It is not normal to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with someone. Most of us have so much to do in our daily lives that the thought of having a lazy day to spend with your partner sounds amazing, but give it a couple of weeks and that constant togetherness might start to wear thin. Traveling as a couple may sound daunting to those who have not attempted this relationship turbo mode, but the joy of seeing the world with your partner in crime will wipe away any memories of those hunger induced arguments.
When you travel the world with your partner you both learn a lot about each other very quickly, from how you each react under stress to how long either one of you can go without eating. Your daily lives become so intertwined on the road that you will soon know things you probably did not want to know, but it is my firm belief that traveling together will make or break a couple. If you can survive the intensity of it, your relationship will come out the other side stronger and you will know that the two of you can take on the world, together as a team.
Kane and I met in Guatemala, where I was living for six months. I had my routine, school in the morning, immersion program stuff in the afternoon, and evenings with Kane. We shared a small studio apartment, hung out full time on the weekends, had separate activities during the day, and generally acted like a normal couple. I had my own friends through my Spanish immersion program and Kane had his friends from the hostel he lived at before he met me. While living in a foreign country together taught us that we could survive cohabitation and deal with the little stresses of expat life without tearing each other’s heads off, we didn’t have a clue what life would truly be like on the road.
We got a taste of the road life after my program ended when we journeyed south to explore the rest of Central America for a couple of months. There were stress tears shed trudging along a dusty Nicaraguan road, a travel day gone on too long. There were the arguments about where to eat, what to do, etc., basically the normal travel maladies. But, we survived.
I loved having Kane there to laugh with over a weak Central American beer at the end of the day, recounting whatever ridiculous story had cropped up during the day. I loved it all. By the time we made it to Costa Rica I didn’t want it to end. Yes, there are compromises you need to make when traveling with your partner that you wouldn’t have to make when traveling solo. Yes, you are bound to someone else’s schedule and, yes, sometimes you will annoy the hell out of each other, but at the end of the day you are traveling with this person because you love them and you want to share the joy that is travel with them.
That being said, there are a few things we learned along the way that make traveling as a couple far more enjoyable and less fraught with impending relationship doom. So without further ado, here is the guide I wish I’d had last autumn, before Kane and I set out on the real test of our relationship, a year on the road in Southeast Asia and Australia.
How to Survive Traveling as a Couple:
Compromise and adapt
One person cannot always win the arguments. You guys will need to share the responsibility of both of your happiness and sometimes this will require compromise, just like any relationship, anywhere in the world. There will be times when you both want to do exactly opposite things, like when I’m stressing about crowds and all Kane wants is to dive in to explore said crowded Asian market. We worked through this particular one by me handling it as long as I could, but with Kane listening the minute I said I was done. On his own, Kane probably would have spent more time in markets and I might never have ventured near them, but, by going at it together, we both got to explore the colorful world of Asian markets. Just talk honestly with your partner about what you both need and you will be able to figure it out.
Have alone time to do what makes you happy
Some couples swear by scheduling alone time, but we took a more flexible approach to the matter. If one of us started feeling a touch smothered we would say it and we would make separate plans for the day. For example, early in the trip, when I was re-learning Kane’s need for quiet time alone, I went out to explore the Botanical Gardens in Singapore solo, while Kane stayed back in the hotel reading. He needed his quiet day inside to recharge and I needed to feel the sun on my face to boost my endorphins. You are not the same person as your partner so don’t expect that everything that makes you happy will make them happy. Sometimes you just need to strike out on your own to find your happy for the day.
Be forgiving and pack snacks
What is said in hunger is not meant. Sometimes I think I should get a tattoo on my face shouting this warning to the world like a granola bar disclaimer. I, like many more before me, suffer from terrible hanger (anger induced by hunger). If I do not bring snacks and more than three hours have gone by since my last meal I am likely to snap for no apparent reason. As you will be spending most your time with your partner, any hanger crabbiness will be borne predominately by your long suffering significant other. Do your relationship a favor and pack snacks.
While your beau is probably one of your favorite people in the world, there will come a time that, through no fault of either of you, you will just want to talk to someone else. This is where being a social butterfly comes in. If you aren’t a natural extrovert, don’t worry, traveling brings up lots of opportunities to make friends, be it at the hostel bar or on a tour. However, as a couple you will need to be more active about making friends, because two people are harder to approach than one and you may be intimidating to solo travelers. We found making friends with other couples to be easier than meeting up with solo travelers, but everyone is different.
Get a project
If you are at all type A, like myself, you will find yourself needing a purpose. Life on the road is full of wonderful new experiences, but cities can begin to blur together if there isn’t more to your day than breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My blog has kept me sane, given me a purpose, and kept Kane sane as well from not having to deal with my boredom. Blogging is just one idea for a project on the road, but there are many others out there. Why not use your free time to learn that language you always wanted, master photography, or learn to dance?
Appreciate your partner
At the end of the day, remember that you took this trip with this person, because you love them so remind them of that. Take the time to do little things for them even if you must go out of your way, like bringing them back a coconut ice cream because they love it or searching for hours to find their favorite breakfast. I’ve read other blogs about scheduling a date night to do this, but Kane and I aren’t really schedule people so we tend to have a night out when the fancy takes us. Do what makes you and your partner happy; if that is a scheduled date night, schedule date night. If you prefer a more malleable approach, try getting that bottle of your partner’s favorite wine for no reason, she will love you for it.