When people heard about John and my proposed travel plans, the response we heard was mixed. Some people thought it was a great idea to travel the world together, others not so much. In fact we got several warnings from people that not unlike long distance relationships, travelling together will make or break your marriage…
It was the breaking they were concerned about.
Travelling as a couple does have it’s ups and downs, in our experience mostly ups. But we have got a chance to learn some intimate truths about couples travel…
You can’t hide your physical foibles
Everyone likes to think they know their partner/husband/wife. But it is not until you are live in close quarters for months at a time that you get truly acquainted.
When you travel as a couple, especially in developing nations, you witness things that are many times unnecessary in normal relationships or holidays.
There is nothing that brings a couple together like the horror and laughter of dealing with a Delhi belly style “accident” on a bus or in a public place with no available loos nearby. Or hearing the effects of your loved one’s violent tummy bug when your hotel room toilet has a curtain instead of a door.
This of course is exacerbated when you are travelling in places with new languages, say goodbye to discretion when you and your partner are trying to explain tampons to a shop assistant with mime and gesticulations. Especially when they ask a few local guys to help them understand what you are looking for.
You know each others stories
Most people hang out with their partner outside of work hours, and we get to know intimately their jokes, stories and ways they behave.
When you travel long term as a couple you will hear your partners responses, stories and jokes so many times you will be able to recite them all word for word.
You accept each other as they are
Successful travelling couples soon get to a point where they will accept each other for who they are. If they don’t their intolerance will cause constant arguments, disharmony and may even doom your relationship.
Travelling together gives you a chance to overwhelm each other with those little annoying things that normal couples bicker over; wet towels on the bed, toilet seat up, too much time getting ready, being picky about this or that etc.
Now that you travel together you see that thing every moment of every day… EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
If it is an eating thing you will see it, three times a day. If it is a physical thing they do you may now see it ten times a day!
You will bitch, make them wrong and cause fights, or you will learn to accept your partner for everything, even that annoying, gross or embarrassing thing they do or say.
Do the latter and you will have an amazingly strong relationship that accepts each person for their strengths and weaknesses. You have more time to focus on the really important stuff, like what adventure you will have next or what language you will learn or what exciting plan you will make for the future.
You have your own language
Just like many non travelling couples if you spend enough time together, you will not even need to finish what you are saying to be understood by your partner.
John and I understand each others body language, mumbles, sighs etc. We communicate with a mixture of hand signals, Spanglish, imitations of people we have met, bizarre noises, whistles, half sentences and the tail end of dozens of private jokes or experiences we have had along the way.
If you spend many months (or years) travelling together your secret language will become second nature as you mainly speak to each other. In fact you will have to work hard to hide it when you return to normal life.
And yes… you do need to hide it, because lets face it; communicating in your own makey uppy language ranges from soppy and sickening to just plain weird.
You share unforgettable adventures
Travelling as a couple allows you to share something uniquely special with each other. Like seeing a giant Leatherback turtle lay her eggs in the moonlight, driving on insane roads to visit a project under a volcano or witnessing whole cows being butchered for the village celebration.
Or the grueling hikes to hidden cities and high altitude destinations when you thought you may not physically make it. Being pick pocketed, navigating new cities and meeting people whose stories transform the way you see the world.
Sharing these weird and wonderful situations will bring you closer than you ever thought possible, your view on the world can’t help but alter and for most travelling couples this means growing together in how you see the world, and creating a set of memories and experiences that intensely connects you.
You become a team/unit
When you travel long term, there are a lot of decisions to make in each day that you just don’t need to think about at home. As well as the constant packing and unpacking you will encounter thousands of transport, sightseeing, food, planning, health, entertainment, destination, money and shopping choices… to name a few!
Over time you naturally become more efficient as you find ways to work together to live as easy a life as possible inside the adventure you have created for yourselves, you will start to naturally compensate for each others weaknesses and at the same time learn from and influence each other. Together you grow faster than you do when you have to work everything out for yourself.
You have two sets of eyes and ears, you look out for each other and know instinctively when you can help out. Being in an intimate “team” like this gives you a comforting experience of familiarity and security wherever you find yourself in the world.
You wouldn’t have it any other way
Once you have a successful travel relationship you find it becomes a crucial part of the amazing future you plan for yourself. You have found someone that still loves you despite the farts, how you deal with frustration, incessant food cravings and the way you shout into the microphone for hours on Skype when you are sitting right beside them.
You feel safe in the knowledge that you have a partner in crime for the wild ideas you have for the future. There is no question that your plans are for two, you don’t have a backup and you wouldn’t have it any other way.
Have you shared long term travel with your significant other?