If there’s one takeaway from the book and movie Into the Wild I will always carry with me, it’s this:
“Happiness is only real when shared.”
When I first starting traveling, I trekked solo for the better part of 2 years. It was great! I was able to come and go as I pleased, see anything I wanted to see at any time of day, eat whatever came to mind and experience total and complete freedom.
Something that came with that freedom, though, was loneliness. One day as I swam alone at the Cairns Esplanade Swimming Lagoon in Australia, I saw a couple playing in the water together and kissing. I tried to not let it affect me, but it shook me. I was completely lonesome. I wish I had someone by my side to experience all the amazing things I was doing: snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, hiking in the rain forest, jungle expeditions and meeting new friends.
Later that year I met my current boyfriend Jonathan and we’ve been together ever since. We fell in love with each other and both loved traveling. The perfect storm brewed and we became a couple that traveled full-time together.
Traveling with your romantic partner is something every couple should do. Traveling tests your limits and expands your mind. Having new and exciting experiences with someone you love keeps things interesting, fresh and fun.
But, all the benefits of traveling with my boyfriend came at a cost. I could no longer saunter into parties and flirt with wild men. Gone were the days of perusing clothing markets (I couldn’t bare the site of Jonathan in the “husband chair” just waiting for me to be done). If I wanted to eat Mexican food, I didn’t stand a good chance as Jonathan prefers Asian cuisine. Times: they were a changin’.
Traveling together as a couple meant learning how to navigate through the ever-changing and exciting world as a team, not solo. I learned a lot about what it means to make a meaningful relationship work even in the thick of it.
Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way:
1. Make sacrifices: You might not want to hear this, but I believe if you want to successfully travel the world as a couple, you have to sacrifice. You might not to be able to visit a certain site or eat the specific cuisine you had your heart set on. More than once you’ll have to put off getting your haircut or buying yourself a cute pair of shoes because your partner’s ATM card isn’t working abroad. You’ll probably resort to PB&Js for a night or two just to get a private hostel room, whereas before you didn’t mind cramming into an 12-bed room. When you travel as a couple, you have to think of yourself as a collective whole, not as two individual people.
2. Practice patience: Whenever Jonathan and I road tripped across the U.S., I was like my dog- my head was out the window and I wanted to stop every hour or two to take pictures, go to the bathroom or stretch. Jonathan was the king of “keep driving,” even at the cost of me whining about “passing up all the sites.” I finally learned that Jonathan was simply waiting for the right moment to pull off so that we could have privacy, use the bathroom AND refuel or find the ultimate scenic spot for a photo opp. Biting my tongue and practicing patience when all I wanted was my way proved difficult, but the payoff always trumped my impatience.
3. Go with the flow: Shit happens on the road. You’ll get a flat tire. You’ll get robbed. You’ll run out of money. Someone in your group will get in a fight and you have to hitchhike home. When traveling, you have to be the master of expecting the unexpected. Letting a little adversity that isn’t anyone’s fault come between you as a couple is a sign of naivitee. To point fingers and blame your significant other during a tough time only widens your gap and decreases the effectivity of safely solving a problem. If you can remain calm and encourage your partner to follow suit, you can take on any challenge with a clear mind.
4. Respect each other’s alone time: I can’t stress this enough. Yes, you’re in love and you love to do every lovey dovey thing together. We get it. Now that you’re done suffocating, take some time for yourself. I used to get upset when I’d go swimming and Jonathan didn’t feel like getting in the water. It made me feel like he didn’t want to enjoy something with me that I enjoyed doing so much. I realize, now, that his version and my version of “enjoying” vary a great deal sometimes, and some experiences are saved just for me. Those special moments when I can get away and practice yoga, write, swim, go for a jog or do anything that brings me peace is a gift and vice versa.
5. Make time for just the two of you: You might be thinking: “Make time for the two of you? You’re traveling the world together! What more time do you need?!” Travel is not glamorous. In fact, it’s a full-time job. Between balancing finances, dealing with interesting characters you meet on the road, calling home, arranging stays, dealing with unruly passengers or moody gas station attendants, sometimes you forget to look next to you, see your partner and fully comprehend that you’re in this together. Don’t let the world bog you down. Find alone time to reconnect. If that’s catching a movie together, preparing a meal with each other or simply taking a walk hand in hand, it’s important to find time to celebrate one-on-one the reason why you decided to travel the world together in the first place.
Are you a traveling couple? What tips do you have for staying sane on the road? I’d love to hear your feedback.