We’ve been doing a lot of interviews lately. In the process, we’ve noticed a bit of a trend: everyone wants traveling couples to share their tips for maintaining a healthy and happy relationship on the road.
We decided to really give it some thought. What advice can we offer to other couples, especially if they are about to travel together for the first time? We’re not claiming to be experts by any means, but we have been traveling or living abroad as a couple for nearly three years—or the entire duration of our married lives—so we do have a bit of practice.
A lot of what we’ve learned is simply common courtesy and can be applied to relationships at all times, nomadic or not. Other tips you might find more applicable if you’ve ever been in a bit of a (mis)adventure with your significant other. Regardless, our hope is that these tips don’t just help you tolerate one another, but actually show you that travel can make your relationship stronger.
As a bonus, we’ve included a smattering of adorable photos of the two of us around the world. So there’s that.
10 Ways to Keep the Love Alive on the Road
1. Split Up Responsibilities
There’s a lot that goes into planning and successfully implementing a trip. If you have someone to share the load with, then do it! As we’ve learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we’ve been able to more effectively and happily split up what needs to get done, both in our travels and on the blog. For example, Dan is in charge of all the finances. I do the majority of the reservations. We plan our itinerary together. This also clearly defines who is in charge of what responsibilities so we don’t end up with one of those awkward moments where we show up a day late for our flight to Mexico because we both thought the other person was on top of the travel documents. Oh wait. We just did that. Did I mention we are still practicing?
2. Go On Dates
It’s all too easy to lose the romance when you’re sleeping in hostels or squeezing pennies to fund your travels. To keep the spark alive, we make it a point to get all dolled up and go on a date at least once a week. We both have a soft spot for good food and trying new restaurants, so often our date nights are out to dinner, but if we’ve been traveling a lot (and eating out a lot) then we get creative. Splurge on good coffee. Do a puzzle (Yes, we do that). Go see a local film. Find some live music. Even though you are already spending a lot of time together while traveling, set aside a special time that’s designated for just the two of you.
3. Be Alone
Chances are that you don’t spend every second together when you’re at home, so why do you need to do so just because you’re abroad? Have your own hobbies. Maintain your personal identity. If one person really doesn’t want to see the art exhibit or go bungee jumping or whatever, then don’t feel like you have to. You’ll keep from exhausting yourself. You’ll appreciate the other person more when you reunite at the end of the day. Plus, you’ll have something different to talk about over dinner. We definitely struggle with spending time apart to pursue our own hobbies (primarily because we have so many shared interests), but we are mindfully trying to improve upon it.
4. Have Shared Goals
Find things you can do alone, but also find projects you can work towards as a couple. From experience, we’ve found that ‘traveling’ isn’t always enough. We prefer to have big, tangible goals—the kind we can cross off from a bucket list. Training for our marathon was one of them. Writing our eBook was another. Currently we’re practicing AcroYoga and trying to learn elementary Portuguese for our upcoming trip to Brazil this summer. Whatever your goals might be, have a project you can work towards—and share in the victory of—together.
5. Ask About Your Partner’s Day
Don’t just ask about your partner’s day if you spent it apart, but also if you did absolutely everything together. On an obvious level, asking about your partner shows that you care about them; however, it also allows you to learn about each other on a deeper level. Even if we went to the same museum and ate at the same restaurant and then finished the day with the same evening walk, chances are that we processed those events differently. Talking about our experiences together has led to interesting revelations about the other person, even though we’ve known each other for nearly a decade now.
6. Be Honest
While you’re talking to each other, be honest about your observations and reflections. Don’t pretend like you love adrenaline-pumping sports if the thought of climbing a ladder makes you nauseous. Likewise, if sitting in a coffee shop and people watching all day is about as thrilling to you as watching grass grow, then don’t feel required to do so. Try it at least once before you knock it, but don’t get warped into saying yes all the time just because you’re scared of saying no. This is especially pertinent if you haven’t been dating that long, or if you’re now traveling with the person you just met at your hostel. Tip #3 can come in really handy here.
7. Do Each Other Favors
We’re going back to the whole being considerate thing, even if you’re spending all your time together. Don’t take each other for granted. And remember—it’s always the little things you do that make a difference. Dan always helps me put my backpack on when we’re traveling. And that’s saying a lot, because my pack is busting from the seams and ridiculously heavy. I don’t ask him to assist me, but he knows the little act of helping me get it off the ground means a lot.
8. Don’t Get Hangry
Angry because you’re hungry. In our opinion, it’s one of the foremost causes of arguments between anyone on the road. If we wait until we’re starving to find food, especially in a country where we don’t know the language, frustrations rise and we can almost guarantee one of us will snap at the other. We’ve learned to always keep a snack handy so we can keep the side effects of being hangry at bay. Sometimes, it really is the simple things that make all the difference.
9. Meet Other Couples
Or really, just take the time to meet anyone at all. It’s much easier to stay in your own little ‘couple’s bubble’ when you’re traveling together. You have each other, so you don’t really have to make an effort to get to know other people. You might also find that others are more hesitant to approach (read: interrupt) you, understandably so. But the best part of traveling is almost always the people you meet along the way. Be friendly. Smile. Use resources like Couchsurfing to find locals to grab a drink with. Don’t close the world out!
10. Don’t Wait!
Our biggest tip to couples who want to travel is to just go ahead and do it! We strongly believe that all couples should travel together if they are considering spending the rest of their lives together. It doesn’t have to be international travel, though we’ve found the farther you leave your comfort zone, the better. You’ll learn how your partner handles stress, what they do in uncomfortable situations, and how they look after 12 hours on a bus with no A/C. And the best part? You’ll do it while making memories that last a lifetime. We love the lifestyle we have created for ourselves, and we know that it has made us a stronger couple as a result.
Okay, there are a lot of other traveling couples out there! Please take the time to share your tips and experiences in the comments below.
What do you do to keep the love alive on the road? What tips do you have for couples that are setting out on their first international trip together? What keeps you traveling as a couple?