10 Things I Learned Traveling as a Couple
Surviving long-term travel with your significant other
Travel has been an integral part of our relationship. We’re both immensely curious about the world and passionate about learning. In fact, our first few dates were backpacking throughout South America….and simultaneously contracting Montezuma’s Revenge in Peru when we were still in the butterflies stage (our third date!), but I’ll save that story for another post.
Tyler and I have traveled extensively together. We’ve shared life-changing experiences. We’ve visited the Galapagos, climbed Kilimanjaro, and jumped off of a derelict boat captained by a drunk Russian into the bioluminescent waters of Cambodia. One of the things I love about him is his sense of adventure.
Now we can read each other and know what we need to enjoy traveling together for prolonged periods of time. As with all relationships, it’s a continual learning process. I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned:
- Find the humor in every situation. Explosive diarrhea in a third world country when you hardly know each other? That’s hilarious. I was still trying to be “pretty” around him. Ladies, you know what I mean. Doing your hair. Wearing mascara. Attempting to look like a glamorous mountain babe while hiking the Inca Trail. That all goes out the window when you’re hugging a toilet together in a run-down hotel room in Aguas Calientes the night before you reach Machu Picchu. It’s especially hilarious when your trekking guide hits on you while you’re shivering under the covers and suggestively asks, “¿Estas enferma, Anita? Tengo la medicina.” NO. No medicina por favor. It was so absurd (and not funny at the time), but we just laugh about it now.
- Bring snacks. As much as I adore him, Tyler has a low hunger threshold. He eats a LOT. When we lived in DC and passed a Jumbo Slice — you know, the one with pizza slices the size of your torso — Tyler would always buy one as I’d slowly scream “NOOOOOOO!!” while attempting to bat the grease-laden pizza out of his hand like we were in a dramatic movie scene. I have since learned that is socially unacceptable. We know we’re more likely to pick fights with each other when we’re hangry (hungry+angry), and we could avoid bickering altogether if we kept our blood sugar levels stable. One of my tiny promises to him is to bring snacks when we travel.
- Give affection on demand. I’m an affectionate person. I love being hugged. I like hugging on people. Tyler can make me feel better by just being nearby. Even if you feel like smacking the other person on the face, small displays of affection go a long way.
- Practice patience. Traveling in close quarters can push your limits in ways you’re not used to. We have both irritated the hell out of each other at times on the road. When we’re home, we can easily go for a walk or go to the office to blow off steam before making up, but personal space and time are a luxury while traveling. Patience is a muscle — you have to keep working at it before it grows stronger. Before saying something you may regret, take a deep breath and drop the vitriol. You’ll be grateful you did later.
- Forgive quickly. While we were in Croatia this summer, I got stung by a bee. I jumped out of my seat and heedlessly flailed my arms around knocking over a glass of water near Tyler’s laptop — he works remotely and makes his living off of his computer. He scrambled to avoid major damage, and my brain immediately jumped to the worst case scenario: I RUINED HIS BUSINESS. At the end of it, he gave me a big hug and said, “Everything is okay.” I am sure he was drawing up from his well of patience at that moment.
- Decide beforehand how to split travel logistics. It’s important to figure out what works for you. Every couple is different. Play to each other’s strengths. In our case, I have a gazillion frequent flyer miles and airline status from my last job and am passionate about finding optimal flight routes. Tyler is a skilled Airbnb ninja and always finds amazing places for us to stay. It makes sense for me to book our flights and for him to pick out our accommodation. We split other costs 50/50, and we consult each other before we make major decisions. And on that note…
- Keep track of expenses. We use the app Splitwise to enter what we have each paid for. In previous trips, we’ve disagreed about who has paid for what. One person thought they paid for one thing, but the other swore that they did — it’s easy to forget exactly what you’ve spent if you’re not tracking it. The app helps us avoid any money-related resentment. Since we’ve started using it, these tiny arguments disappeared. Splitwise emails you a balance summary at the end of the month as well. I also like the Oanda Currency Converter app. You can convert any currency instantly. It’s a lifesaver when you’re traveling to multiple countries in one trip.
- Seek time alone. Personal time is important. When we’re constantly around each other, we understand the value of having time by ourselves. I love having down days to read or practice yoga while Tyler does his thing. Time away from each other helps us to enjoy our time together more. Plus, it’s exciting to share the different things we did that day with each other. Take some time out for yourself. You’ll both be better off and happier for it.
- Remember to reach out to others. It’s easy to get trapped in our own little adventure bubble. The path of least resistance usually involves only hanging out with each other. Before we started dating, we both traveled solo a lot. I find it’s easier to make friends when traveling alone. When traveling as a couple, I find that we slip into that comfort zone of only talking to each other. Some of my favorite travel memories have been meeting locals or other travelers and exploring with them. Make an effort to reach out to other people; you’ll find they enhance the beauty of being overseas.
- Savor the moments. There may be a time when circumstances don’t allow you to travel. You never know when or if failing health, family obligations, or financial burdens will be the source of constant struggle. Take a deep breath, shut off your iPhone, and be grateful for the moments you have together on this earth. The experiences that you have while traveling will forge a deep, meaningful bond that you can take with you throughout the rest of your life.
Originally published at www.thetraveldarling.com on November 3, 2015.