Eric and I had been married almost seven years, when we escaped for a round the world trip in 2009. People cracked jokes about us hitting the Seven Year Itch while spending 24 hours a day, seven days a week together, often in stressful situations. We all wondered whether we would come back in one piece, and how well we would travel as a couple.
Not only did we survive 14 months of travel as a couple, with only a handful of fights (which we laugh about now), but we left the US over 18 months ago, to do it all over again. This permanent escape has not only taken us through Eastern Europe, Central America, and Southeast Asia, but now we are living in a house in Bali.
We have spent A LOT of time together. And, it was not until we landed in Bali that we found some real independence, when I rented my own motorbike. So, how have we managed to survive this much time together over so many years, without killing each other?
Here are my 9 tips for how to survive long term travel as a couple without killing each other
- Travel With Two WiFi Devices – During our first RTW, we had one lap top. When we were finally able to get on wifi, we fought over it. I needed to plan the next destination, keep up with my blog, and pay bills. Eric needed to be on Facebook and monitor the Red Sox, which to him was equally important as managing our finances. Obviously, this caused a constant source of tension. This trip, we have more than one wifi device, so that we can each do what we want and need to online, without bickering. Don’t skimp on internet capable devices.
- Share the Planning – Further to the last point, on our first RTW, I felt like I did all the planning. Figuring out how to get to our next destination, finding a place to stay, looking at the maps to see how to get there, and figuring what we needed to see. This is not because Eric is lazy. I’m just a control freak. I needed to relax and Eric needed to learn how to find a place to stay that would suit our needs. Share the travel planning so that one person does not feel like they are planning the trip for the other’s enjoyment.
- Occasionally It’s Okay to Get Twin Beds – We have stayed in some pretty crappy places during our travels, often with tiny beds, non-existent pillows, and postage sized blankets. It does not help that Eric is 6’4”. Being married, we always stay in private rooms – we are just too old for dorm rooms. But, occasionally, we end up with two twin beds. At first, we were disappointed, but after traveling together, for so long, we came to appreciate them once in a while. It is our own little way to have some space for a night or two. Don’t immediately dismiss a room with twin beds.
- Find Time for Romance – It is hard to remember that you are a couple, and not travel companions, or roommates who may be seeing each other at their best as well as worst. Splurge on a romantic dinner, or, better yet, a sunset picnic with a breathtaking view. We probably do this way to infrequently. Make it a goal to find a way to do something romantic in every country, or each town, you visit.
- Debate But Don’t Let it Turn Into a Fight – When traveling, you are learning and absorbing the local culture. The countries are educating you in a way you would never get reading a book back home. Additionally, the news you hear from back home on the BBC or CNN International may strike a cord. When you are the only English speaking people in a town, or are feeling isolated and “stuck” with each other, a healthy debate about this sort of stuff can be exhilarating. But, realize, you are not going to solve world peace, cure cancer, or bring a final resolution to the dispute in the Middle East. Agree to disagree and be happy you can still find things to talk about.
- Communicate – I’m sure this is on every list of how to be a happy couple, but it becomes important when you spend THIS much time together. Appreciate that you will have good days and bad, and that’s okay. Use humor instead of condescension when you find you are not communicating. I can tell when it is coming now – neither of us know where we want to go, or what we want to eat, and we both get quiet. We each sense that the other is in a mood. Now, I just say “let’s stop here; we are not communicating; let’s just get it out in the open, what’s on your mind.” In about 60 seconds we have plotted a new course and can move forward, rather than standing on a street corner in the rain yelling at each other because one of us wants a kebab and the other wants a nap. Figure out a way to communicate and make it work.
- Talk With Other People – This is often easier said than done. Its easy to strike up a conversation in a pub in Dublin or a hostel in Australia. Its harder to do when you are in a small down in Andalusia and only one of you speaks Spanish. Spend time getting to know the locals when you can, and chat up fellow travelers around town. You can learn great tips (we found our favorite restaurant in Vietnam from chatting with some Aussies a few weeks beforehand), and it is refreshing to get new perspectives. When people from home visit us, we talk their ears off – just excited to have a new receptacle for our words. Strike up conversations with others whenever you can.
- Take Time for Yourself – Its hard to remember that you don’t have to do everything together. Spend some time at a cafe with a book in hand, go for a run. Whatever you can do to spend a few minutes alone once in awhile will make you appreciate your time together.
- Appreciate Your Partner, and Your Life – When you have a bad day on the road, as everyone does, remember to appreciate how lucky you are. Not only do you have the ability to travel long term as a couple and see the world, but you have a partner who wants to do it with you. Appreciate each other.
What is your best tip for how to travel as a couple?
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.