Before Ian and I became an item, I had my fair share of travelling. I went on trips with a group of friends, a special someone, and also alone. I enjoyed the companionship but didn’t dislike my solitude.
In the last five years, except for a few odd trips, it was mainly me and Ian on the road. Sometimes, we went for a few weeks. Other times, it was for a month or two. After our wedding in Vietnam, we took a year off to travel around. It was super fun, but I wouldn’t say all our travels were as smooth as the skin of a baby. More than once, we thought about abandoning or shortening a trip, and I have learned a few things about travelling with a significant other.
Do Work as a team
This one sounds obvious but, in the beginning, so many times we failed to work with each other effectively. We tried to do everything together. It seemed sweet and romantic. After all, a big part of travelling is to tighten your bond. For long-term travels though, this could work against you.
When we first started travelling with each other, we made all the logistical decisions as a couple, or at least we tried to. We looked over each other's shoulders when booking a hotel or checking the flight tickets. Sometimes, we would use two different websites to compare the price or availability. While it was supposed to be fun, the planning process slowed down to a crawl.
We would start planning, but often couldn’t agree on the best option and would delay a decision about accommodation or a connection until the last minute. When I say last minute, I mean booking a hotel on the same evening from the train station of the city we just arrived in. It happened more than once and I am telling you, it’s exhausting.
You both stare at a tiny iPhone screen, sitting on the floor of a dirty, packed station. You have all your stuff with you, which you need to keep an eye on. Finding the best hotel in town isn’t exactly the first thing in your mind, right? And you would be in worse luck if your partner doesn’t feel the same way, and still wants to search as long as it takes. That moment, my friends, is when I decided that if I want to keep travelling happily ever after with my significant other, I would need to work as his teammate.
That means I play to my strengths and let him do the same with his. Eventually, after a few miserable experiences, we found a system that works for us.
I am an on-time person, who takes being late, especially for trains, buses, or flights, very seriously. Such scenario stresses me out and keeps me awake at night. I often end up being a mess on the day I have to fly somewhere. Thus, I take care of finding the best options for getting from A to B and book them as far in advance as I could compromise with my not-on-time partner.
Ian spent his childhood in the countryside, half of his school time running for the bus with one shoe in his hand (as I was told). When I first went out with him, I was naive. Now, I know how to prevent myself having to run after him for busses or planes. I checked the timetable many times, and way in advance. If needed, I would lie to him about the bus schedule, adding a five-minute buffer here and there.
Ian would take care of the accommodation, researching areas we should stay and best hotels around. I used to join him when he did his research but his being a perfectionist made it a very dull process for me. Now, I just get us to a place, and he takes care of the rest.
We have been making a good team :D
Don’t Walk in a dream
You know, travelling with your loved one, to a postcard beach for your honeymoon, it sounds like a dream. Well, you need to wake up. As much as you wish your holiday to be a perfect romantic getaway, a million things could get in your way.
For a starter, your flight can be super late, and you got stuck in a crowded airport for hours instead of sipping the second cocktail on a beach.
It happened to us when we went to Barcelona. Instead of wandering the beautiful city and enjoying some pinchos, we sat at Schipol airport seeing our flight got delayed further and further. By the time we got to Barcelona, the day was almost over, and we were drained from the dry, sterile air of airport so much that we walked the streets of the Catalonian capital like two zombies.
If I didn’t know better, I would be gutted, moody and annoyed. The mood might ruin the rest of the holiday. But I knew better. I wrote the day off and made sure we got something back from our unfortunate wait at the airport. We got a 500 euro compensation to spend on another holiday.
The moral of the story is that you need to learn to go with the flow. While one is often more flexible being alone on the road, there's much pressure of having a perfect holiday with your loved one. Get rid of those images of a dream holiday that you often see on Instagram. Do it now. Be prepared to be late, be bored, be disappointed with a destination that you have dreamt about since you were a child. It happens all the time. If you fail to deal with it, it might stress out your precious relationship.
Oh, this is supposed to be fun, but somehow it is not. Is it because he is not the right one?
No, he is the right one, it’s just that nobody can plan for everything and perfection only exists in books, and, of course, in your dreams.
Compromise is a biggie I think. As they often say, opposites attract. You and your partner might share many values and ways of thinking, but the odd is that you have different ideas about small things, which are likely to bubble up in your travels. Do you think that your soulmate would like the same holiday as you do? Well, it’s not always the case.
As I said, Ian and I are on two sides of the being-on-time line. Does his lateness irritate me? More often than I care to take note. Does my pre-travel-day anxiety keeps him awake at night? Yes, I am afraid so. But we compromise.
He would try to pack his bag the evening before our travel day instead of leaving it lying on the floor until the morning because the sight of an unpacked bag will keep me awake all night. I would take a deep breath each time I am tempted to get in the queue to be not the first but not the last person to get on an aeroplane. I would bite my fingers, absent-mindedly scan through another article and patiently wait for Ian to close his laptop and we would be among the last to go through the gate.
Though these things seem small, they could accumulate and brew into arguments that could ruin your travel. The last time you went to try the food in a stall that you didn’t like, but your partner did. He dragged you into the sea while all you wanted was to lie on the beach bench and have another coconut. He wanted to see another castle while you loved to be out in a park where the sun could kiss your cheeks or slightly burned your forearms. When there are choices, there might be compromises required. It is not easy, especially if one of you are more of a dominant character than the other.
The key is to communicate. Sometimes, you need to say it out loud that a particular thing makes you uncomfortable as it might be entirely not apparent to your partner. Again, you are travelling and the holiday mood might cloud your judgement. So communicate your preferences. Make the compromise that you can and ask for his part. It's a two-way street.