Ok, we’re not going to lie here. Traveling with someone 24/7 is pretty freakin fun, especially when that person is your lover, your best friend and pretty much the best tag team partner you could ask for. But long-term travel will probably make or break your relationship. If there’s anything that tests it to its core, this is it. So here are some ways to help you stay strong during the tough times.
Long-term travel is something that most couples don’t go through, so if you’re on your round-the-world journey, give yourself a pat on the back. You’re already doing great.
We’re no experts in the field, but having been on the road for almost 11 months, we’ve learned quite a few tricks. We thought of some ways to avoid friction, and to get the good vibes back so you can make the best of your journey.
1. Communication is key
Yeah. This is the most obvious of them all. Talking things out will probably make you skip the drama and just get back into the groove of things. So if things aren’t going as expected or if they’re getting heated, take a breather, collect your thoughts and talk it out.
Of course, there are times when things are going to come out all wrong, but we try to keep our cool and speak rationally. We also know when to give each other a break so things don’t escalate too much… or when they do escalate too much (Calm down Carine!)
We get along really well for a couple who’s been together for 8+ years. We barely argue or bicker, though we do have our moments, so when we’re just feeling out of it, we let each other know, which brings us to the next point.
2. It’s ok to take a break
Being with someone 24/7 is not a normal situation for anyone. Even back home, you rarely spend so much time with anyone… unless you’re literally attached at the hip. You have a job, a social life, activities, something that allows you to take a break from your significant other.
With long-term travel, that break doesn’t exist. You are with the same person ALL THE FREAKIN TIME. Your significant other will see you at your best, at your worst, and on your off days. It can be tiring at first to explain why you’re not your usual chipper self, but there’s an easy fix for that.
There’s nothing worse than having to answer the infamous “what’s wrong?” question every 5 minutes. So before the barrage of questions gets started, we’ll just let the other know that today is an off day. Nothing is wrong, but we just need space or time alone. No feelings hurt, no need to justify anything.
3. Live in the now
Surprisingly, this can be hard to do. We are constantly thinking of what’s next, or what we just did, that we forget to enjoy the present moment. The best thing to do in these cases is just to stop, close your eyes, take a deep breathe, and remind yourself that this is your moment in time.
And that’s pretty freakin’ awesome!
4. Make compromises on your activities
There is nothing better than sharing your favourite activity with the one you love. But that doesn’t mean you have to do everything together.
Derek and I often take the time to do what we love alone. If I need to get some work done, he’ll read a book. If he wants to watch his favorite show, I’ll go out for a walk. If I want to wake up for sunrise to catch that magic shot, he’ll sleep in.
Obviously, we still do the major activities together, but we still find the time to do our own thing. We’ll check out the list of things available to do in the city and then, we’ll agree on which to do together and which ones to do alone.
Then, we’ll alternate between things he wants to do and things I want to do from one day to the next so that we both get our fair share. Travel, like marriage, is all about compromise after all.
5. Get comfortable outside your comfort zone
This is a tough one. You will probably go through some feelings and emotions that most other couples will never experience together. This is not a 2-week vacation that you go back home to and forget about the time shit hit the fan. This is long-term travel. This is 365 days of being confronted with situations that will test you and your relationship.
From dealing with local customs and having to cope with severe food poisoning, to missed flights and wrong bookings, you will be tested.
So our advice here is to calm the f*ck down, take a breathe and put things into perspective. Yeah, you’ll get sick. Yeah, things will go wrong. But it could be a lot worse. You could be back home grinding it out from 9-5 stuck in a routine that doesn’t make you happy.
This crap-storm is a temporary moment and that’s how you should deal with it. Is it the worse thing that can happen? Probably not. Is it annoying AF? At the moment, yeah, it sucks. But how cool is your story going to be without the “remember that time we were stuck in an airport for 22 hours and went mental?” One day, you will look back at this moment and laugh, so brush it off and keep going. You guys got this!
Also, it’s true what they say about “what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger”. This is why you’re on this journey after all. To grow as a person, to change your perspective, to discover what makes or breaks you. Sometimes, it’s pretty great to have your best friend with you to trek through those hard times.
6. Make sure you keep the flame alive
It’s fairly easy for this journey to change the chemistry of your relationship. Since you’re spending so much time together, you may not have a chance to “miss” the other, and get that longing feeling. It might actually create the opposite effect where you won’t want to see them anymore… at least for a few hours.
That’s why it’s so important to keep the love alive. Even if we’re on a budget, every 2 weeks or so, we’ll go out on a date night together to a “fancy” restaurant. We’ll often surprise each other with little thoughtful gifts (i.e. a pack of his favourite chips). And obviously, we’ll make sure to get some sweet sweet loving too.
7. Don’t argue about money
This one took us a while to figure out, but the worse thing to stress and argue about is money.
We didn’t stick to a strict budget because we wanted to enjoy life, but that ended up causing friction when we realized we were spending too much money on silly things. So instead, we found creative solutions to stay on track, spend less and live better experiences.
8. Get social and make new friends
As a couple, it’s so easy to make new friends. Just start talking to another couple you see and voilà! We actually met a bunch of travelling couples while we’ve been on the road either through Instagram or just by talking to them. We adopted solo travellers through couchsurfing or hitchhiking and spent a few days with them.
Making new friends is actually a great way to break the routine, get some new conversation topics, share larger expenses for group trips, and have photographers around when you need them.
We’re joking a little, but it really is great to meet travellers, share stories and meals. And hey, who knows when your paths will cross again?! We know that we have made friends for life even if we just shared a few days with them.
