Solo travel has so many bonuses – you can go where you want, when you want without worrying about asking or even informing anyone else. But it can also be hellishly lonely and while the transient travel companions you meet on tours and in hostels can be a lot of fun, sometimes it’s nice to have someone a little more permanent around to share your adventures with.
Of course, travelling with your partner can be trying. We’re talking the most intensive experience a relationship could face – 24 hours a day of travel’s awesome highs and hideous lows. Nothing will bond you more than taking your first surfing lesson together, flying over Everest, or clutching each other as you glimpse your first wild elephant. But things can get a little trying when you’re stranded without a bed for the night after a 30-hour train ride from hell or making your fifteenth trip to the bathroom thanks to a questionable plate of street meat.
There’s always a chance your trip will wear holes in your relationship, but if all goes to plan, there’s no better way to get to know your partner – and travelling will provide you with something to talk about for the rest of your lives. To help ensure you end up on the latter path, here are a few tried and tested tips* for travelling with a loved one – and making sure you still love them when you head home!
1. For the Girls: Pack Light
You have to be able to pull your weight when you travel, which generally means not packing your weight in clothes. Ladies: one thing that’s bound to irk your male companion is a weighty bag that you can hardly drag behind you. Either he’s going to spend half his day waiting for your sweaty, grumbling self to catch up or else he’ll hear those six words that any guy on the road dreads – ‘please can you carry my bag?’
Remember you’re in travel mode, and while you don’t have to turn into an unwashed backpacker bum (see point 3, below), you don’t need to continue your normal beauty routine on the road, either. Unpack your hairdryer, that third pair of pants, anything white, and at least half of your beauty products.
The rugged, sun kissed, gleeful look you’ll pick up after a week on the road will give you more of a glow than any make up could, and your beau will thank you for ditching the excess weight… Perhaps with a new ethnic dress or another pair of sandals.
>> Learn how to travel very lightly
2. Get GPS
All sorts of little gripes arise when you’re having intensive one-on-one time. Things that never bothered you before suddenly drive you insane. Good lord, did he always sweat like that? Is it necessary for her to take so long to get ready each morning? Does he really have to fart that loudly? And seriously, is she ever going to shut up and let me read?
But minor gripes aside, there’s nothing that creates arguments more than a discussion on directions. No one ever wins, no one ever gives, and no one ever admits that their way was wrong. Short of retracing your steps and trying both routes, you’ll never know whose route through Venice’s narrow streets was the quickest way to the Piazza San Marco or which hiking path was the easiest way to that hilltop temple.
Save yourselves the unnecessary bickering and invest in a handheld GPS before you leave home. Then all you’ll have to fight about is whose fault it is that the batteries are dead.
3. For the Guys: Don’t Become a Stereotype
Guys might get annoyed with their other half’s overloaded luggage, but men aren’t blame-free when it comes to travel spats. And there are few things more likely to irritate your loved one than becoming that stinkiest of travel stereotypes – the guy who feels no need to shower since he’s not going to work.
We know you’re enjoying not sweating it out in a suit and tie and the freedom of not having to shave every morning. We know most men want to take advantage of perhaps their only chance to nurture some facial hair, but occasionally trimming the travel beard would not be amiss. Nor would the odd shower here and there. And while the ladies might need to concentrate on packing a few outfits less, sometimes guys would do well to stuff an extra shirt or, even better, another pair of undies into the bottom of their backpack.
Remember this: girls can go hippie too, so if that beard doesn’t get trimmed you might find yourself snuggling up to some furry legs – or worse.
>> Discover the backpacker stereotypes you’ll meet on the road
4. Grab Some ‘Me Time’
Just because you travel together, that doesn’t mean that you have to be together all day, every day. If you were back home you’d undoubtedly have separate interests – the gym, beer with the boys, girlie lunches – so why not take a bit of ‘me time’ on the road?
If she wants to go to a gallery but the thought of a bunch of old paintings sends you into a waking coma you could always nip out for some icy beers and arrange to meet up later. Or when he insists on visiting yet another homage to some dictator, there’s nothing wrong with staying at the beach until he gets back. You’ll feel like you went anyway when you have to sit through the snapshots.
