A few days ago, I saw an article that a bunch of awesome travel blogging couples collaborated on, which gave advice for couples who are planning to/are already traveling together. This made me reflect on my own experiences of traveling with a significant other for the past three years. I may not possess a wealth of knowledge on solo female travel- in fact, I’ve got none apart from when I traveled to Poland on my own and when I moved to South Korea. It was during my first independent trip when I met my current partner, so I’ve hardly been “alone” since. However, I am in possession of an endless vat of thoughts and feelings regarding traveling as a two-some; specifically, I could melt your ears talking about traveling with a boyfriend.
It sure isn’t easy- sometimes, you want to kill each other- but traveling with a romantic partner is completely different than traveling alone. Neither is better or worse; they are beautiful and unique in their own ways. With that being said, satisfying your own wanderlust while maintaining a healthy relationship comes with some challenges that can make or break you as a couple. I’ve compiled a short list of tips, which you are free to take or leave according to your own judgement, for how to not only allow your relationship to survive, but also flourish, while on the road.
One of the Big C’s in any relationship. This might seem a bit obvious, but you’d be surprised to know how many couples are unrelenting with their own wants and needs. Don’t get me wrong: you should never sacrifice something that means a lot to you in your travels; you’ll only regret it later and will probably end up resenting the other person. However, it’s important, nay, CRUCIAL, to be able to compromise. You are two individuals, after all, and hopefully, as well-functioning adults, you can figure out a way to make both parties satisfied and happy. There is only one fool-proof way of achieving this, which brings me to my next tip.
Another of the Big C’s- really, there are so many important words that begin with C; it’s astonishing. When you are spending literally 24 hours a day 7 days a week with a single person, it can actually become a bit more difficult to communicate. Sometimes, you may find that you hit a roadblock and don’t know how to proceed. Perhaps you’ve had a disagreement. Perhaps you’re at the point where you’d like nothing more than to grab the other person by his/her shoulders and shake them until they see your point-of-view and give in to what you want; try to avoid this. Calm yourself and talk to each other respectfully. No two people can go on without disagreeing infinitely- I find this to be inevitable. Just don’t make arguing a regular occurrence. By communicating clearly, you reduce the risk of falling out over something stupid. If you have an opinion or a desire to do something, say it. Admit when you are wrong, apologize when you are sorry, and remember that you’re dealing with a real person with real feelings. If you are incapable of communicating and resolving issues, perhaps you need to reevaluate your decision to travel together.
This goes along with communicating. However, talking is only one side of it. Listening is equally important. I’m not trying to reiterate Kindergarten lessons here, but…yes, I am. As adults, we oftentimes forget to do this. See above: you are dealing with a real person with real feelings. You are not the only one who matters. If you’d like to take that approach to your life, that’s completely fine; you would just probably be better off traveling alone. When the other person is uncomfortable, listen and comfort them. Take their wants and opinions into consideration. Disagreement should not equal disrespect.
Not always. I have always been opinionated and I have always let my opinions be known. Sometimes, though, you need to know when it’s best to just be quiet. Remember, you’re spending an almost unnatural amount of time with another person. There will be plenty of time to chat. If your significant other is having an “off” day- whether it was his fault that you got lost or your fault that you had to backtrack 10k because your favorite headband fell out of your backpack- you need to recognize when it’s best to just cool off for a few minutes.
I am admittedly quite bad at this at times. Every couple usually has some type of dynamic, where one is the “leader” and the other is the “follower”. I don’t say this in an offensive or derogatory way. Usually, when two people are in a functioning relationship, one person is more keen to take charge while the other is up for whatever; I am the latter. After a while, though, this dynamic can become tiring, and said leader needs a break every once and a while. Don’t forget that you are a team in which both members need to be capable of swapping roles every now and then.
Let Bygones Be Bygones
This is perhaps one of the most important tips I have to give any couple, whether they are traveling or not. There doesn’t always need to be a winner, nor does there need to be a scapegoat for every mishap. It might scratch at your innards incessantly, but on the road (as well as in the rest of life) we all need to remember to pick and choose our battles. Hanging on to a single trivial spat or minor detail will only begin to suffocate your relationship. You’re supposed to be having fun, after all! So what if he lost the sleeping bag in the Danube River? Oh well if she used half the puncture kit on the first day of your cross-continental cycle trip? Sometimes, you just have to grit your teeth and bear the fact that he/she ate the last scoop of peanut butter.
It’s best to give a firm squeeze while doing so, as well. While strolling around a romantic European city, it’s easy to remember to be affectionate. However, it becomes a bit less lovey-dovey when you’re drenched in a week’s worth of sweat and make a New York City summer smell like a field of daisies. Even when you’re tired, feeling gross, or just not in the mood, remember to give each other attention. Being around a person all the time creates the easiest scenario for taking him/her for granted, and that’s the opposite of what happy couples want.
Challenge Yourself and Each Other
I’ll end with this one. Depending on the type of people you are, this is either especially important or completely useless. You be the judge. For me, I don’t think I could be happy and continue a relationship with a person who did not consistently challenge me and make me a better person each and every day. This sentiment can be applied to any set of circumstances in any location. It could be as simple as persuading you to try a new cuisine when you think you’ll hate it. Alternatively, it could also be giving verbal and moral support when you feel that you’re at your physical end on a trek or other strenuous journey. This type of encouragement and teamwork, for me, is what solidifies a relationship and gives you the fondest and most treasured memories. Overcoming obstacles and achieving goals together is the sexiest and most intimate thing we can do together on this planet. Don’t believe me? Try it.