It perhaps goes without saying, but I shall say it anyway. There is a huge difference between living with your partner in a typical 9-5 life, and travelling with them long-term.
In everyday life we usually work a forty hour week. We might have the gym and socialising apart and when you add in sleep we actually don’t spend that much time in our partners company. To go from this limited contact to every waking moment together can put a lot of stress on a relationship. It doesn’t matter how much you love each other, trying to spend every waking second together, for months, can take its toll.
Travelling to the top of Thailand's tallest mountain, on mopeds, through freezing fog, is a great way to challenge any relationship. Still, we made it, well our relationship did, we nearly didn't - sooooo cold!
Alex and I are fast approaching our Ten year anniversary and in that time, we have gone on many short holidays as well as three long term trips; one of these lasting over 18 months. For sure, there have been some tricky moments, but we have learnt the ebb and flow of our travel style and have put together a helpful list of things to keep in mind - all with the goal of staying together as a couple.
Learn to deal with displacement
Displacement, is the idea that because we can’t get angry with the people we want to, we get angry with an easier target, often our partners.
When travelling, believe me, many things will get on your nerves. Taxis are a pet hate of mine, with many countries across the world having a similar problem. The taxis have signs on the side saying that all cabs have metres and no bartering is allowed. However, when you get in one of these cabs, the metres are always inexplicably broken. Screaming at the taxi driver will get you nowhere, so where does all that frustration go if you’re not careful, in the face of your partner.
Travelling can bring a fair amount of these kinds of frustrations be it from transport, touts, hawkers or changes on timetables.
(Alex's face after an argument face)
Maps that don’t have the road you’re trying to find, no Internet connection or locals who feel the need to give you the wrong directions rather than say they have no idea. The list of annoyances is long, so how can we limit the times we displace and end up taking it out on your partner?
It’s not easy but first taking a breath and realising that you’re not actually angry at your partner can go a long way. Breathe again and tell your partner who you’re annoyed at. Communication is the key always. What’s more, like a famous Disney princess once belted out, let it go. When travelling, anger rarely serves a purpose and doesn’t need directing anywhere really and is best just let out after a deep breath.
TIP: Book accommodation, at least for your first night, before you arrive in a new place. We love Booking.com because it helps us find
bargains and it's really flexible so if you need to change days, it usually lets you without it costing you anything.
Let arguments go quicker than you did at home
It’s easy in our everyday lives to let arguments drag on. It’s common in many couples for one or both to sulk. I have known many couples who always have to have a long, sit down chat before they can get over a fight. Because of the increased stress travelling can put on a relationship it pays to have a new strategy for dealing with fights. Breathing, again goes a long way (I just don’t know how we’d cope if we didn’t breathe).
So what if your partner snapped at you, so what if they look moody, or aren’t smiling enough. Breathe, let it go, move on. It really is that simple (with practice). When at home, most couples will work in separate jobs so if a tiff has occurred (is that a real word?), one has the whole day apart the next day to get over it and get back to normal. But in such close confines, there is rarely such an opportunity, so learning to let water go under that bridge a tad faster is super important.
If it needs a little more than a deep breath then make it quick. Try not to dwell on the issue or ‘over-analyse’. A phrase like ‘Sorry, I’m being a dick, I’m just tired’ – is a common one that puts an end to whatever issue is going off between Alex and I. We utter these words frequently when backpacking.
Read, play music, learn a language
Just because you are in each other’s company most of the time doesn’t mean that you have to keep each other company the entire time. Stick on your MP3 player, read a book, learn a language, whatever it might be, lose yourself in your own company (even if you are technically sat at the side of your partner). Independent study of a language for example can be very useful; we took separate Spanish classes in Guatemala, did our homework apart, then swapped what we had learnt. That took away any element of competition and made the experience even more rewarding.
Find some space.
Alex and I travel together because we want to travel together. This doesn’t mean that we have to spend every waking moment together. If you both have a phone, get cheap Sims for the country you’re in and then if you want to spend a few hours apart, it’s easy to keep in touch.
I write lots and when I’m locked onto that Alex will often go for a walk, or find a coffee shop somewhere and read. A quick text here and there lets us both know when we’re ready to do something else.
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I know other couples where one will go for a run and others will spend entire days doing their own thing. I’ve even met couples who have spent a few weeks apart as they each wanted to see something different. Find what works for you.
On our most recent trip one of best ways we found to feel more together as a couple was to rent entire apartments through Airbnb. Staying in hostels and hotel rooms is great, but it can
become wearing, so every so often we booked a place to ourselves. Interestingly, through Airbnb it was often cheaper to rent an apartment than it was to pay for a hotel. Click the imagine and
check it out, if you sign up through this link, you get some money off and so do we - win/win!
Travelling with Alex and sharing all those adventures and new experiences together has only made us a stronger couple. It has taught us new things about ourselves and as a couple. It has also given us a fantastic repertoire of memories and dinner party stories that would be non-existent without our trips together. And by finding a way of dealing with the pressures of travel, we are actually still married! Hooray!
It would be great to hear tips from other couples and hear what works for you on your travels.
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