We’ve all seen them. The #travelcouples.

Those sun-tanned,carefree pairs traipsing through the back roads of Asia on a motorcycle, or navigating a well-appointed, vintage camper van around continental Europe. While it may be hard to spot them in real life, this species of lovebirds are taking social media by storm, instagramming every cliffside selfie and lonely desert cactus along their journeys. On the surface, it seems like a thrilling life to live. And I’m here to let you in on a little secret… it is.

You see, after examining the qualifications of my boyfriend, Kris, and I, it dawned on me that we are indeed a travel couple, having traveled, lived, and worked across the globe for the past two years. And while I wouldn’t trade my lifestyle for anything in the world, there is a bit more to it than the quick-witted Instagram captions reveal. A life on-the-go requires a tricky recipe of organization, flexibility and determination, sprinkled with a solid bit of hard work. Every couple is different, blazing their own trail in diverse ways. Kris’ and my particular trail involves a lot of boats (we work on cruise ships), waves and road trips. But one thing we’ve all got in common, is the desire to make a life on-the-go as successful as possible, together. So how do you strike the perfect balance between lust and wanderlust? Let’s take a peek at the lessons I’ve learned along the way, though something tells me the learning curve isn’t yet finished…

1. The World is One Big Date Night

When you’re constantly on the road (or sea), it can be hard to establish a routine for a sense of normalcy, especially in regards to a relationship. But date night is one sacred shred of “real life” that my boyfriend, Kris, and I carry with us wherever we go. This is partially my doing, as I’ve always preached the importance of taking one night a week to put on lipstick, check out a new restaurant, bar or film festival, and just be together.

And the best part about being a travel couple is the backdrop for these dates is constantly changing. In Stockholm, Kris and I had an amazing lunch date at the Thai Boat, which is a festive ship serving Thai food on the water, before walking the perimeter of the city’s park-laden, hipster neighborhood, the Södermalm. On road trips, I think date night poses a bigger challenge, with a greater reward, as I normally like to shower and look somewhat put together. But throwing on a cute Zara blouse in the back of a van, walking through the ancient streets of Comillas, Spain, and eating incredible grilled octopus at a hole-in-the-wall eatery, is a date I will never forget. Subsequently heading back to the van, parking in a small clearing overlooking the beach, and waking up to the sound of the waves through the open car windows, was the icing on the cake.

2. Time is Money… literally

While I love social media for the way it allows people all over the world to be so easily connected, the filter of “reality” is often missing from most Instagrams, especially in regards to travel. And while Americans like to tiptoe around financial questions and concerns (everyone else in the world seems so open about it. What’s up with this, America?), let me be blunt in saying time is money, and if you want to spend time together as a travel couple, it usually requires, you guessed it, money! But instead of seeing this as a financial drain, I’ve come to look at it as a shift in priorities. Back in New York, I worked for four weeks straight, without a day off, to pay for my trip to Portugal to visit Kris, and to cover rent while I was gone. But then I learned how to surf on a secluded, cliff-lined beach in the Algarve and the following Instagram post clearly conveyed my absolute joy in the moment, without a second thought about the work it took to get there. It was worth it. No doubt.

And this shift in priorities was a major factor in my decision to move to Portugal, which leads us to numero tres…

3. The Importance of Home

Home. I like having one. This is a personal preference, as I know of many couples that abandon the idea of a stationary home altogether, and devote themselves to a life of new homes every day. For me, the idea of a home base is a sacred, comforting thing in this life of constant change. Kris’ and my home base is currently in Portugal, tucked away in an adorable surf town, known as Ericeira. It’s a convenient European location, only 40 kilometers from Lisbon, and the cost of living is low enough to maintain a life of adventures, without sacrificing the idea of home. After every contract on a cruise ship, or road trip, or visit to my family in the states, I relish walking through our antique-tiled front hallway, opening the French doors in our living room to let in the fresh, sea air, and crashing on the couch with BBC and a good cup of coffee from the café next door (check out @themill_ericeira on Instagram). To me, this is home, and I look forward to my time there, however limited it may be.

4. We Do Indeed Work!

Really! Well I can’t speak for every travel couple out there, but most of us have jobs! We’re not weird, homeless, good-for-nothings. We’ve just found a way to “make it work”, in the words of Tim Gunn. Many travelers are freelancers of some sort, which equates to portable work, with the help of a laptop or iPad. And the perfect opportunity to knock out said work, comes in the form of travel days. Getting to a new destination always requires a bit of down time, though you rarely see this in posts from travel couples. Whether it be on a plane, bus, or ship, I’ve come to see travel days as an opportunity for productivity. Finishing my rehearsals or writing assignments on the “boring” travel days, allows me to make the most of the more scenic days, while still managing to finance the whole operation.

If I’ve learned anything since taking the leap to live abroad, it’s that work is everywhere; you just have to find it. And the perk of being in a couple, is you never know who will find work first, and where it will lead you both. Kris came to visit me while I was working a particularly chilly cruise contract, which allowed us 17 days of time together in Iceland and Norway, which have, in my opinion, some of the world’s most stunning nature views. While you may scan Instagram and think “oh I could never do that!” in actuality, you can! Find your niche, hone your skills, and get traveling. Work is out there, and you can find it, and accomplish it. Preferably on travel days…

5. Dude Relax.

“Seriously, relax.” This is the internal mantra I repeat to myself a few times a month, as I’m wrapped up in the flurry of a new place. In normal life, most couples have a lazy Saturday morning, or one night a week when they lounge around in sweatpants and order pizza. But, for example, when you’ve only got three days in San Sebastian, Spain, before moving on to the next destination, it feels wrong to stay in and watch bad, reality TV instead of going out for more mind-blowing tapas and cheap wine. Some people have the energy to do it all. (My conspiracy theory is that they chug Red Bull all day. Cheaters.)

And while I’m a very energetic person, and traveler, I’ve learned the importance of taking the chill time when it best presents itself. Otherwise, I wander the streets of a new place like an over-caffeinated zombie, and become a very grumpy partner. In Barcelona I skipped the Park Güell because I was really stinkin’ tired from an action-packed morning of exploring. And after a glorious nap and espresso in bed (thanks Kris), Kris and I ventured out for the evening, completely refreshed and ready to absorb the best of Barcelona’s nightlife. As luck would have it, we stumbled upon a neighborhood wine festival in the Gothic Quarter, which I interpreted as our reward for listening to our tired bodies. You have to do what’s best for you, and for your relationship. And sometimes that’s a good, old-fashioned nap.

I am in no way perfect, my partner isn’t perfect (shhhhh), and my relationship isn’t perfect.

But somehow, with a lot of trust in each other, an adventurous spirit, and hard work, we’ve managed to craft a life constantly brimming with new places and experiences. Of course there are strange eccentricities that come with a life on-the-go, like the importance of an international phone plan, a knack for finding quaint wifi cafes for work sessions (accompanied by artisanal coffee) all over the world, and seizing every opportunity to use a clean, fresh-smelling shower or toilet. But the broader, over-arching lessons I’ve learned about striking a balance between routine, work, and discovery, all the while remaining a good teammate to my other half, can’t be displayed in an Instagram post. And maybe it’s better that way. Because figuring out health insurance abroad can indeed be a pain, Ryan Air flights are anything but glamorous, and some roadside toilets in France are absolutely horrifying. But I would never want the filter of reality to cloud the undeniable awe of seeing the world with a partner. So while I’m definitely not a sun-tanned model (lol at my pale, Irish skin), my #travelcouple story is very real, very fulfilling, and very much so only beginning.

Stay tuned for more lessons. I have a feeling there will be plenty…