Staring at each other across the candlelit table, goofy smiles on our faces and the feeling of the entire future opening up before you… that’s what it’s like during the first few months of a relationship. Stumbling into a cement room, a hard bed the only piece of furniture, both of us sweaty, disheveled and cranky, looking at each other and knowing that if we don’t get something to eat, soon, we are going to start taking our misery out on each other… that’s being together after travelling 24/7 for months on end. No pretenses, no secrets, certainly no privacy, but an absolute bone-deep knowledge of who that other person is and a love for them despite, or maybe because, of it all.
Travel As A Couple
It’s Not All Sunshine & Roses… But It’s Worth It
Travelling as we do, we see each other at our best and at our absolute worst. We tell each other everything, no thought is spared – whether it’s expressing how happy we are to be sharing a particular moment together, revealing a previously untold thought or secret, or taking out our fatigue and hunger on the other person in a bout of temporary grumpiness.
Yup, we run the gamut of emotions while travelling and we often use each other as the means to release them. But even when we show up to less than impressive accommodations, after walking with our bags for hours, hunger gnawing at our stomachs and exhaustion draining us completely, we know that no matter what we say or how we act, we can be genuine to how we feel at the moment and the other won’t hold it against us.
You enter into a relationship with a host of questions about who the other person is and expect to find those answers over time. Travelling together becomes an expedited version of that process and no matter how long you’ve been together, there’s always more to learn.
It’s been almost 9 months of full-time travel for us where almost every minute is spent with the other person and very few personal details remain private. We’ve learned a heck of a lot about each other during that time and while it hasn’t always been a piece of cake, our relationship has become stronger and deeper than either of us could have imagined.
What We’ve Learned As A Couple Through Travel
Although travel isn’t the only way to grow as a couple, our relationship has grown in several main ways over the past 9 months, much of it owed to our travel experiences:
While we never had problems with trust before we ventured out on full-time travel, we’ve learned to trust each other on a deeper level than we thought possible. While travelling, the other person becomes the one thing you can count on in an ever-changing environment that is unfamiliar and often unsteady. We rely on each other and trust each other completely, with every thought, feeling, decision, and action.
We’ve learned that there is always room for improvement when it comes to communication skills, whether it is expressing how you feel or learning to listen to what the other person is saying. While travelling a number of situations and circumstances arise and communication is key to having as stress-free and enjoyable time as possible. We try and communicate openly and honestly (something that ties into trust) and try and receive what the other person is saying with equal openness. It’s not always easy, it’s not always perfect, but we’ve learned a lot about each other and can often understand what the other person is thinking or feeling without any words needed. We’ve become “tuned-in” to the other person so much so that even while scuba diving in Koh Tao, Thailand, we were able to communicate our thoughts through random hand movements not at all like the standard ones used to convey messages to your dive partner.
Many times compromise is thought of as finding a middle-ground between two opposite choices and sometimes it is, but more often than not it’s about making small sacrifices for the other person. For the most part we are pretty much in harmony with what we want to do and where we want to go but there have been times when one of us wanted to go somewhere that the other person was not especially thrilled about going. Compromise then becomes a matter of one person deciding to forgo their momentary desires to make the other happy. We’ve learned to balance between these decisions, communicating our feelings on a subject and making compromises along the way.
Closeness & Familiarity
Think about everything you do in a day, week or month. From daily routines, both public and private, to illness, moods and the like. Now, think about spending almost all your waking (and sleeping) moments with another person during these times. It is impossible not to begin to know pretty much EVERYTHING about the other person and this sets the tone for honesty and familiarity. A different sense of closeness and familiarity starts developing.
Ties That Bond
We have shared some incredible moments together and developed memories that have little meaning or comprehension outside of our relationship. We’ve developed a bond through each country we’ve travelled and each memory that has been formed. Sure, this happens in any relationship and even before we started full-time travel, but while we’ve been at it there has been a non-stop barrage of experiences and memories that we share together.
How We Make It Work
Mark Twain once wrote, in Tom Sawyer Abroad, “There ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”
Whether short- or long- term, travelling as a couple can be a time of huge growth and bonding. During our full-time travels together, we have come to completely depend on, and utterly trust, each other. We share amazing experiences, help each other through the hardships and grow, closer together, with each day.
