FaB have been a team for more than four years and we have spent about half of that time on the road, travelling the world together. That’s over two years, or 669 days, or 16,060 hours of spending 24/7 in each other’s pockets (we’re super Googlers). And, as with anyone you travel with, getting along is important for both enjoyment and mental sanity. However, not only do we need to master the basic requirement of not ringing each others’ necks, we also want to ensure we keep the spark alive – we are travelling as a couple at the end of the day.
Now, admittedly, we started early. After just four months of meeting, we headed off on a ten day Italian road trip. Of course, it was early days then and both of us trying hard to be on our best behaviour probably contributed in making that trip a success. But perhaps it also helped set us up for our unexpected future.
Less than a year later we took sabbaticals and flew off on our first backpacking trip around the world. For four months we lived with each other on the road before even living together at home. It was a leap of faith on both parts but it worked out.
Then became the big test; quitting our jobs and setting off to travel together indefinitely.
Long term travel is quite an interesting and unusual situation for couples to be in. At home you might normally see each other in the evenings after work and at weekends. Not all day every day through every thought, feeling and experience. Also, there are a load of pretty gross situations that you might (and we have) witness each other in while on the road. Long night bus rides that give you all night morning breath and unsavoury armpits, unexpected food poisoning while sharing a squat toilet (or if you’re really unlucky, mid-transit), excessive (and we mean EXCESSIVE) sweating from climbing mountains (or actually any movement in humidity), and running out of clean underwear or deodorant for days on end.
How do you come back from all of that??
How do you get back to happily breathing in next to your other half never mind wanting to kiss them?
Well, actually, we’d say that all of that grossness actually makes you feel a lot closer to each other. So you actually hear your beloved wretch into the toilet right next to your head all night – hey, we’re human. We’ve learnt to loosen up the longer we’ve been on the road and it turns out that yeah, we are just human. Though we would recommend trying to do the best you can; search high and low for deodorant; if you find water, actually use it; play some music or even get your partner to sing while your head’s in the toilet bowl. This will be worthwhile and much appreciated.
We don’t confess to having all the answers or can even admit to never arguing – she is a woman and he is a man after all. And we can’t deny that hour long argument while walking to a sushi bar in Kyoto, Japan. But (so far!) it has worked and both of us would vouch that it’s been pretty plain sailing most of the time.
After two years on the road we want to share our experiences and some of the things we’ve learnt along the way hoping that it’ll help other couples navigate the unusual world of living together while travelling 24/7.
Communication is THE most important thing to pay close attention to and nurture while travelling as a couple. Just like all the relationship books say – good communication is the key to a good relationship. If she keeps leaving all her clothes strewn around the tiny box room you’re sharing or if he’s spending too much money on sweets or something else is bothering you, talk about it. There and then in a nice, respectful way. Don’t bottle, simmer and then explode – no one wants to see that massive blow up at midnight on a night bus only two hours in to your ten hour journey.
If you’re on the receiving end, listen. Really, that bus scenario is best avoided…
Try to have patience
Complimenting communication is patience. Sometimes easier said than done, but do try to be patient and kind to your other half. Travelling can throw you out of your comfort zone and bring out your worst side. Be compassionate and know that your bad side will also show its ugly face pretty soon.
Both of us have different strengths and interests and so we try to use these as best we can to make the ‘travelling together’ process as smooth as possible.
For example, Fern is a keen researcher and loves to read about new destinations, where to stay and what to do. Byron is also good at all that but his real strengths lie in logistics, where Fern may struggle a little! So we started to divvy up tasks using that premise. Fern discovers the good stuff while Byron works out how or when we’re going to do it.
We likened it a little to running a business; Fern works more in research, booking admin and events while Byron works in sales, logistics and finance. We found that we naturally started carving out these ‘roles’ after a few weeks so hopefully you’ll also fall into different roles as you go along. If you don’t, then have a chat about who’s going to do what. You may also find that you both enjoy doing similar tasks, in which case take it in turns or work out some kind of system. Though it may get interesting if neither of you are any good at a task that needs completing…threesome anyone??
Make new friends
Sometimes, because you’re travelling in a couple and so have someone to talk to already, you don’t make the effort to talk to anyone new. It’s very easy to isolate yourselves in a room full of strangers at a hostel or on a trip. But interaction with other people is needed when it’s mainly just the two of you all day everyday.
We think that getting a different perspective on life and a different set of interactions is important.
Put yourselves out there, both as a couple and also individually. Right at the beginning when we first left the UK we used to go into the hostel common room separately to see if we could ‘pick someone up’. It sounds creepy and calculated, we know, and we promise we don’t do that anymore but we think we have a point!
People are more likely to talk to you if you’re on your own, no??
Think of new and creative subjects to talk about
When you’re travelling long term, there will be down days where not much is going on or you’ve spent so much time together it feels like there’s nothing left to talk about. You’ve already discussed the intricacies of the temple you saw last week and how incredible sunrise was yesterday, nothing new has happened. And when you have exactly the same day as your partner; see the same things and meet the same people, what else do you have to talk about?
To combat this, we started trying to pick some random topics to get each other’s opinions on them. Fern even started reading Byron the news. You don’t have to have conversation 100% of the time but if it dries up, get creative. Soon enough you’ll be able to spout off your opinion of technical versus tactical footballers with the best of them – win!
In our pre-travelling life, we used to belong to the gym and watch what we ate…sort of. Long term travelling means a total change up to our previous routine and although we walk a ridiculous amount every day (it’s free!), we still need to keep ourselves toned, fit and healthy.
We discovered exercising together to be a great way to get a dose of endorphins and is also a good positive team building activity. Our favourites things to do are going for runs together and also building exercise routines for each other using our travel resistance bands.
We’ve been on some absolutely beautiful runs together in random corners of the world and exploring somewhere in this way is pretty cool as you discover a very different side to a place.
Our resistance band routine is fun too – we devise routines in two different sets so when one is doing one type, the other does a different one. It’s seriously worth a whirl.
‘His’ and ‘hers’ days
This a pretty cool idea if one of you is always directing where you should go, or if there is a difference of opinion on what to do.
Take it in turns to arrange his and hers days where one of you chooses exactly what you’re going to do, where you’re going to eat and what you’re going to see for the whole day.
This gives one of you a break from organising every day and you may end up doing something or eating somewhere you may not have picked on your own.
Enjoy that day at the cricket – it may just be the beginning of something beautiful.
Creative date nights
Just because you’re on a strict budget doesn’t mean you can’t push the boat out once in a while or find some really interesting and creative date nights while you’re travelling.
We’ve had some beautiful meals for a little more than our usual dinner budget and they’ve been incredible. We found a gorgeous restaurant overlooking the river in Chiang Mai and enjoyed freshly cooked fish by candlelight accompanied by a couple of cocktails.
And in The Maldives we spent an extra $5 to have our Maldivian fish curry outside on the sand underneath the stars with the guesthouse owner’s iPod playing Maldivian music, the lapping of the waves in the background and only candles for light.
We also found random outdoor movie nights, jazz nights and evening cookery classes to do.
If you really want to keep your budget low and still make it a special night, nature is absolutely beautiful and utterly free. Pop down to the market for some local tipple, grab some street food, pack a towel and find a beautiful place to have your dinner. We’ve had some wonderful picnics by sunset that hasn’t cost us anything more than our normal dinner budget.
Have a wash, put on your cleanest and least holey clothes and have a night of romance. You’re somewhere new and exciting so you’re already halfway there.
So there you have it, those are our tips on how to survive travelling as a couple and keep the spark alive on the road.
Is long term travelling the most romantic thing you can do as a couple? We think so.