How to Travel as a Couple
Following on from my Valentine’s Day post and Annika’s wise and worthy Why I Prefer to Travel Solo article, it came to light that we haven’t really discussed travelling with a partner at much length on Travelettes. While we applaud all solo female travellers and encourage girls to backpack together in heels around the world, we aren’t immune to the charms of travelling with the one you love, even if he may be a boy!
As I enter my fourth year of travelling with the man I love – two of them on the road permanently – I have learned a thing or two about what works (and what doesn’t!) when you travel as a couple. While we’re still prone to bust ups in airport terminals and arguments over the window seat, we still love travelling together and I hope the following helps you and your partner on your travels too.
1. The importance of constant compromise
Not until I was a week into our RTW trip did I understand how compromise is a journey not a destination.
Before we left London we were already actively compromising on destinations and the length of time spent in places. I thought “Yes! We are doing this, compromise is easy!”. Fast forward to one week into our RTW trip and we’re wandering down the streets of China Town in Singapore; I’m busy taking photos of the lamps above me and the food in front of me. Suddenly, I realise that my boyfriend’s no longer beside me. I traced back my steps and found him standing still watching me, a small smile on his face.
“You know, it’s kind of boring watching you take photos,” he said. “Don’t you want to see things with your eyes?”
And in that instant I realised that the compromising would have to continue. He realised the same thing when I chose where we went for dinner that night (and the next night, and the next!)
2. Insist on time alone… or better yet, travelling alone too.
Now if I want to take hundreds of photos, I do it on my own. And if I want to sit and read my book in a cafe on my own, I do it. And if there’s a place I want to go that my boyfriend does, I do what I can to get there without disrupting our shared travel plans.
I’m very lucky that press trips and travel for work mean that I often travel on my own or without my partner, but if we get to a few months of being in each other’s pockets constantly, I always know it’s time to spend some time apart and this is perfectly healthy; it’s important to miss the one you love! Man, I love that feeling of being reunited with him after a week away.
3. Do go to bed on an argument, even if you don’t want to
This has to be the hardest thing I’ve learned in my relationship, having always naturally had a desire to resolve problems as soon as possible and to always fall asleep in a good mood. But after a long day in transit that ended with getting ripped off by a taxi driver who took us to a not very pleasant hotel room in Jakarta, I found myself in a mood with my boyfriend and completely exhausted. Despite wanting to “talk about it” with him, I didn’t have the energy to challenge his reluctance to do the same and before I knew it, I was falling asleep on the edge of our tiny bed as far away from him as possible. I woke the next morning and couldn’t remember why I was in a mood with him. I still can’t. I’m no longer afraid of faling asleep on an argument and 9/10 we wake the next morning much closer… literally!
4. Honesty is the bestest policy ever
When my boyfriend told me that he didn’t enjoy watching me take hundreds of photos, it hurt. Because I love to take hundreds of photos. But if he hadn’t have told me so early on in our travels, he would have grown angry and resentful and I would have stayed oblivious. By being honest with me we stopped something that was a manageable problem becoming a huge issue. Honesty isn’t always easy – and I’m not sure I need to keep telling him every time I spot a new grey hair on his chest – but it has helped us iron out things that could have become more of an issue in the future.
5. Have mutual travel goals
My partner and I travel because we can. We both work online, enjoy comfortable living and trying new foods from around the world. We like cycling cities, snowboarding down mountains and lazy beach holidays. These are just some of our mutual travel “goals”; there are many others that we don’t share – that’s where that compromise part and travelling along thing comes into play – but together we focus on the ones we share to ensure that the travel we do is good for both of us at the same time, as much as possible.
6. Laugh everyday
Without a doubt, if my boyfriend didn’t make me laugh everyday our relationship would be half the wonderful thing it is. Do what you can to keep your loved one laughing eveyday while travelling or otherwise. Even if it’s just showing him/her a YouTube video of goats screaming like humans.
7. Go through travel photos together
It’s a curse of the digital revolution that the majority of the photos we take stay on hard drives and social networks and not on the walls of our homes. After nearly two years on the road, it wasn’t until just a few months ago that my boyfriend and I sat down and went through the last twelve months of our travels in photos. We remembered moments we’d forgotten, recalled funny stories and found plenty of evidence that we are pretty happy together.
8. Argue smart
Arguments are always unpleasant but you can limit how nasty they become by training yourself to not stoop to name-calling, digging up the past or dishing out ultimatums. Of course, this is easier said than done, and it’s a constant learning curve, but practising “Smart Arguing” whereby we don’t instantly go for our respective buttons has helped us contain issues rather than letting them overwhelm us.
9. Eat well and sleep well
One of my major triggers for arguing and becoming irritable is hunger and my boyfriend is particularly grumpy when he has had a late night. That’s why I’ll never provoke an argument with him when he’s tired and he’ll always make sure I eat something before we embark on a long or stressful journey to keep my “hanger” at bay. That’s my kind of team work!
10. Don’t blame it on the travel
They say that travel can make or break a couple, and this really annoys me. Travel is not always to blame for the breakdown of a relationship. If you blame travel for your arguments, break-ups and low times, you run the risk of ruining your own personal relationship with travel, which no matter who your travel companion is now and in the future, that is one life-long relationship you can count on to be fulfilling, satisfying and enriching.
What are your top tips for travelling with the one you love?