But as we mentioned, it isn’t always easy. We’ve gotten to be pretty in-sync with each other’s thoughts and feelings while travelling and we are, in our opinion, pretty compatible travel partners. Many people told us that this was the ultimate test of our relationship, and in some ways perhaps it was.
We like to think of it as less of a test and more of an opportunity to challenge ourselves as individuals and as partners, to work on our personal development and the growth of our relationship. It forced us to be vulnerable around each other and to see if we were able to work together through both good times and bad times.
How do we make it work?
Well, like any relationship, it takes work and effort. In addition to the aforementioned skills we’ve improved upon, here are some more things we try to do that help us while travelling together:
Take Time out
Since the work we do now is pretty much 24/7, we try and make time for each other by putting down the camera, the phone, the computer and just enjoying each others’ company. We even try to make sure we make time to have date nights and celebrate milestones in our work and life.
Let Go of the small things
When things go wrong, or not as expected – especially when you are travel weary, tired and hungry – it’s hard not to get frustrated. We’ve learned to deal better with these situations by trying to go with the flow and worrying less about planning and having those plans play out seamlessly. Things aren’t always going to work perfectly, but we are doing what we love and we are doing it together.
It’s very easy to become isolated when you are travelling as a couple. Really, there’s no need to seek out social interaction or meet new people when you already have someone with you. We try not to get accustomed to only spending time with each other and seek out people to meet – whether it’s fellow travel bloggers in the same area, people on Couchsurfing willing to meet and show you around local areas, or various websites and apps that bring people together in various “meet ups”. It’s a great way to share different experiences and, let’s face it, to find new things to talk about!
Understand Your Moods
We’ve learned, quickly, that we are generally in a bad mood when we are over-hungry (hangry as we call it) and that if you add sleepy to the mix, foul moods are guaranteed. We try and eat when our hunger first hits, or keep some snacks on hand, and we definitely have become more understanding of each other and the reason behind the moods we are in while on the road.
We work to build on our skills as individuals, and as a couple, and find ways to balance out each other’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as our likes and dislikes. For instance, Carolann usually lets Macrae do all the navigating while on the road. He seems to be able to find his way anywhere and know exactly where he is at any given moment. Similarly, Macrae usually lets Carolann navigate the metro systems. Once we’re in those subway tunnels, or train stations, it’s her show and she seems to be able to easily remember station names, directions and stops. We also try to appreciate and respect those differences.
Inspire Each Other
We try and motivate each other to try new things, whether it is new food, new activities or learning new skills. In this way, we have new experiences together and also help each other to grow. It’s a great way to bond but we always make sure to respect the boundaries the other person has when it comes to trying new things.
We also work towards common goals. We’ve built a business together and we both strive to be successful in what we do and the goals we have set for ourselves. We’ve established something that we both want to work hard for, and work hard for, together. By working hand-in-hand, we’re able to accomplish more than just one of us would.
Work Through Disagreements
It would be great to say we never disagree and that we always look at each other with hearts in our eyes and smiles on our faces… that would be a terrible lie. There are times when we’re too tired, too stressed, or too frustrated to keep up a cheerful disposition. It’s during these times that we’ve learned not to go on the defensive. More and more we try and understand the motivation behind the other person’s mood and we’ve gotten better and better at helping the other person out of a slump. Sometimes, we just have to joke or laugh it off when the other person’s habits or behaviours get us frustrated because, to be honest, it’s those same behaviours that we also find endearing.
It’s Not Just About Travel As A Couple
While travelling together has strengthened our relationship, it’s not always for everyone, nor is it always possible. We’ve been fortunate to meet so many people on the road travelling in their own way: solo travel, family travel, friends, couples, long-term, short-term, and the list goes on.
Want to travel as a family? We met one of the most incredible families in Thailand, the Wagoners (of Wagoners Abroad). Read what they have to say about how travel has changed them as individuals and as a family.
Want to travel solo? We’ve crossed paths with so many solo travellers and, while it may be a scary thought at first, seems to be one of the most liberating and incredible experiences. While we haven’t met Michael of Bemused Backpacker but we hope to one day! He wrote a great post on “Why Solo Travel is Awesome” and we happen to agree with all of his points!
Want to read what other people have to say about travel as a couple? We recently contributed to a post about travelling as a couple for another travel blogging duo, Megan and Andrew of Hearts Around the Globe.
What do you think the biggest challenge is when travelling with another person? Comment below and let us know!