What is it like travelling with my boyfriend?
Travelling with my boyfriend, in all honesty, has been a blast. We’ve been backpacking for just over 3 months, and although there have been some darker moments… some arguments, fights and slammed doors… I have been surprised at how smoothly everything has run. I’ve realised that we are so incredibly similar in a lot of ways… like how much money we want to spend daily (and what on), the types of landscapes we appreciate, the people we get along with, the type of accommodation we like, and the food we want to eat. And in other ways we are polar opposites… he likes walking, I like sitting. He loves science, and I’m easily confused. But the odds are in our favor. We seem to always find middle ground, and now having been together for over 2 years, I think we know each other well enough to be absolutely honest. And if you’re honest, everything seems to come naturally.
How did we plan before the trip?
Before leaving Sydney in July, we had a lot going on. Both working over 50 hours a week, with commitments on the side including university and personal business endeavors, not to mention the many friends to see and family to bid farewell to. With the fast approaching departure date, we really didn’t put a lot of time into planning, well, anything. Ok, that’s not entirely true, we did have 2 festivals to go to, and a rough idea of which countries we wanted to visit. Mainly, we focused on saving money, and with that came to constant validation of a proposed daily budget…‘If we have $3000, then we can spend $X each day, and we can stay here for free, and we can do some work over there, and really, it’s going to be ok… even if we get a little hungry’. We were nervous about finances, but now, with our time together nearly up, it’s clear that we had more than enough. There were some places I wanted to go that we didn’t… there is always time for Greece in my eyes…. and of course some places that he was interested in that there was no time for. But there’s no gain in focusing on what could have been, so instead we looked forward. One week at the beach, one week in the county, a couple days in the city, and a couple spent with family. I guess, while preparing to leave, we both knew that it would all come together, so planning wasn’t really a must.
If one wants to go here, and the other there – how do you work with each-others rhythm?
I can’t deny, I am prone to mood swings, big ones. And my boyfriend is incredibly patient, very tolerant and level headed. If I have a slight inclination to have some alone time, it appears that I struggle to bring it up nicely. Rather, something forces me to boil over and before I know it I’m aggravated and yelling ‘I NEED to be alone OK?! I’m going to do this and I don’t CARE what you do!’ Of course such childish statements are met with cool, calm and collected responses… ‘That’s fine Nic, why didn’t you just tell me?’
I think I battle with the idea that wanting to be alone translates as being angry, which just isn’t so. Being away together has definitely taught me the positives of being vocal about what I want, and that something as simple as one’s tone of voice can make all the difference. Being calm and honest is key! On occasion, he’ll mention something he wants to do, that I have no interest in. Before I respond, I think about my options… staying home, doing something separately, or tagging along. And more often than not, I tag along and realise that it was the best choice. Backpacking can be so exhausting, I find I often do want to do f**k all, but I also have come to see that doing things, even when the mind and body protest it, is worth it. I guess that’s one great thing about travelling with a partner; they’ve always got your back, even if they have to physically push it up a hill.
What about alone time?
Alone time is so important. I like to write, I like to stretch in the morning, and sometimes I like to just sit there and daydream. All such activities are more of a solo mission than a shared one. I am lucky in the way that my boyfriend knows me well enough to let me be. And although my short temper often gets the better of me, I have gotten better at expressing desires to be alone. I get the vibe that between the 2 of us, I am more introverted… I mean that in the sense that I like to be alone more than he does. It’s hard to write this without coming across as rude, but it’s usually me that wants the alone time. Who knows why. If I could give any advice on the matter, I’d say – Be honest, and don’t feel that you need to explain yourself all the time. Just because you’re travelling the world together doesn’t mean that you have to be stitched together at the hip 24/7. People gotta breathe!!
Do you still (effectively) get to know locals?
There have been a couple of countries that we traveled through where I hosted this semi guilty feeling… like I wasn’t doing the best I could. For the first month that we were away, we traveled as a foursome, with 2 of our friends from Sydney, who are also a couple. And I can’t lie, when we were a group, trekking to week-long festivals and surrounding ourselves with familiarity, there was close to no fraternizing with locals. However, there were so many special moments, with characters from all over the place, with new friendships and memories built, and hilarious tales created. After that, getting to know locals came naturally – we stayed with a big group of incredible people in Germany, forming real friendships and learning about the country, we stayed with both parts of our families in Bulgaria and the UK, we became close with various hosts and met up with old friends who introduced us to new ones. Day to day life led to more stories, anecdotes and lessons. I guess if you’re in a pack, you don’t integrate as easily, more so, you move as a clump through the crowds. Whereas if you’re alone in the world, as a singleton or a couple, you can’t help but move with the flow of where you are.
