Five months on the road. Just us two. Sound romantic?
Sometimes it was. There were a lot of nights spent sitting on balconies overlooking some stunning body of water, the sun setting behind it, rays reflecting back, beer in one hand and Luke’s hand in the other.
I feel so incredibly lucky that I’ve found someone who wants to go through this life with me at a million miles a minute, moving from one country to another, laughing at my horrible jokes (I laugh at his too, for the most part). Sometimes I think I’ve hit the boyfriend lottery when I realize that someone wants to live this crazy life at my side.
But there were moments, oh were there moments, when I wanted to lock him out of our cozy little bungalow, when I wanted to have my own damn space, when I wanted to not have to carry his crap in my bag or hear about how cranky he was. The comforting moments came when I was hungry, tired, irritable (so rarely) and I knew he was biting his tongue, choosing his battles and letting me rant.
It was a tough balance and there were times when neither of us could hold back any longer; when we were both tired, both cranky, both hungry and hot and pissed off.
But we made it out the other side – perhaps better off for it. Here’s how I traveled with my boyfriend and somehow came back still in love (and alive).
1. Talk it out. Simples. When you feel yourself getting annoyed, voice your opinion before you’re so irritable that you can’t talk at that normal volume where people around you think you’re still friends. Even better, talk about what you want out of the trip, what you expect days to look like and what your standards are for accommodation and meals before an argument ensues.
2. Bring snacks. Always carry snacks. I can’t even think of the arguments that would never have existed had we packed a few snacks with us each morning before setting off for the day. I revert back to 5 year old status when I’m hungry and it sure ain’t pretty.
3. There’s no shame in naps. A bad nights sleep, a few too many drinks the night before, you’ve got a long bus or train trip ahead of you – take. a. nap. Naps save relationships.
4. Splurge every now and again. When you’re traveling for long periods of time, you’re no doubt on a bit of a budget. You choose the cheapest rooms, eat as cheap as you can while still trying to the local food, but you want that money to last. Use some of it, every now and again, for a plush room with a comfy bed – one where the towels are huge and there’s nice smelling bath salts. It’s romantic – that clean feeling, getting into bed under a pile of covers with the air conditioning cranked up.
5. Compromise on activities. I like to walk around the streets, wander around and see what we see and sit. I really like to sit. Luke likes to hire bikes and ride around for the entire day with not as much sitting. He likes to pack lots into one day. Usually we manage to find a way to mix the two. There are going to be days, cities and towns, where you have totally different ideas of what exploring looks like. You’re going to have to find a way to do a little bit of both. Otherwise, it’s a give and take – you get to choose the activity one day, he chooses it the next. You don’t want to go through the trip resenting each other, annoyed about never being able to do the things that you wanted to do.
6. Do your own thing if you have to. Sometimes it’s okay to split off and do your own thing. We met so many couples on the road who found that the best way to compromise. If they were in a place where they both really wanted to do different things, they just did, and they didn’t even worry about it. In fact, they found it refreshing after so much time together, to do their own things and meet up again for dinner to talk about what they’d been up to. Figure out what works for you and go with it.
7. Designate some quiet time. Whether you have time away from each other or spend every moment interlocking your fingers, there needs to be moments of silence; moments where you have the ability to take in all that you’ve done and seen. For us, it was usually at night, after a beer and some food. Sometimes it was in the morning – we’d have coffee and breakfast and come back to our rooms and just chill for an hour or so. I would write in my journal or read and Luke would relax, read a book or just enjoy the view of where we were on any given day. It helped us to unwind from the days that were packed full of movement. It helped us to take in all that we’d done and were continuing to do.
8. Learn to laugh. If you can’t laugh at yourself, at each other, at strange and awkward situations, you probably shouldn’t travel for long periods of time, especially with another person. Sometimes it took a little while to laugh at something, but we were always laughing in the end. It eased aches and pains, it lifted our moods and it reminded us that nothing is too much to handle.
9. Socialize. Meet other people, do group tours or activities. Chat to people in hostels or bars. You can’t just live on each other’s presence. It’s creepy and weird and bad for your souls. Make friends.
10. Remember why you’re doing this. When it all feels like too much, when you’re tired and exhausted, annoyed with each other, remember why you wanted to do all this in the first place. Why are you traveling, why with each other? These moments will pass, but look around at where you are and take it in, because at the end when you’re home and you’re going through your camera and reading through your journals recalling the best moments of this adventure, you won’t even remember what you argued about.