10 Things I Learned Traveling as a Couple

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10 Things I Learned Traveling as a Couple

For our second date, without much warning and with little fanfare, Tyler showed up on my doorstep while I was on a trip to Buenos Aires for my job with the State Department. I felt like something big was about to happen as this was a departure from my normal dating experiences in Washington, DC. Before long, these international rendezvous became routine. We hiked the Inca Trail in Peru and swam with penguins and sea lions in the Galapagos for our next dates. One of the things that made me fall in love with Tyler is his sense of adventure. These experiences abroad brought us together, but also allowed us to bypass normal dating pains and still get to know each other in a meaningful way.

Travel has continued to be an integral part of our relationship. We are both immensely curious about the world and passionate about learning. Since our first dates in South America, we’ve climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, chased the Northern Lights on a road trip around Iceland, and jumped off of a derelict boat captained by a drunk Russian into Cambodia’s bioluminescent waters.

After three years together, we’ve learned how to enjoy traveling together for prolonged periods of time. Tyler and I are currently on a year-long trip around the world. Even in the honeymoon stage, traveling with your partner is something that takes time to figure out. As with all relationships, it is a continual learning process, but here is what I’ve learned on making the most of the journey:

  1. Find the humor in every situation. Explosive diarrhea in a third world country when we hardly knew each other? That’s hilarious. We were still in the butterflies stage, and I was trying to put my best foot forward on our trip to Peru — doing my hair, wearing makeup, and attempting to look like a glamorous mountain babe while hiking the Inca Trail. That all went out the window after a bout of food poisoning forced us to hug the same toilet in a run-down hotel room in Aguas Calientes the night before reaching Machu Picchu. It was especially hilarious when our trekking guide thought it was a good idea to hit on me while I was shivering under the covers. Our guide suggestively asked, “¿Estas enferma, Anita? Tengo la medicina.” Roughly translated it means, “Are you sick? Because if so, my sweet, sweet lovin’ will cure you.” No medicina por favor. Although it was not funny at the time, Tyler and I get a good laugh about it now.
  2. Bring snacks. Tyler has a low hunger threshold. He eats more than any human I know. To give an example, he always made a point to stop by Jumbo Slice when we lived in DC even if we had just gorged ourselves on brunch. Disgusted by his gluttony and concerned for his health, I attempted to bat the grease-laden pizza out of his hand every time, but his protests caused me to reevaluate my stance. I am now in the pro-snacks camp. We know we are more likely to pick fights with each other when we are “hangry” (hungry+angry), and we could avoid bickering altogether if we kept our blood sugar levels stable. While on long trips, granola bars and nuts are godsends and help us stave off hunger pains and unnecessary squabbles.
  3. Be generous with affection. Being in-tune with your partner’s needs is important. We are each other’s main emotional resource when we travel, and we have to be willing to keep each other’s emotional “cup” full. Even if you feel like smacking the other person, small displays of affection go a long way; love can diffuse any situation. I am an affectionate person. I love being hugged. I love hugging on people. If we experience a stressful travel experience, like missing a flight or having a debit card compromised overseas, Tyler makes me feel better by just being nearby.
  4. Practice patience. Personal space and time alone are a luxury while traveling. Tyler and I have irritated the hell out of each other at times on the road. This trip has taught me it is not normal to spend this much time with one person. When we are home, we go to the office or for a walk to blow off steam. Traveling in close quarters pushes our limits in ways we are not used to, but I have learned that patience is a muscle — we have to keep working at it for it to grow stronger. Before saying something hurtful, I take a deep breath, count to 10, and try to let it go. Our shared commitment to being gentle with one another’s feelings has paid off. Harsh words sink ships and certainly ruin overseas trips. We never regret when we speak to each other with kindness and patience.
  5. Forgive quickly. Tyler is an entrepreneur and relies heavily on his laptop to run his business. While we were in Croatia this summer, I got stung by a bee, which caused me to jump out of my seat and flail my arms heedlessly knocking over a glass of water near Tyler’s computer. While he scrambled to avoid major damage, my brain immediately jumped to the worst case scenario: I ruined his business. At the end of it, Tyler gave me a big hug and said, “Everything is okay.” I am sure he was drawing from his well of patience at that moment. This experience reminds me to also practice forgiveness when he does things that frustrate me.
  6. Decide beforehand how to split travel logistics. Every couple is different, and it is essential to figure out what works for you. Play to each other’s strengths. In our case, I have a stockpile of frequent flyer miles and airline perks from my job and am passionate about finding optimal flight routes. Tyler is a skilled Airbnb ninja and always finds amazing places for us to stay within our budget, so it makes sense for me to book our flights and for him to pick out our accommodation. We split other costs 50/50, and we consult each other before we make major decisions about our travel. On that note…
  7. Keep track of expenses. On previous trips, we have disagreed about who has paid for what — it was easy to forget exactly what each person spent when we were not tracking it. We now use the app Splitwise to enter what we have each paid for. Since we have started managing and accounting for our money better, these tiny arguments disappeared, and we have avoided money-related resentment. The Oanda Currency Converter app is also useful for accounting. It converts any currency instantly and is a lifesaver when traveling to multiple countries.
  8. Seek time alone. Personal time is important. When we are constantly around each other, we understand the value of having time by ourselves. I love having time alone to read or practice yoga while Tyler pursues his own projects. Time away from each other helps us to enjoy our time together more. Plus, it is exciting to share the different activities we did that day with each other. Remember to take take time out for yourself. You will both be better off and happier for it.
  9. Remember to reach out to other people. When traveling as a couple, we slip into that comfort zone of only talking to each other. It’s easy for us to get trapped in our own adventure bubble. It is the path of least resistance. Before we started dating, we both frequently traveled solo. I find it is easier to make friends when traveling alone. Couples can come off intimidating and less approachable. Some of my favorite travel memories have been exploring with locals or other travelers, so remember to make an effort to meet people. These connections enhance the beauty of being overseas.  
  10. Savor the moments. There may be a time when circumstances do not allow us to travel. We never know when or if failing health, family obligations, or financial burdens will be the source of constant struggle. The experiences Tyler and I have had while traveling have forged a meaningful bond that I will take with me throughout my life. I remind myself to take a deep breath, shut off my smart phone, and be grateful for the moments we have together on this earth.

Summit victory beers on the trek to Machu Picchu, Peru

2015-02-16 18.04.07

Tonle Sap floating village, Cambodia


Gulfoss, Iceland

2015-08-24 10.18.05-2

Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique

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  • Thanks for this post! I just moved to Taiwan with my significant other and we are spending the next year or so here and around SE Asia. Some of these tips are sure to keep us sane!

    • Hi Dan, I’m glad you liked the post. You’ll definitely learn a lot about each other moving to a different country! Hope you enjoy your time in Taiwan — who knows, maybe we’ll end up there on this trip! Thanks for reading, and all the best.

  • Katharine Knight

    Great post Anne. I am sorry you got stung by a bee. I hope you keep Benadryl. Your grandmother would have anaph
    ylactic reactions to such things

    • No worries, Mom! I have some 🙂 Thanks for reading. Love you.