|At lunch together in Orange, France. |
Photo courtesy of Apryl Anderson.
Now, I'm not one for writing lists on the internet. While I love them in real life (sometimes I even add things I've already finished just for the pleasure of checking them off - so fun!), I think the interwebs are so filled with "Top Ten" this and "Five Worst" that, I prefer not to partake in all the blah-blah talk.
However, after nearly four months of non-stop travel with my fiancé, I do feel as if I have some hard-won knowledge about successfully globe-trotting with a significant other, and I want to share it with you. And so, here are my tips, tricks, and two cents' worth on couples' travel:
|Feeling the love in front of the Louvre.|
1. Make decisions together.
It's really critical in the early stages of planning to think about major issues such as budget, preferred destinations, and length of journey. He likes to relax in luxury resorts and you'd rather save money in a 6-bed hostel dorm room? You kids gotta sort that out. Dan and I discussed for many weeks how much money we were willing to spend, where we were dying to go, and how long we thought we should be away. We agreed on a financial plan (down to a weekly food allowance!) and neither of us cared where we went, so long as he was playing shows and I would be able to write. The length of the journey didn't matter to us either; in fact, we both felt that the minimum length of our trip would be one year, and we could reassess priorities after that time. Determine together what's important to your trip and your relationship.
|Busking for fun on the Charles Bridge, Prague.|
2. Stay positive.
Dan and I are both very "DIY" kind of people - actually, we're such extreme Do It Yourself-ers that instead of hiring a moving company to clear out our NYC apartment, we packed and schlepped everything ourselves. Up and down five flights. Without an elevator. In February. During an ice storm. And while I would not recommend this to anyone, we handled the labor and the exhaustion really well - throughout the day we consistently encouraged each other to keep going, and reminded each other how exciting it was that our dreams were thisclose to being reality.
If you see your partner struggling, make it a point to go extra easy on them - just like Dan did on the second day of our move, when he found me obsessively scraping bits of white paint off the hardwood floor because I just could not carry another box downstairs without completely losing my mind. (Read: all in the matter of seven days I had quit my job, packed up our entire lives into two duffel bags, and ran around saying good-bye to my family and friends who I would not be seeing for at least a year. I was on the brink.) He just patted me on the back, gave me some iced tea, and let me scrape away until the overwhelming shock of what we were doing passed and I could calmly function again. Bless that boy's heart.
|Do you want YOUR travel photos to look like this?|
Didn't think so.
3. Pay attention.
Our first month of wayfaring wasn't all rainbows and unicorns - far from it. I was having a hard time adjusting to the realities of perpetual travel, especially with constant couchsurfing: it was difficult to always be a guest, always having to be "on," and even harder to move locations every few days. My hands and back were still sore from moving, and we both developed nasty colds. The nonstop rain and gray winter days of London just exacerbated my already foul mood.
I started complaining about everything from my tired feet to the cost of the Tube. Like, constantly. I couldn't understand why I wasn't having the glorious time we had dreamed of. We started snapping at each other. Finally, after two weeks, we had a serious talk: we had to fix the bad attitudes and it had to be our own responsibility, not the other person's. My whole frame of mind had to change from "This is difficult and therefore sucks" to "This is different and therefore exciting." We realized we hadn't been thinking about the other person as much as we should have; it came down to simple things like not getting frustrated with a "hangry" partner (hungry + angry = hangry) and just getting them a snack instead. Pay attention to your own peccadilloes - they're much easier to manage that way.
|Friends don't let friends go hangry.|
4. Be flexible
Angry border control agents grilling you for the last half hour? It'll make a good story later. Couchsurfing host lives 45 minutes away from city center - when he said it was only 15? Enjoy seeing a part of the city you wouldn't otherwise. Your ride from Dortmund to Berlin flakes out last minute leaving you stranded? Call it an adventure. You only have enough cash for one museum and not the three that you were dying to see? Make a cheap picnic instead! You see where I'm going with this?
It is absolutely vital to be open-minded when traveling - not only to the nuances of foreign people and new cultures, but also to the challenges that will inevitably throw themselves at you. Face them together. All those things I mentioned above have happened to us, and while they may have been scary (trust me, red-faced customs officers waving their "power" around are quite the alarming spectacle) or disappointing at the time, Dan and I were able to laugh off every single instance, and we're better for it.
|Ride like the wind! Straight into the happy horizon!|
It doesn't matter whether you're spending two weeks on the beach in Hawaii or two years teaching English in Peru. If you're doing it together, you have to be just that - together. In making the tough decisions and the fun ones. Now, as our French landlady likes to say: "Go! Make your life!"