Travelling (successfully) with your partner
'Let me share this whole new world with you' - Disney's Aladdin, 1996
Exploring the world with the one you love. What bliss. Spending every moment of every day in each other's presence. Making every single decision about every single thing you do together. Walking together, talking together, eating together, going to the airport together, being tired together, getting up at 4am together...just so much togetherness I could just burst!
Not sure if that's bliss or torture? We have found ourselves wondering the same from time to time. Don't get me wrong, I am very much a fan of my partner, love him to bits. I couldn't picture travelling the world without him. However, it has become apparent on our wonderful year long world trip that, shock horror, we do not always agree, see eye to eye or act completely adult with one another when working out our, let's say 'indiscretions' - I suppose throwing shells at Andrew's head when he wasn't looking because he stepped on my thong isn't the most 'adult' way of handling things.
So, assuming we make it all the way to the other end of this beautiful, hot mess of a journey and we still like each other, what have we learned? What's the key to maintaining a relationship on the long (and often bumpy) track? I asked Andrew what he thought the key was to travelling successfully together. He shrugged, said 'I don't know, I'm not writing the blog', and put his headphones back on... I found this extremely annoying, yet this is effectively what I believe to be an essential ingredient of successful, loved up, long term travel; space.
My friends know me to be little on the 'needy' side. I thought having my boyfriend to myself 24/7 would be simply magical and we would D and M about life and ‘ohh’ and ‘ahh’ at all the amazing things we were seeing. Sometimes though, when we sat down to yet another luxurious dinner of dubious meat, beans and rice, the common questions such as; 'what did you do today?' or 'who did you talk to today?', drew silence ... you already know everything the other did, because you did it too. Added to this is the fact that when backpacking on a budget with your partner, any air of mystery you had managed to hold on to doesn't just disappear; it projectile vomits (quite literally sometimes) out of your relationship. We have seen each other at our most tired, sweaty, disgusting and smelly states. It's not pretty. We both agree that trying to maintaining a little separation, space and mystery is important when you're living in such close confines.
So a little independent activity and space goes a long way. Doing different activities, spending time away from one another and making the effort to talk to others who can add a little flavour to your duet from time to time actually drew us closer as we compared, contrasted and discussed our differing observations. You can't always do it physically but you can separate in other ways. We listen to different podcasts, music, read different books which gives us plenty more to talk about over beans and rice. No you won't always be pretty...but at least you won't be pretty together.
Point two is sleep - I cannot tell you the number of fights we have, or how quickly they escalate, when one or both of us are tired. Wow. Stupid things like not putting the headphones in the right pocket of the bag, or bigger things like - "why did you not check the price of the tiny bottle of water at the airport that cost $9?" (My bad). Or seemingly giant things like "you left the iPad where??!!" (yep, me again). Even speaking civilly to one another can be forgotten after a few nights in a hostel that pumps out Pitt Bull on repeat till 3am. We've certainly become better at acknowledging these triggers and try to shut them down before anything explodes. Deep breaths and power napping help.
Which brings me to perhaps the most important point; snacks. My word does a packet of salted nuts make all the difference! Apparently this is more a female thing, the number of couples we've met that mention the hanger experienced by the female counterpart is phenomenal. One bloke I chatted to was actually fearful of leaving the hostel for a day with no emergency cereal bars for his girlfriend. Hanger is real; hanger is scary, and must be addressed immediately if symptoms occur (rapidly increasing sarcasm or whiny behaviour are key indicators).
All that aside the best times on our trip, the times when I have truly become all teary-eyed and marshmallowy, have been outside the reach of mod cons, shops and social media. Rather than escaping from one another, we escape with each other. With nothing but ourselves and the great outdoors it sometime seems easier to breathe. There's just something calming about setting up camp, building your tent and your fire and taking a deep breath of cold Patagonian air, or tasting the salt of the Amalfi coast on your lips. Maybe because at the end of the day, with no distractions, you can focus on your magic carpet ride and remember why you decided to embark on your adventure with the one you love in the first place. Almost like taking a getaway from your getaway. A little serenity in the midst of the travel madness goes a long way.
Sleep, snacks, space and serenity. That's not just travel advice; I feel like I may have just nailed some essential relationship hacks ... especially the snacks! This new year I challenge you to explore the world with someone you love, and explore hard. Cry, laugh, yell, act like a kid again and be outrageously enraged by your partners inability to read your mind. It's all part of the learning curve. The steepness of the learning curve depends on where you go and for how long you go - ours has been almost vertical and it's been the best time of my life. Soar, tumble and freewheel together and, as cheesy as it sounds, grow 'together' - you may as well, you've done everything else together.
A big thank you to our guest blogger Krista Rampe, Teacher, Traveller, Tea lover