Traveling as a couple
Here’s what it’s like for us to travel as a couple. For Kyle and I, when we travel, we are together nearly 24-hours straight for the entire duration of the trip. For the most part, we actually travel really well together and balance each other out. We’re lucky because we do love spending so much time together and sometimes actually feel like we love each other more, the more often we get to see each other.
But truth be told, we are together a lot and that does mean that sometimes we get frustrated at each other, have short fuses, and then have stupid arguments.
For example, we’ve argued over which exit we want to take out of the Plaza Mayor because we both kept playing the, “I don’t care” game. But for some reason — even though we were both saying ‘I don’t care’ — one person got mad at the other one for saying it and then threw a tantrum. It was one of our last days in Salamanca and this argument carried out onto the bus ride into another city. The argument finally ended on the bus. I might add… in a silent win for the person that didn’t throw the tantrum.
More common arguments among traveling couples are fighting over whether to go out or stay in. Now you might ask yourself, why don’t they both just do what they want and then it’s no big deal? Great question readers. This became part two of that argument. We’ve also argued because we weren’t able to find a monument and so we fought over proper map navigation.
Here are some tips that we have for traveling in peace and staying in love. While some of these traveling couples’ tips might sound obvious, we’ll explain how overlooking these things can easily make things go awry. These rules especially apply to couples traveling on a more long-term basis.
Here are six big keys for couples to travel together happily.1 First thing is, mentally preparing yourself for the give and take. It’s one thing to go on a two-week trip with the mentality that you are both here to quench every drop of the sites, but it’s a whole other thing to attempt living abroad where you both begin to settle. By going in with an understanding that you both won’t always get what you want, every time (just like a relationship outside of traveling), you both will have a better time. We take turns picking between his excursions and mine. We take turns cooking for each other and then together. There are some things that I know Kyle is better at and some things that I’m better at, and we simply keep those assigned to their rightful talent. With that in mind, if you are (for example) going on a budget trip, the person that handles money should be in charge of handling the money. The purpose (of course) is to reduce arguments. Knowing that this is the purpose for assigning key skills to the proper person should reduce debates over how those matters are handled.
2 The second and most important thing is, that Kyle and I are really great at letting things go fast. We can argue about something and then turn around to see a monument and instantly remember that fighting is stupid and this monument is cool. We forgive and forget quickly. This has often been instrumental in keeping us in love with each other – and in love with traveling. Maybe it’s not healthy to brush over some things all the time? I don’t know, i’m not a doctor – but I think it’s part of choosing your battles in a healthy way.
This traveling advice especially comes in handy when you are rooming with others in a flat, or are guests in someone’s home. Since we are usually roommates with foreigners, or crashing at someone else’s house overseas, we’ll argue over the other person’s lack for tidiness, or inability for washing dishes two seconds after using them, or not tip-toeing quiet enough. — I think with this, we hit a breaking point to where we have to just stop being overly paranoid and say to ourselves, “Okay. Let’s ease up and focus on liking each other above everyone and everything else.” We have to do this, or else we’ll lose sight of everything we gave up to travel.
Maintain the focal point of ensuring a positive, happy experience together overseas.
Right now for example, we have a terrible OCD roommate. He puts signs up that no one can touch anything, even though some of the stuff belongs to the apartment. He boarded up his door and he’s weird, and he sucks. He takes up several cabinets spread throughout the kitchen (like he owns the place) but then doesn’t want anyone touching his stuff. A lot of stuff comes with the apartment, so at this point it becomes hard to know what things are his and what things are included in rent. This guy’s having a tough time because he’s sharing an apartment with four other people.
So for the first two months that Kyle and I lived here, we walked on eggshells. And I was very tense about every little thing we did in the apartment. At this point, I’ve officially reached a breaking point to where I think my body will become physically ill if I concern myself with this any more (in addition to worrying about everything my fiancé is doing to attribute to potentially annoying this guy), that I have decided not to give a crap from now on. We pay our rent (double what the OCD guy is paying btw) and we have a right to access everything that came with the apartment. Point is, I don’t need to be at my partner’s back constantly, or let someone’s weird personality problems ruin a lucky opportunity for us. “Enjoy” will stay at the forefront of my mind. —this is irrelevant to the post as a whole but people with OCD should not live in shared living situations. While living in a community apartment, all things of mine that I don’t want touched, I keep in my room. Or to make it easier, keep in one location in the kitchen so it’s easier to let new roommates know what each section is.
4 For us, since we’re trying to learn another language, we also have a layer of arguments over miscommunication in Spanish. Yah, this argument is annoying enough in our native English language, when one person is pretending to listen and isn’t really listening. For this advice, I think i’d just recommend keeping this expectation in mind if you are both traveling to learn a new language.
5 In order to make traveling together work, especially long term traveling, you have to both really want it. This means, “all-hands-in” with an agreement that you are both really in it together. This also means that you are not just holding hands throughout the “honey moon” phases of sightseeing, but also throughout the pitfalls.
This tip is IMPORTANT and cannot be stressed enough. The blame game is a stupid game and if one person is only half-way into having a trip, the game will be played frequently.
This essentially means that when things go awry, both of you are trying to figure out how to resolve it — and you really are in it together. If you decide to live on a budget, stick to the budget. If you are traveling with the intent to live like kings on the US dollar, so be it.
This really makes all the difference on turning a great opportunity into something sour. The first time Kyle and I traveled, we both understood that we were going to scrape by, that we needed to savor our taste buds in favor of daily, cheap rice-meals in exchange for weekend excursions. This made the trip great though because we were able to be more creative with whatever random food we had left to cook with. It also made us less wasteful and more strategic in our travels overall (read more about how to budget travel). On the second long trip we took, one of us remained in the mind-frame of the ‘minimalist traveler’ and the other person was in the mindset of US living standards. This became hazardous.
Which leads into my next tip for couples traveling…
6 You have to both be on the same page about what you want to get out of each trip that you are going to take. Both agree to be minimalists, both agree to live like locals, both agree to live like royalty, both agree to be hippies, farmers, nudists… whatever it is, get on the same page. If there’s a goal to complete, both work towards completing the goal.
In addition to getting on the same page with each other, both people should understand what they are both getting themselves into. What’s the city like? What’s likely to happen for tourists there? How’s water/food ingestion for foreigners? Research it and then go in expecting to confront these findings head-on when you arrive. Going in with an expectation is going to make your trip less whiney.
For example, the first time Kyle and I traveled, we over prepared. Money belt in major cities, padlocked bags, caution in our hoohas, etc. We abided every guide book we ever read. When we traveled, we didn’t stress having to do this, we expected having to do this. It became innate. Other trips, having to do this became an added stressor and an excuse to act out. The main point is, you both are at the same level of understanding with expectations of yourselves, of each other and of the trip itself.