Yes, enjoying and reliving shared experiences is wonderful, but it’s also great to have a few of your own personal stories to share. Plus, if you spend a few hours apart you get to taste the life of a lone traveller – hopefully something that will make you appreciate your partner even more.
5. Don’t Be Exclusive
Before you get excited and think I’m going to recommend swinging as a way to keep your relationship alive on the road, that’s not what I mean! But spending every waking hour together (and sleeping ones, too, come to think of it) is one thing; spending them with no one but your partner is a whole different ball game.
You sometimes stumble across those couples who sit huddled in the hostel bar talking only to each other, never joining tours or getting past the superficial ‘hey, I’m a foreigner too’ smile. Naturally, if you’re travelling together you want to spend time together – but that doesn’t mean that you can’t hang out with other people as well.
Everyone’s been the lone traveller at some point, so when a solitary soul gives you the grin, take the initiative and invite them for dinner/drinks/a walk around the city. At best you’ll make a new Facebook friend with some shared interests. And at worst they’ll drive you insane, giving you and your partner something to bond and vent about later.
6. Try Something New
Again, this is not bedroom advice – that’s a whole different article just waiting to be written! I’m talking about keeping your days on the road as varied as possible.
People who envy the life of the perpetual wanderer imagine an exciting existence where every day is different and filled with adventure. But in truth, travelling can get as monotonous as normal life back home. Sure, the routine is a different one. Rather than sitting in your cubicle trying to avoid your boss, you wander around markets trying to escape the oppressive midday heat. Instead of worrying about paying bills, you worry about being able to find an empty train berth or whether your daily budget will stretch to a second beer. Travelling long-term is not always the thrilling life people might imagine and whether you’re home or away, routine can be a relationship killer.
Travel and fresh adventures go hand in hand, so if you feel you’re getting stuck in a rut, look around for something new that you couldn’t do back at home. It could be something as small as tasting a new kind of food or as large as jumping off a bridge with nothing but an outsized rubber band to stop you landing on your head. As long as it’s something new or something you don’t do every day it’ll stop you getting bored and getting irate at your travel companion.
>> Discover 7 places to make love before you die
7. Treat Yourselves
Travelling on a budget can be many things: challenging, necessary, satisfying, and often fun. But it can also be tiresome and frustrating – two things that are likely to grate on your nerves after a while.
It’s one thing if you’re travelling alone – you can console yourself with a beer and a moan to a stranger, and then move on. But when you’re with your other half, these little gripes can take root and become huge issues.
So once in a while, ditch the budget and treat yourselves. Check into a plush place to stay, ditch market food in favour of an upmarket restaurant, hire a tour guide to chauffeur you around, or swap nasty local brews for a glorious pint of Guinness.
It doesn’t have to be some grand gesture, but you’ll be amazed at the difference a mini splurge will make.
8. Get a Room!
When you’re travelling you probably spend a lot of time exploring, eating, drinking, walking, and generally having a blast with your lover. But sometimes long hot days, camping, scruffily reusing your undies, and avoiding hostel showers combine to make you neglect an important part of couple life.
It seems like such an obvious thing, but I’ve met too many couples who are so concerned with saving a few bucks that they insist on checking into dorms. I don’t want to state the obvious, but there are certain areas of couple life that can’t be attended to in a room with a dozen snoring backpackers – or at least that shouldn’t be!
You don’t have to upgrade to a five star hotel, but paying a few extra bucks for a private room will undoubtedly bring you a little closer together and keep travelling tension to a minimum.
Read more about traveling as a couple:
- Hawaii for Lovers: 6 Ways to Share the Islands with Someone Special
- Five Unexpected (and Perfect) Destinations for a Proposal
- How to Impress Guys from Around the World
* Lucy met her fiancé while travelling. They have since visited 23 countries together and are still speaking to each other. They plan to buy a GPS device in the near future.
photo credits: “pack light” photo by carolyn.will, “get GPS” photo by Ed Yourdon, “stereotype” photo by Gideon Tsang, “get a room” photo by pedrosimoes7, all other photos provided by Lucy Corne & may not be used without permission