I thought it would be nice to give Jim a break so he could enjoy the scenery. It seemed like a good idea but it felt wrong. Then it started to go wrong when we got lost and took the wrong road… twice.

After driving through a paddock of cows (see above photo), we knew it was time to switch back to our usual seats.

While I like to drive, the passenger seat is my preferred place on road trips. Like I said, I don’t ask for directions, I give them.

Are you the driver or the navigator on your road trips?

Images by Mrs Romance.


  • Reply February 22, 2014


    I am a great map reader! I have been doing it since I was a kid & I refuse to own a GPS. I’m currently the only driver but I can’t wait until I can pass that off to my husband!
    Though I like to do annoying things like describe journey distance in pages….”Yeah we’re 7 pages away!”
    Plus I have a random dislike of hills – I get weak & panicky on them. But not often, not all of them & I can’t predict which ones it happens on! I think it’s just unfamiliar ones. One of those things I’d like to change with some specific lessons but 99% of other expenses come first.

    • Reply February 26, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Ha ha! That whole comment made me laugh, Vanessa! Thank you! Mrs Romance hates GPS machines too, even though they’ve saved our bacon more than once. We’ve found the people inside them who tell you where to go are often bloody liars and some are more confident than others – we used one in Italy a couple of years ago and if we took a slight detour from the specified route, the English-speaking lady would freak out and tell us to make a u-turn. Her Italian counterpart, however, would deal with it, sort herself out and tell us where we needed to go next.
      The other thing with GPS thingies is you can’t get a general overview of your route very easily. You can zoom out, but it still doesn’t give you the flexibility a map book can bring. Love your thing about describing the distances in pages!
      Sorry I can’t help with the hill phobia. I’ve never heard of that before. Perhaps closing your eyes and getting someone else to steer would help… or moving to Holland?! 😉

  • Reply February 22, 2014

    Julie H

    I am usually the navigator – when it is my turn to drive I thoroughly check the map first. And it has to be a Melway (or similar); our car has a built-in Gps, but I like to be able to flip pages, not screens.
    My husband thought I had an infallible sense of direction…until we were in the northern hemisphere. His theory is that I get my direction from the sun’s location.
    My daughter rang me one day, completely lost ( an hour in the opposite direction from where they should have been!). When I told her to turn around and head west she asked me where that was. It was late afternoon and I asked her to look out the car’s window and go in the direction of the sun. Her boyfriend (who was there and therefore also lost) couldn’t stop laughing at my instruction.

    • Reply February 26, 2014

      Mr Romance

      That’s hilarious, Julie! I wonder if your sense of direction is somehow linked to the Sun… or the rotation of the Earth… the only time I’ve ever out-navigated Mrs Romance was -randomly – we were in Finland. For some reason I had a full working knowledge of Helsinki’s street systems… perhaps I was Scandinavian in a previous life. It would certainly explain those occasional urges to pillage I get!
      I hear you as far as the GPS devices go. I like to be able to flip the pages and get a good look at where I’m going. The only trouble comes when you run out of fingers marking a route that goes diagonally across the book!
      It sounds like you’ve just taught your daughter a valuable life lesson there – something only a parent should be able to teach their child. I remember my dad telling me something about locating north… or was it south… by looking for moss on the sides of a tree. I generally use the compass app on my phone these days though! 😉
      Cheers Jx

  • Reply February 25, 2014

    Sonia from Sonia Styling

    My husband is the driver and navigator. I am the DJ!

    • Reply February 26, 2014

      Mr Romance

      That’s the same for us too, Sonia! Trouble is, when Mrs R’s driving, she doesn’t like to relinquish control over ‘the decks’. It usually means some very dodgy steering while she scans through radio stations or MP3 tracks. I think it’s just a ploy so that Mrs R doesn’t have to drive anywhere! She’s as cunning as a weasel, that one!

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