9. Forgive quickly
Back home, you can hold a grudge more easily, just ask Carine. When you’re traveling full time, it’s just silly to stay angry. You’re just going to be wasting each other’s time. So speak your peace, find a solution together and move on. Ain’t no body got time to stay angry. You’re in paradise, so get on with enjoying it.
10. Share the planning and the responsibilities
There is nothing worse than being the only one who plans it all. From the larger scale “where are we going next?” to the smaller “what are we doing tomorrow?” It takes a lot of time and effort to travel long-term and to stay on budget.
What we recommend is playing off each other’s strengths and sharing the responsibilities. I usually do the budget planning and bigger scale planning while Derek takes care of the day-to-day organization. We found a system that works for us and we’re sticking to it. Find yours and you should be golden.
11. Appreciate your partner and the life you’re living
This is especially for those moments when you start missing home and the comforts it has. Yeah, there will be hard times. We’ve had a ton ourselves. It’s at those moments that I think back to my worse client presentation, and all of a sudden, things don’t seem so bad.
So make sure you take some time every day to show some love and gratitude toward each other, and the precious moments you have of ultimate freedom. Live in the moment and enjoy floating through life for a little while.
This may be a rare opportunity, so just enjoy it.
12. Take a break from travelling
This is not a 2-week sprint vacation where you have to see as much as possible. This is a freaking long marathon. You will not be able to see everything on your tourist trail so don’t move around every other day. Take the time to get to know a city and its people, and really enjoy the place you’re in.
Traveling is hard on your mind, your body and your wallet. Try to keep it to a minimum when you can. We loved spending 2 weeks in Koh Tao, 1 month in Langkawi, 2 weeks in Bohol, and now almost a month in Southern France. It gave us a chance to slow down and reconnect, to cook a home-cooked meal and enjoy the simple home life.
13. Don’t let hanger strike
This may seem like a joke, but we don’t kid when it comes to hanger. It’s a serious matter. Don’t let it affect you.
We always have snacks and water with us. Because buses aren’t always on time, because pit stops are few and far between, because when you’ve been traveling for 20 hours straight and dealing with fatigue and frustration, you don’t want to add hanger to that explosive cocktail. Our worse arguments are usually when we get hangry, so we’ve learned to avoid the situation altogether.
14. Some moments should be left private
If you’re spending 24/7 with a person, you have no privacy, unless you’re paying for expensive hotels where you can escape each other. If you’re traveling long-term on a budget like us, you’re probably staying in places that don’t really have too many doors for some alone time. That means all your grooming, all your little ticks and tricks are out in the open, ready to be discovered. Yeah, we’re talking about all the things you do to seem a little more perfect for your partner.
Our solution: you do you! But away from preying eyes. You can still keep up your routine, but do it in the privacy of the bathroom (which is sometimes teeny-tiny) or ask the person to leave for a bit.
Again, communication is key, so just let the person know that you need some pampering “you-time”. Also, there’s nothing wrong with splurging a little at a spa or salon. Yes, staying on budget is important, but most of the services cost less on the road then they do at home. Like they say, some days you have to #treatyoself
15. Look after each other
There are days where one of you will feel like shit. Food poisoning, fatigue, migraines, viruses, you name it. And that’s when, despite what you’re feeling, you’ll need to take care of your love. Other times, you’ll be in sketchy places, big crowds or awkward situations. Make sure you have a game plan, and that you look out for one another.
Basically, be kind and gentle with each other. After all, this journey wouldn’t be the same of it weren’t the two of you.
16. Make sure you can both be connected
Staying wifi/data connected on the road is important, especially when all your friends back home are buying houses and making babies. To be honest, most places don’t have great wifi connections, so avoid arguing about who gets to use that one device that has internet capabilities, make sure you have two.
Also, we found it hard to blog properly with only one laptop, since we edit our pics and program everything on it. Usually, it means I end up writing everything on my phone… not great. But when we have an income again, we’ll probably invest in another typing machine.
17. Remember to disconnect
We apply this rule at home and during travel. We put all devices away when we’re eating. We spend no more than 2 hours in front of a screen per day, unless it’s for work, of course. We make sure that our conversations are not only about the blog or Instagram or our trip.
Your brain needs a break once in a while so make sure you put the devices away and just enjoy what you have going on irl (In Real Life for you non-techies).
18. Take happy pictures together
This may seem like a silly one, but the fact that we take fun and happy pictures together for our Instagram feed actually makes us happier. It’s not a “fake it ’til you make it” thing, but more of a “smile and spread love” thing.
Sure people laugh at us. Hell, we laugh at ourselves too. But at least we’re having fun doing it.
And a word of advice if you want to “make it” on Instagram, please, please don’t just “do it for the ‘Gram”. We know too many couples that fight about locations, shots and captions. They go to Instafamous spots to get the same shot as other Instagram couples. Please don’t let this become you. This is not fun and it will be a source of frustration. Just have fun with it and do your thing.
19. Don’t argue about work
If you’re blogging or on Instagram while you travel, don’t let it become a source of frustration and arguments. Split up tasks, find a schedule that works for both of you and enjoy the process. Just keep it light and fun.
20. Agree on when to stop
Traveling full-time is an adventure in itself, but it’s not for everyone. That’s why it’s important to agree on the come-back date. It can be flexible and you can move it around if you both like, but if one of you wants to go home, the rest of the trip won’t be fun if one of you doesn’t want to be there. Same goes for the date to leave a country.
Like we said in Point 1, communication is key, so talk it out and figure out a solution together.
These are some things we found helpful to make our long-term trip more enjoyable and stress-free. What do you think? Have you found any other tips helpful?
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