Travel Tuesdays: Is your relationship travel compatible?

Ian Carroll

Traveling with a sibling or friend can be pretty hard. You’re likely to have to compromise more than a few times. Where to go, what to eat, how to spend your time, all become joint decisions. That’s on top of the topics you might have already been able to find to argue about. Now imagine doing that with your romantic partner. It can make or break your relationship.

It seems like we all have this fantasy though. We all want to find that perfect someone that we can love unconditionally and feel perfectly safe with. Someone who we’ll always get along with and admire unerringly until the end of time. The way the story goes in most young people’s heads, you meet that perfect someone, you fall in love, you travel the world together, and then you settle down somewhere incredible and start a family and live happily ever after. I think some version of that plays through a lot of people’s minds at one point or another.

And as someone who has traveled in multiple settings with a number of different romantic partners, I can say that it really is a life-changing experience. Love just can’t be experienced the same way with a lease and a nine to five as it can be crossing borders, eating street food, and hiking through the jungle. Facing the beauty, challenges, and complexity of the world together will change your relationship forever. The problem is, it might not change it for the better.

So how do you ensure that your relationship is travel compatible? How do you know you’re ready to hit the road together? Furthermore, once you’re out there, how do you navigate the challenges of travel together? What can you do to ensure it goes well? What’s the secret to coming back happier and closer than when you left? Well, today we’ll cover all of that and more. Because, as I said, there’s really nothing better in the world as far as I’m concerned than traveling with the right romantic partner.

How do you know you’re ready?

Do you get along well enough to take it on the road?
Do you get along well enough to take it on the road?

One of the most important parts of traveling together is knowing when you’re ready. It’s like moving in together, but way more intense. If you get it wrong, then traveling together could ruin both your trips. What’s worse, it could ruin your relationship. Get it right, and you’ll grow and learn more in a single trip then some people do in their entire lives.

The first step is cohabitating. Can you live together? If you’ve never done it before, then traveling together may be a bit too much. Taking a week-long trip will probably be manageable, but traveling for a month or more isn’t the best idea yet. Remember, you’ll be sleeping together, eating together, making decisions together, dealing with stress together, and probably getting sick together. You’d better be pretty close.

If you have lived together for at least some amount of time already, then the next step is to think about your personalities. Do you think you’ll both travel in similar ways? After all, there are a million ways to travel and just because you love how someone lives at home doesn’t mean that you’ll love how they live on the road. Some travelers like to go out and party every night. Others like to go see ruins, take tours, and learn about the places they visit. Some people can’t live without modern comfort, and others are perfectly happy roughing it for months on end.

 Talk about what you each expect

Before you take the leap together, talk about it. Sit down together and share your goals, fears, insecurities, and discomforts when it comes to travel. What would the ideal trip look like for each of you? What are some things that would really ruin your day? Is there anything you are really going to need from your partner? This is a critical step that I take any time I travel with anyone, romantic or not.

It’s crucial that you get on the same page from the start. You don’t have to want the same things, but you have to know what each person wants and doesn’t want. What are you each expecting? It’s also good to make a list of requests you have of one another. Things you would like for your partner to try to do for you, or to avoid doing.

travel together
Are you up for the same adventures and the same challenges?

That might sound like ‘please help me keep from getting hungry and crabby and be patient with me when I do.’ Or ‘please give me space in the mornings to wake up and don’t ask me to make plans or big decisions first thing.’ If you’ve been together a long time, you might already know these things about one another. However, traveling is different than home life. It’s good to go over it again before you leave. Heck, if you’re traveling for a couple of weeks or a couple of months, it can be good to reassess partway through and modify your requests of one another.

 Check in frequently

One of the most important types of communication when your traveling is actually very simple. ‘How are you feeling?’ has never been more important. It’s a pretty big question when you think about all the things it can mean. In fact, it’s such a general question, which I usually avoid it and go for more specific check-ins.

For me, I try to make a routine of checking in with my partner every other day or so. I say something to the effect of “can we check in? How are you doing, how do our plans sound to you, and is there anything you need from me?” I might not fire all those questions off at once, but you get the idea. It’s important to create a space where you can each share your feelings and frustrations. It’s possible that everything is going swimmingly, but it’s also possible that someone is getting frustrated and not letting it out.

