My husband, Brad, and I, have traveled all over together since we have known each other, often working right across from wherever we are traveling. Our trips have lasted for a few days to several months.
Here are some things that are critical to making travel with someone else successful. Ashlea Halpern is an editor at Traveler magazine who recently spent a year globetrotting with her boyfriend. Here are some of her best tips for making it work so you can come back from your journey stronger than ever.
Get clear on what you’re good at and what you’re not good at — and play up each other’s strengths. You might be awesome at small details, or you might be more of a big-picture kind of person. Either one is fine, of course — but be honest with yourself about where you excel. Use your gifts to help make the trip better, and let your travel partner do the same. If you hate navigating and you’re no good at it, then don’t insist on being the one to find the hotel at 11 p.m. in a city of ten million people. Find another way to get that done. When you see yourself and your companion get more done when you balance each other out, then differences don’t have to be catastrophic.
For example, Brad has an internal clock who, when given a place to be, no more how far away it is, will figure out how to get there almost at the exact time. He, on the other hand, isn’t the best at planning what to do when we go places. So, I do that, and he figures out the fastest and, often, the most adventurous way to get there.
Go ahead and step out of your comfort zone, but be clear about your boundaries. Yes, traveling is all about expanding and learning, and it’s good to try all kinds of new things. But don’t be afraid to set limits. If you absolutely do not want to go skydiving, don’t do it — but if it’s someone else’s dream, offer to be there cheering her on. If you really want to try roasted beetles, go for it! But if your friend refuses, respect that and move on. There are plenty more adventures ahead to enjoy together.
And, though Brad and I will just do something spontaneous, like climbing a hill in Germany and discovering a small water park hidden in the hills, neither of us are ones for trying new food.
Find small certainties within the chaos. So much of travel is uncertain — you’re in a new place, surrounded by things you might not recognize, trying to navigate through language and cultural barriers. If you’re traveling long-term, you know the agony and exhaustion of flight changes, train schedules, taxi rules, late nights, early mornings. Fatigue can make you vulnerable to illness, impatience, and arguments.
Take an honest look at yourself and identify one or two things you need to do every day to keep you grounded. Is it a good breakfast? A great cup of coffee? A reasonable bedtime? An afternoon walk? Time with a good book? Then, to the best of your ability, try to honor those needs, even when everything is up in the air.
Compromise with your travel partner — if he’s an early riser and you’re a sleeper-inner, find a way to meet in the middle, or try to accommodate those natural tendencies. Maybe he gets up at six and reads the paper or works out while you snooze for an extra hour. These small concessions will pay huge dividends later on when the time comes where you have to make sacrifices due to schedules or other needs.
When we are on vacation, Brad may get up a little earlier, go get some coffee or exercise and I relax a little longer. Then, we have a later breakfast together.
It’s okay to spend time apart. Especially if you’re an introvert, you might need alone time to stay sane. Or you might just want to spend an afternoon exploring on your own, talking to new people, doing different things. A little pre-planned, cordial time apart might be the exact thing that helps you be at your best together.
A recent example of this is on a cruise we took in November 2018. I saw that there was a painting class in the morning, which I like to do. Brad, on the other hand, isn’t an artist. So, I did that we he read and relaxed on his own.
When things get tough, stand together. It’s normal to bicker about small things. Everyone does. But when there’s something major, remember that you are a team. Hold off on blame, engage empathy, and get to work — together.
Our honeymoon last year, 2018, provides a perfect illustration of this. Our flight from Orlando was about 3 hours late due to lightning in the area. We realized that we wouldn’t likely make our connecting flight to Amsterdam. So, while on the plane, I arranged through the United App to get another flight that would take us into Belgium. We thought, perhaps foolishly, that our luggage would go to Belgium too. (I will discuss this more later.)
We knew that it was going to be a close call to make the next flight and that he is more comfortable making his way through crowds. So, when the plane landed, he maneuvered his way off the airplane and ran to the next gate, where the doors were about to close to get us on that flight. He got there and in a few minutes, I got there too.
Ah, we could relax. We made our flight!
Well, the next morning, when we arrived in Belgium, and not seeing our luggage anywhere, we found out after taking to someone who barely understood us, that our luggage was in Newark. They told us that we will be able to get our luggage sent to Belgium sometime the next day, which was a problem because we were leaving from Rotterdam on a cruise the next day. Not good!
We decided to take a train to Rotterdam and just had our carryon luggage. While I worked the regular route, Brad used his social media skills to connect with United on Twitter and over about 6 hours, go them to ship the luggage to Amsterdam the next morning.
I then looked up the train schedules and we took a train from Rotterdam to Amsterdam, picked up our luggage, got back on another train to Rotterdam, and took an Uber to the port. We were on our way!
Don’t forget to be silly. Laughter has saved many a relationship. It brings us back to what matters. It helps us take ourselves less seriously. It reminds us that it’s more important to be connected than it is to be right. Recognize when your travel partner is trying to lighten the mood, and don’t be afraid to let go and be goofy together. That time when everything was going wrong, and you stopped and realized how ridiculous it all was, and you laughed so hard that you both had tears rolling down your cheeks — that will stay with you forever. Go with it.
If you’re ready to embark on the fun, crazy adventure of traveling with a loved one, give me a call! I’d love to help you make it the best experience yet. You can reach me by sending me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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