Travel is the ultimate relationship tester. It can hurt friendships, it can burn families and it can all but surely break up relationships. Why? Because travel takes us away from our comfort zones. Think about all those episodes of The Amazing Race you’ve seen: sure, that happy-go-lucky couple from Connecticut looks happy at the start, but after weeks of little sleep, long treks and questionable food, a tide turns and they’re yelling at each other on a street corner in Cambodia. That couple is you. That couple is all of us.
Great human Bill Murray once shared some wise words on this exact topic. He said that if there’s someone you think is The One, take that person and travel around the world. Go to places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of, and when you come back and you’re still in love with that person, get married at the airport.
As someone who has travelled over continents with my partner, this is pretty solid advice. While I’m not going to go and get married right away (because, like, ew) we are a pretty solid travelling team now. But it took a lot of wrong turns to get us here. Heed my warning: travelling as a couple can be the best thing you ever do, just keep in mind these pointers before you book those plane tickets.
Look, every couple is different, but my advice would be to start small: a week away, two weeks away, *then* a six week trip to Europe together. Those first couple of small trips will help you get an idea of your different travel styles and how you adapt to new situations. Remember: travelling is very different to everyday life. In everyday life you see your significant other in between work and friends and separate commitments. When you’re travelling, it often means non-stop exposure. You probably won’t even leave each other’s side for weeks at a time. Even if you think you’ve seen every side of your partner, travel will show you a whole other side you’ve never seen before. Like maybe an image of them hunched over a toilet bowl on a boat ride to Ha Long Bay after a serious bout of food poisoning. It’s pretty confronting, so seriously, start small.
Talk budgets and expectations early on
Do you have the same travel goals? Are you comfortable staying in dirt-cheap hostels but your partner would prefer a 5-star experience? Do you want to stay out late and sleep in most days or do you want to start early and get some solid sightseeing hours in before noon? How much are you willing to spend? These are the things you need to sort out *before* you get there, or else you might be settling in for a lot of pass-agg conversations down the road. Your best bet is to plan it all together; set aside time on your weekends to talk, research and figure out what you want to get out of this trip. And, not to sound too much like a Dear Sally love advice column, but be willing to make compromises.
Keep in mind things won’t be perfect. Maybe your flight gets delayed due to bad weather and you miss your connecting flight home. Maybe you accidentally order ox tongue in an Italian restaurant and you only realise afterwards that you actually really liked it. Maybe you get on the wrong bus in Toronto and it takes you half an hour to realise you’re going in the wrong direction. Things happen! It’s nobody’s fault, so it’s best not to dwell or make a big thing out of it. Choose your battles wisely, it’ll help you survive.
Get ready to become closer than ever before
And I’m not talking about sex (although that’s important too!) I’m talking about poo. Yep, that basic human function that you would probably like to keep between you and the toilet bowl, is now something you’re going to have to talk about A LOT with your partner. Food poisoning happens. Upset stomachs happen. Farts happen. And inevitably you’re going to have to talk about it. Work out a system: code words, hand signals or even just asking them to crank some loud music while you go at in the bathroom. It’s not sexy, it’s not easy, but it’s goddamn necessary if you want to survive this thing. Above all else, learn to laugh about it. It’s the only way you’ll be able to get through it and still like each other afterwards.
Allow for alone time
Again, not just talking about sex. I’m actually talking about taking scheduled time away from each other. Even if it’s just 20 to 30 minutes to clear your head or go get snacks, it’s vital to have some time to yourself to help you recharge. If your partner suggests doing something different for an afternoon, don’t take it personally. It’ll help with your sanity. One of the best decisions I’ve made while travelling with my partner was deciding to go our separate ways one afternoon in New York. He went to another NBA game while I decided to tackle SoHo and spend money I decidedly didn’t have. We both went our separate ways and battled the New York subway system by ourselves, and I honestly think I’m better for it. So take that time apart, it might just make you appreciate the time you spend together even more (or like, appreciate that you were able to blow too much money on a Comme Des Garçons skirt because you opted to hoof NYC solo.) It’s a win-win either way.