I met my current boyfriend on an Intrepid tour in 2013, and we’ve been travelling the world together ever since. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s not as romantic as you may think.
I’m the type of traveller who likes getting to the airport hours early because there’s no better feeling than having time to eat, pee, buy a magazine, drink a beer, charge your phone, then pee again. My boyfriend, on the other hand, takes his sweet time with a super laid-back attitude thinking that the plane won’t leave without him. And yet, we travel together all the time.
Travelling isn’t easy for every couple – regardless of whether you’re with a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife, friend, sibling or work colleague. The word ‘travel’ originates from the French word ‘travail’, which means work. In this case, you need to work together to have an awesome holiday. Most recently, my boyfriend and I conquered a five-month backpacking trip through South America, which really tested our relationship. During the first few weeks, we struggled with communication, clashing travel styles, and being out of our comfort zone. But then we worked through those struggles, which helped our relationship positively grow.
Here are five things I learned about travelling with a significant other over a long period of time.
1. Be transparent about your budget
Before you even step on the plane, you and your partner/pal should have ‘the talk’. The talk about the budget. It’s not easy to discuss money as personal finance tends to be a tip-toe topic. But it shouldn’t be.
When it comes to travelling with your partner, lay it all on the table and create a plan around spending. Discuss the budget for accommodation, food, transportation, and activities. This will help you both be on the same page when it comes to choosing a hostel versus a hotel, or taking a cab everywhere versus public transport versus walking.
2. Compromise when it comes to activities or clashing travel styles
As I said, I’m a nervous traveller. I get anxious about missing flights or changing plans, while my boyfriend is not a planner or a worrywart. So, naturally, our travel styles clash. I learned that it’s all about compromise.
In order to help each other through this initial struggle, we had to put ourselves in each other’s shoes. For us, that meant me laying off the planning and letting him take the reins sometimes. That way there’s a little bit of balance. Compromise helped us meet in the middle in order to have the best travel experience.
Doing a group tour is a great option for couples because everything is planned, so there’s less stress about finding accommodation, running for the last train, or finding a (good) cheap restaurant that won’t give you food poisoning. So that saves a lot of possible arguments and frustrations! And when it comes to activities, you’ll have a group to hang back with if you’re not into bungee jumping in Queenstown while your partner already has the harness on.
3. Talk it out – but listen, too
Communication is key to any relationship, with or without travel. But in this case, I learned that listening is especially important. We can talk all we want, but if no one’s listening, what’s the point? When you’re on the road, you should be able to talk about feelings, plans, likes, and dislikes.
Express your emotions to your partner rather than bottling things up. You don’t want to be on holiday with a salty attitude because your partner’s stuff is sprawled out over the hotel room. All you have to do is tell them it bothers you and provide a solution so that you two can keep moving forward. Easy, right?
4. Schedule some alone time
Let’s be real: it’s tough being around someone 24/7. Alone time is important because it will help you both take a breather. When I found myself getting annoyed at my partner over something insignificant, I knew it was time to have a few hours to myself. Sometimes that meant taking a walk or doing an activity on my own.
Embarking on a group tour is a smart option for couples or friends travelling together for the first time (or even after multiple travels together). When you’re on a tour, it takes the heat off from spending all your time with one person. Remember, you don’t have to be attached at the hip. Time apart is healthy. What’s that cheesy saying? Distance makes the heart grow fonder… there’s truth to that.
5. Be a team
What do game-winning teams have in common? Communication, honesty, strategies, goals, trust, and respect, to name a few. This should be the same with you and your partner. You two are a team ready to explore the world! You look out for each other, trust each other, and respect each other. That’s the formula for a positive holiday and growing relationship.
After years of navigating through these lessons of travelling with my partner, I’ve found that I’m a better person toward him. I’m more patient, I’m a better listener, and I’m more appreciative. (Don’t be mistaken, I’m still a neurotic traveller.)
The travel experiences that we’ve had together, such as hiking in Argentina or having our belongings stolen in Thailand, helps us tackle obstacles in our daily life. Plus, travelling together is just more fun.
Travelling with your partner or bestie can be so much easier when you’re part of a group tour. Check out our range of small group adventures for 18 to 29s now.
Feature photo by Marina Nazario.