Take time together to check in with one another.
Take time together to check in with one another.

Be honest with one another when you do check in. The whole point of this ritual is to let problems arise when they are small instead of holding them in until they become large. If you are getting frustrated by something your partner is doing, tell them. Even if it’s something small, like them not closing the door when they pee. It’s possible that all you need is to say it out loud and that will make you feel better even if they keep doing it. Or it’s possible that you really would like them to stop. Sharing the little things and taking them in stride is the best way to avoid the big ones.

 Take time for gratitude

This is a habit you should build into your life no matter where you are or who you’re with. But it’s especially true when you’re traveling with a partner. After all, just being able to travel is a chance not many people get. Beyond that, you’re fortunate to have found someone special enough to want to travel with you. I’m sure I don’t need to go over all the reasons you should be grateful.

However, many people know in their heads how lucky they are and don’t take the time to voice their gratitude. But telling your partner you value them is one of the best ways to stay connected. On the road, you are both going to face a lot of stresses of shared and unique varieties. It’s easy to take your partner for granted when you’re distracted by stress. At times, you may even be rude without meaning to be or transfer your frustrations to your partner. Those are two easy ways to damage a relationship while traveling.

Don’t forget to say ‘thank you’ and ‘I love you’.
Don’t forget to say ‘thank you’ and ‘I love you’.

If you make a point of thanking your partner at least three times a day for things they do for you, or telling them something you love about them, it will have an important impact. Doing so gives you a space to step out of your problems and reconnect. However, it also can remind your partner to step out of their problems for a moment and remember why they love you.

 Take time apart

One of the things that too many traveling couples overlook is their need for individuality and personal space. After all, even the best couples need some time to themselves every now and then. A healthy relationship isn’t about becoming one, it’s about complimenting one another. In order to be your best, you’re going to need some time to yourself. So take some.

Take time to yourself.
Take time to yourself.

Schedule days where you each go do your own things. Maybe you each different tour parts of the city and then talk about it over dinner. Perhaps one of you wants a rest day while the other goes on a hike. Whatever it is, organize it, plan it, and take it as a time to reflect and make space for yourself.

This won’t just give you something to talk about over dinner. It will also give you space to remember why you love your partner and to miss them. That’s something you’re not likely to do much of while traveling together. However, taking time apart in any relationship is one of the best ways to strengthen your connection to one another.

 Make rituals together

Traveling with your partner isn’t all about what to avoid. There are a lot of things you can do together to not only strengthen your relationship, but also to enhance your trip. My favorite thing to do with my partner is to develop little rituals together. They can be silly, they can be romantic, or they can be intellectual.

Shared rituals and habits can bring you closer together and add structure to travel.
Shared rituals and habits can bring you closer together and add structure to travel.

Maybe you start every day with a ten-minute yoga practice together. Or you could have a cute check-in ritual. I like doing a question of the day that dives deep and gets you both talking. Or you could each make inspiring toasts when you’re out at the bars. Massage swapping? The possibilities are literally endless.

No matter what sorts of rituals you develop, they’ll bring you closer together. They’ll make you laugh and smile. And most importantly, they’ll serve as lifelong memories and reminders of the time you spent together. So take note of the little things. Make stories out of them, and laugh about them when you fall asleep at night.

 Love each other

It sounds so simple, but can become so complicated when you travel together. The most fundamental thing that will bring you closer is actively practicing loving one another. It’s not something that just happens naturally when you’re traveling. There will be times when you’re tired and hungry and stressed out. That’s the time when you need to step into your partners shoes for a second and realize that they’re probably feeling the same way, maybe worse. Turn to them, tell them you love them, and hug them.

Don’t forget to love each other.
Don’t forget to love each other.

If you’re feeling particularly great one morning, take a minute to think of one way you could use your excess to give a little something to your partner. Maybe you go get them coffee, find them a cool sea shell, or buy them a gift. There are a thousand little ways to express love. You just have to remember to do it, and do it regularly.

Make the most of every moment together and don’t take anything for granted. When you return home, print out photos, save memories, write the story down, and hold onto what you’ve made together. If you’ve made it this far, you’re doing pretty damn well. Don’t stop.

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ian-carroll is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival