Travelling as a Couple: a Survival Guide

Travelling as a couple

By Darren Crocker from From First to Last

Thinking of a big trip with your other half? Great! I can’t even begin to explain what travel has done for me as a person and to share that experience with someone you love makes the trip that bit more special.

But I’ll be honest: I said I never would go travelling with a partner. Why? Well because I can’t stand my own company half of the time, never mind someone else’s.

However things change and I ended up on a four month trip with my girlfriend after 15 months of travelling on my own. So folks, the following advice is purely based on my experiences. Take what you will from it but I stick by every word.

1. Go for the right reasons

I’ve never quite understood the expression ‘make or break a relationship’. Why put each other in extreme, high-pressured situations in order to save your relationship? I don’t understand the logic behind it.

If you are looking to salvage a relationship for whatever reason, travel isn’t the way to go about it.

Being on the road can be stressful and can put unthinkable strain on one another. It is imperative that you are both in the right place emotionally and mentally, and to use another expression ‘read from the same page’.

If your heart isn’t in it or you can tell your partner’s isn’t, don’t do it. There will be harder tests ahead and new complications will arise faster than the old ones being resolved. It is likely to drive a bigger wedge between than you ending up coming closer together. Before you book, be sensible about it. Talk it through, weigh up the pros and cons, be honest with each other and most importantly, be realistic otherwise you may be setting yourself up for a disaster on a big scale.

2. Give each other space and communicate

There’s no avoiding the fact that you will drive each other mad at some stage. Even strong and experienced couples need their personal space.

Unless you are behind bars, no one expects you to put up with someone 24/7. It’s not normal and it can be destructive if given enough time.

Some of my favourite people on the road have been couples and a lot of the time I had no idea they were even together to begin with. Whether it is hostel common rooms, in the dorms or at the bar, you should make the effort in talking to other people. It’s a great way to off-load some steam and you need the outside interaction to keep the relationship healthy.

Here’s a thought:

For a moment, think about what all your bad habits are. Now think about things about you that may annoy other people. Got them?  Now ask your partner to do the same and laugh about them now, because folks, when you are with each other for long periods of time, you will experience them all, and believe me; they won’t be that funny.

Try not to let any underlying anger build up. Say what’s on your mind before it gets to that stage but also be careful not to pick on silly things. Be kind with your words and save the sarcasm. It doesn’t help.

If there is no one to talk to and you need your space for whatever reason, you’ll know yourself the best way to approach it and what works for you. Personally I avoided things like “You’re doing my head in. I’m away out for a beer,” and generally went with “I’m just away to check if that place does breakfast.”

But I am by no means perfect.

There were times where I went for breakfast and came home hammered.

3. Keep your finances separate

Money is a monster that will rear its ugly head more often than not on your trip. It’s your lifeline and you would be nowhere without it. No matter how well you budget there will be times where you spend more than you should. It’s normal.

You will be sharing most things on your trip (hotel rooms, taxis, food etc.) but money shouldn’t be one of them until you feel comfortable doing so. We actually combined our money towards the end but to start out I wouldn’t recommend it. Why? Because things can get complicated fast:

  • Take turns in paying or split things 50/50. It’s likely that this was working for you back home so why change it now?
  • You worked and saved hard for this trip, so your money is personal. Keep it that way.
  • Don’t be too tight. If you see a nice restaurant you want to eat in, do it! You can always cut back another time.
  • Wasting your own money is easy and you only have yourself to blame. Wasting your partner’s or vice-versa is asking for trouble.
  • Remember you don’t have to do everything together. Encourage each other to spend money on the things you enjoy. You never know when you will be back so don’t ask too many questions and just go for it.
  • Have the same budget but don’t stick to it religiously. Relax, have fun and don’t let money take over your trip.

4. Accept certain inevitabilities

I’m not the jealous type, but in Malaysia I got so fed up with guys staring at my girlfriend that I started to walk a few paces ahead of her so I didn’t have it in my face constantly. It happens and there’s no point in getting upset about something you can’t control.

You will be on public transport often and this can be stressful, especially when you just want to be on your own and you’re exhausted from the long day.

You will fall out over silly little things that really don’t matter.

You will get lost at some stage looking for your hostel.

You will get ripped off by someone. Let it slide. There’s nothing you can do afterwards and the blame game only inflames a situation.

I could go on…

5. Love and respect one another

Enjoy, embrace, don’t take yourselves too seriously and remember why you wanted to go on this amazing journey together in the first place.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that someone loves you enough to want to be with you all the time.

Be kind, thoughtful, and appreciate each other’s strengths. Forget their weaknesses.

Look at the bigger picture.

Your time on the road will be over before you know it. Make the most of it. You never know if you will be back in these places again.

What are your tips for travelling with your partner? Tell us in the comments…

Author bio: Darren is a twentysomething year old Scotsman with two and a half years of travel experience. 

Photos c. Darren Crocker

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