8 simple rules for travelling as a couple…
Travelling with your partner can be absolutely amazing. (Here are 10 reasons why) You have someone to share every experience with, to support you when times are tough and to commiserate with you when the trip is over. It could also be a nightmare. You’re stuck 24/7 with each other and thrown into some of the most stressful situations you’re likely to have ever come across. At some point you are likely to be hot, tired, hungry, suffering from jet-lag and/or food poisoning, unable to find anywhere to sleep, strapped to a heavy backpack and battling through throngs of locals trying to sell you yet another woven bracelet. It is tough and there will inevitably be snappy arguments and intense sulking at some point during your trip. But how to get your relationship to compliment your travels not ruin it? Of course, every relationship is going to be different, but these are the (sometimes unspoken) rules we use to keep our travel partnership a happy one:
1. Be friends first, a couple second
All good relationships are built on a basis of friendship. Trust, respect and mutual enjoyment of each other’s company are vital components to any relationship but particularly to a romantic one. The leap to something more can add extra layer of emotional depth, but also extra opportunities for hurt and arguments. Sometimes travel is stressful enough without needing to bring in the extra complications. Maybe the above scenario is not the best time for a “Were you checking him/her out?” or a “Where is this relationship going?” conversation.
2. I can flirt as long as it’s to get extra food
I think this is my favourite of our rules. We’re both foodies and a sizeable chunk of our relationship has been built up over our shared love of a good meal. And sometimes, when you’re ordering a burrito it doesn’t hurt to give the guy behind the counter a big smile as you ask if you ask if you can have extra sour cream. And if batting your eyelids at the guy selling the Italian food gets me extra mozzarella then I’m all for it. The point is to work out where the boundaries lie within your relationship. Where do you stop being comfortable about the other’s behaviour? Get those thoughts out in the open and find out about each other’s comfort zone. Travel puts you in some new and unexpected situation so it’s worth having an idea of where you stand before it leads to an argument.
3. Learn to be able to ask for space
This rule was one we decided on after moving in together but it’s particularly helpful for the close contact living that comes with travel. We each have to be able to ask for space from the other without explanation or the risk of upset. Sometimes it’s to cool off mid argument, but mostly it comes from a feeling of just needing to be alone for a little time to feel solitary (in a good way). I can’t recommend this one enough as way to prevent unnecessary arguments.
4. Check you have shared expectations from the trip
This can apply to any choice of travel partner. Are you working on the same budget? Are you interested in the same destinations/sites? Will you expect to do everything together or will you occasionally go different ways? Will you stick to private rooms or are you comfortable in dorm rooms? Get these thoughts out in the open early enough to talk through how you’re going to approach the trip. You’ll both have a better time as a result.
5. Make time for your relationship
In direct contrast to my first point, sometimes you need to make time to be a couple. With all of the adventures and meeting new people it’s easy to get neglectful of your relationship. It’s worth making the effort to spend time together. Maybe even go on a date!
6. Don’t judge your relationship against others
You’ll meet hundreds of other couples as you travel. Everyone does it differently; some bicker continuously, others never appear to argue. Some choose to sleep in private rooms the whole time, others prefer the PDA opportunities of a dorm room. Some couples are incredibly independent, often doing completely different activities while you’ll find some are joined at the hip. Don’t let it worry you how others are doing it. You only have each other’s expectations to live up to. As long as you’re both happy, don’t feel the need to change a thing.
7. Don’t let money come between you
Money has got to be up there in the top 3 of argument starting topics. Once again, talk through your budget and get those ideas out in the open (are you sensing a theme here). Decide between you what your budget is and how you’re going to keep track of it. Will it be set daily, weekly or monthly? Will you write everything down or type it into a trip budgeting site (the lovely chaps over at Married with Luggage use this fancy system)? What are you allowed to splurge on? Anticipate this issue before you become bitter about the way he keeps spending money on, say, bungee jumping.
8. Celebrate your differences and work to your strengths
This is the one that’s taken me the longest to get to grips with. I’ve been planning for this upcoming trip for nearly two years now. I’ve been saving my money and working towards what was, for a lot of the time, an undetermined goal. But Alan doesn’t work like that. He needs time pressure to get anything done. He works best when a deadline is breathing down his neck. His goals need to be shorter term than mine. On the other hand he has the interest and the patience to search through thousands of websites, comparing and contrasting their deals on titanium cooking pots. He gets excited at the opportunity to weigh up the different specs of various camping stoves. He can be relied upon to research the ins and outs of all possible backpacking gadgets and whether or not we actually need them. Put him in front of a flight deal comparison site though and his attention will wander quicker than you can say “angry birds”.
We have learned to appreciate and value each other for our differences. In practice it means dividing up the jobs in a way that works for us. Dalene over at Hecktic travels has written about how they divvy up the labour when they travel.
Every couple is going to be completely different, but we’ve found that working this way is what works for us. How do you keep the peace when you travel? Do you have any particular rules to keep your relationship rosy on the road?