07 Feb How we’ve Survived Travelling as a Couple
Andrew and I met almost ten years ago, at an 80s-themed nightclub in Bristol. When I first clapped eyes on that drunken, long-haired version of Andrew I never would have guessed that a decade on we’d be living in Vietnam together. How did those two students, with their uncertainties and unmade plans, end up fusing their lives together? More impressively, how have we managed to travel together non-stop for the last two years without killing each other?
The Perils of Travelling with a Partner
I’ve found long-term travel to be an intense lifestyle choice; while you’re on the road you can have the most incredible life-altering experiences as well as the most awful. You might be standing on top of a mountain one day feeling invincible, yet cramped into a tiny bus surrounded by vomiting passengers and live chickens the next day. All relationships have their challenges, no matter where or how you live, but I think the intensity of travelling as a couple can really make or break a relationship.
When we lived in London, Andrew and I worked a lot and saw each other for just a few short hours each evening, our lives felt quite separate. That all changed when we boarded a plane to New Zealand almost two years ago. Think you know your partner? Once you’ve spent every waking hour together for months on end and shared the highest of highs and the lowest of lows – the skydives, jungle treks, pink-tinged sunsets and the dodgy stomachs, hellish journeys and crippling bouts of homesickness – you’ll know each other on a whole new level. If you’re anything like Andrew and I, this will result in plenty of arguments along the way.
It’s a sad fact that when you’re pissed off or upset you’ll likely take things out on the person closest to you because you know that they’ll forgive you for it. And when you travel with your partner, well, there’s usually no one else around to take it. Who else could I cry to when I got homesick in Indonesia? Who else was there to put a wet sock on Andrew’s forehead when he had a fever in Laos? Who could we complain to but each other when we were experiencing yet another Asian bus journey from hell?
The good news is that these travel trials have ultimately pulled us together and made us stronger but I’m not going to lie, Andrew and I have had some pretty huge fights while travelling. It’s not really a surprise that most of the things we argue over are trivial – when you’re together all the time, tiny things become magnified. Andrew’s snoring after a few beers, for example, when to turn the air con off or my fussy eating habits. In New Zealand we had a bizarre argument that raged for hours over which sport we thought required the most skill. I can’t even remember how that started now or why it became so heated.
Most of our arguments, though they may be fierce, pass quickly. I remember the hot fury of having to trek up Ben Lomand in Queenstown when I really didn’t feel like it, all because Andrew wanted to save a few pounds by skipping the cable car fee. After a furious exchange I don’t think I spoke to Andrew again until we got to the top of the mountain an hour later – then I saw the incredible view, took a ride on the luge and all was forgiven.
How we’ve Survived Travelling as a Couple
Andrew and I argue most often when travel gets tough, when we’re sick, exhausted or not enjoying an experience. A familiar argument-inducing scenario goes like this: we arrive in a new destination after a long, cramped journey. It’s the middle of the night and we’re hungry, dehydrated and exhausted but we shoulder our heavy backpacks, fight our way through a scrum of taxi or tuk-tuk drivers and wander the streets of an unfamiliar town in the sweltering heat looking for a room. An hour later we’re still looking – and we’re arguing. Ultimately, what matters though is that once we find a room, get something to eat and have a good sleep we move on from those arguments quickly and don’t hold a grudge.
We’ve also learnt to anticipate when problems will arise. Andrew knows I’m not good in the mornings, so he treads carefully around me when I first wake up. I know that Andrew can’t function without regular hearty meals, so I make sure we take snacks on long journeys and feed him plenty of my dinner scraps. When we arrive in a new destination we often search for restaurants on Tripadvisor to take the stress out of wandering the streets, hungry, looking for a vegetarian meal that meets my fussy-eater guidelines. We make sure we talk a lot and make our plans together; we try to make space to do separate things, even if that means just reading in different rooms.
Throughout our travels we’ve been in plenty of tough situations but actually, this usually pulls us together. When I was suffering from a mixture of travel burnout, culture shock and homesickness in Jakarta, having Andrew to talk to and read me Harry Potter books was the only thing that stopped me from booking a flight home. When a mosquito bit the inside of my lip and it swelled up to Elephant-Man-sized proportions, Andrew was ready to drive me to the hospital until a local nurse showed up offering help. Similarly, when Andrew was extremely sick on the Gili Islands I upgraded us to an air con room, made him drink ginger tea and put a cool, wet sock on his forehead. When we’ve suffered more serious personal problems, we’ve pulled together and faced them. That’s how we’ve survived travelling as a couple.
Do you travel with a partner; how do you cope with the challenges of travelling together?