Traveling with your spouse or significant other can be a lot of fun. Sharing experiences, seeing places for the first time that you’ve always wanted to visit, traveling to unknown locales – all of these things can lead to incredible memories. But it’s not always easy and the road more or less traveled is not always smooth. It takes honesty, open-mindedness, communication, and patience, among other virtues to make the travel experience one to remember.
Rebecca and I have a lot in common. Since college, we have found a way to live and travel well together, like two rocks with their sharp edges slowly worn down over time so we fit together like puzzle pieces. Don’t get me wrong, we fight and argue about stupid stuff like everyone else, but we try to not let that get the best of us over the long term. As few things about travel can easily bring out the best or worst in people. Travel, while fun and exciting, can quickly get scary and nerve wracking. A nice trip down an old worn road in the late evening of summer, in just a few minutes can turn into a treacherous gravel road that can’t be taken further, with an approaching thunderstorm. It’s amazing how quickly situations can change and we have to be prepared for that.
I think traveling in close quarters for long periods (we travel by motorbike for a month at a time) requires adherence to some rules. Before you go, discuss what the trip means to both of you and what you expect to get out of it.
- Who’s the photographer?
- How you gonna get from point A to point B? And then B to C? C to D?
- Are you wanting to spend days in museums, or are you planning to get the blood pumping with some hikes in the mountains? What does your spouse think of that idea?
- What’s your budget? Are you staying in luxury hotels or at pensions?
- How many gifts are you planning on buying and for whom? (this can be a surprisingly sensitive topic)
- Will you always be eating out or will you be staying at places when you can/want to stay home and cook? What will the mix of that be?
- Are you going to do a lot of organized tours or are you doing self guided? (Of course our vote is self-guided, off the beaten path, the road less traveled and all that for most situations)
- Who is going to do the research/planning for the trip? Are there any can’t miss/deal breaker places to see or things to do?
- Do you really have enough time to see all of that?
- How much stuff will you bring? Really, all that? Do you really need all of that stuff? Really?
A tip from Rebecca to the ladies – lay out your clothing for your trip 2 weeks in advance. One week prior to leaving cut it by 1/3. You’ll see, it doesn’t matter if you wear things over and over! What matters is mobility and that your not lugging things around the world that you will never put on.
The answers to many of these questions can alter the plan and cost of the trip by 50%. Imagine if you were only expecting to spend $5,000 on a trip and it ended up costing $7,500, or by contrast, imagine you didn’t want to do any work and wanted to pay for tours and eat out all the time, but your partner wanted to keep some costs lower and make some aspects of the trip DIY. How would that fly with you?
You won’t always be on the same emotional/physical page with your partner: Keep in mind that your travel partner may have been wiped out from the day before or just isn’t as excited to see the third medieval castle in as many days. So try to be flexible with your expectations, or don’t have any, and you’ll find the days go much smoother.
We’ve found the number one stresser on a trip is over scheduling – driving too many miles, trying to see too many things, moving to the next city, and the next and the next too soon. Remember that this is an adventure and not work, you shouldn’t feel like there is no time to seize the moment and do something that you didn’t plan.
Plans aren’t expectations: travel requires planning, whether 3 months in advance for the flight and hotel room, or 30 minutes at breakfast for your day tour of that European city. Keep in mind though that things can and will go differently (notice I didn’t say wrong) than you planned, and that’s OK, you’re still on vacation, in a beautiful city or country having a great time with someone you really care about. That was the goal, right?