What are some compromises you’ve had to make?
Not too many come to mind. I think he has made more compromises than me… I smoke, so we often sit outside even if it’s freezing. I have a sweet tooth, so on too many occasions I’ve dragged him to places that’ll satisfy my cravings! Than again, he enjoys a beer more than I do, so we’ll sit at the pub, more for his sake than mine. These things are all so trivial though, and don’t really matter. From my perspective, I think my compromises are more personal… ones that I don’t feel I need to announce to him. You know how it is… some times you’re not in the mood, sometimes you don’t want to eat that, sometimes you don’t want to make small talk with certain family members or close friends. But more often than not, you grin and bear it. And yes, most of the time it’s worth it.
Communication, communication… communication?
It is KEY! I think it has gotten a lot easier as the weeks have flown by. Even silence has become a tangible language. It can be so tempting to not speak up, allowing minor things to become massive issues; but I’ve found out (often the long way) that it just isn’t worth it. So speak up to avoid dispute! And if, like us, you eventually get to a stage where a lack of talking can mean 1000 words, make sure to relish, as well as notice, such (in-)actions! Communication doesn’t come just from words, it comes in the form of facial and body language too, just to name a few.
Fights on the road?
Walk it off, Talk it out.
Always easier said than done. Always the obvious solution in retrospect. So, in all seriousness, walk away, breathe, write if you like, maybe even vent out loud. Come back, apologize, talk, maybe even yell just a little bit, some times it’s just a necessity to moving forward. Of course you’ll fight! We’ve argued about groceries, choice of milk, modes of transport, movie choices, pronunciation of Cities, stupid comments, ‘offensive’ statements, indecisiveness … the stupid list goes on and on and on. And looking back, it’s all just a laugh. But when it was happening, it certainly wasn’t 😉 so walk, and talk. I think that’s the only way to remedy fights on the road.
Keeping the relationship spark alive on the road
Always a tough one. We all know the saying ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’, but that’s a hard one to live by when on the road together. I’ve found the spark to be at its finest when we are both slightly out of our comfort zones. I find that the challenges we face act as a fuel for intimacy and honesty. The conversations that chase unfamiliarity are the best! Always so much to report on, always so much to laugh about. When we were camping in Italy for 2 weeks, the squishy tent didn’t exactly prescribe sexploits. But we’ve been lucky enough to have a bit of privacy almost every where we’ve stayed. I’m proud to report an average of 2 massages a week, and of course it’s a tit for tat situation…. you give a little, you get a little 😉
What advice do you have for other couples hoping to travel together?
Every couple is different. I’m sure by now it’s clear I’m an advocate for honesty, always be open to plans changing, and remember that it isn’t just your trip.
What are the biggest benefits about travelling with your partner?
Eating is often cheaper, as is sleeping. You always have some one to lean on. You have the freedom to let yourself go, as there is always someone there to catch you. Sharing the tasks that no one always feel like doing, such as bargaining and research. Having some one to reminisce with when feeling pangs of homesickness, that’s one that no one ever talk about. And above all, sharing an abundance of experiences with some one you love… no mater how mushy that sentiment is.
(Cringe..) What are a few disadvantages about travelling as a couple?
Hmmm, that is a tough one to talk about. I guess you never have absolute freedom, choices are often made together meaning you look back with a shadow. I suppose everyone is different, but I feel like if you’re alone your experiences are more raw. And it is probable that the people you meet are less than that if you are alone; you don’t have to make new friends to have a good time, but that can be as good as it can be bad.
Has travelling with your partner made your relationship stronger?
I am 100% certain that it has. We have seen each-other at our worst and at our finest. I have found myself feeling so proud to be in my relationship. So impressed that this amazing person chose me. Our relationship is stronger on so many levels, and on that note, we are both stronger individuals, who wouldn’t love that?!