5 Tips For Traveling As A Couple Without Killing Each Other
When my boyfriend, Mike, and I decided to quit our jobs to travel the world, friends told me it would be the most romantic six months of my life. I thought one of us would end up in a shallow grave. No Locked Up Abroad episodes yet but here are my lessons learned for traveling with a significant other without breaking up.
Take Mini Breaks
When Mike and I first started globe trotting, we were surprised at how easy it was. We’d heard horror stories of couples who fought incessantly and we secretly gloated at our maturity and patience. We were traveling the world, what was there to fight about? Flash forward to my Christian Bale inspired hypoglycemic meltdown outside a karaoke club about where we should go for dinner. Now we schedule a day apart every other week, free to visit museums, roam the city streets, shop, catch a movie or just eat cake all day. At night, we reconvene over drinks, genuinely excited to tell one another about our day.
In relationships, I’m the talker. I fill the silences on long car trips, over coffee, or during date night. My fear is becoming THAT couple, the one sitting mutely at the restaurant, having finally run out of things to say to one another. Unfortunately, when you’re traveling with someone, it’s impossible to fill every waking moment with words. Believe me, I tried. I repeated stories, told dirty jokes, posed amateur philosophical queries, and once in desperation, even forced him to ask me questions. I thought if we weren’t talking, we weren’t connecting. Luckily, Mike took all this in stride and I (eventually) figured out that silence can sometimes mean comfort and intimacy, not boredom. For the other times, there are podcasts.
While silence can be golden, there are times when you need to sound off. I’m the queen of subliminal messages, loaded hints…or just creating entire scenarios in my head and then acting on them to terrified boyfriends. At home, it’s obnoxious. On the road, it’s a major time suck. Traveling together means making multiple joint decisions a day about what to eat, stuff to do, where to go and how to get there. Willing Mike to discern my desire to eat a cheeseburger instead of local fare or anticipate my wish to stay at a hotel instead of the backpackers hostel, is a Jedi mind trick I no longer try to master.
This one may seem obvious but, trust me, it’s harder than you think. When I toured Europe with my sisters we couldn’t swing a dead cat without meeting fellow backpackers at bars, on trains and in hostels. Traveling as a couple is a different beast altogether. The assumption is you want to be left alone to gaze into one another’s eyes. People don’t realize that you’d rather stick bamboo shoots under your fingernails than have one more conversation with each other. Here are some tricks from the trenches: Divide and conquer – folks will be much more likely to chat with you if you’re alone. Ask LOTS of questions – to combat the notion that you became an anti-social bore the minute you coupled up, be EXTRA engaging. Play something – have a bar skill in your back pocket like playing pool, shooting darts or dealing cards. Ban PDAs – no one wants to hang out with the adorable, touchy feely couple. No one.
Get It On
You may be bathing out of a bucket, alternating between three stained tank tops, and thinking about launching your own fragrance line called Mildew but having sex on the road is critical. Sharing a bathroom (sometimes without a damn door), deodorant and toothbrushes, can start to make you feel more like siblings than a romantic couple. Throw in a fun gastro meltdown and some stinky dorm mates and you might as well join a convent. It’s a slippery slope, especially when you’re surrounded by attractive natives who are shaving on a regular basis. So occasionally ditch the dorm beds for a budget hotel, tap into your inner Hank Moody and remember why you wanted to take this trip in the first place.
The Takeaway: Make sure you really want a significant other to join you BEFORE asking them. Traveling as a couple can be lots of fun but it’s also a very REAL test of the relationship. A break-up in Bali is still a break-up.