My mom, being the wise wise Hispanic mother that she is, always said you reaaaaaally got to know someone when you traveled with them. There is just something about travel that reveals true colors of both your companions and yourself. Traveling as a married couple isn’t always sunshine and rainbows; just like a marriage it is full of ups and downs, moments you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else with anyone else and moments you would rather sulk in a museum alone because you are annoyed. Marriage isn’t perfect and neither is traveling when you are married. But there are important lessons to be learned. And it seems that each trip no matter how brief or long, Tim and I learn something new about our relationship and each other.
Traveling as a Couple: Lessons Learned
I will be the first to admit that being married to Tim is MUUUUCH easier than being married to me. While my husband is the epitome of go with the flow, nothing stresses him out kinda guy I am the opposite. I am a planner-list-maker-organizing and slightly anal retentive person, but I admit it and identify it so that is half the battle, right?
Lesson 1: Don’t sweat the small stuff
No matter where the destination or how long the trip, there is no point in stressing out over that thing you left at home or who forgot to charge the camera. It seems like a huge issue in the moment, but does fretting or fighting about it make it better? No. So why let it but a damper on your trip! While this is easier said than done, I’ve learned to take a breath and move on. Nothing is more important than spending time as a family or significant other.
Lesson 2: It is OK if you want to do different things
Everyone has different things they want to see and experience, being a couple doesn’t change that. It is OK if one of you really wants to spend a whole day sitting at a park people watching while the other would rather do 10 other things.
Lesson 3: Compromise means more when you travel
Compromising is a part of any relationships, there is no way around it. And while you may or may not be use to it, I promise you that learning to compromise while on a trip means more to your relationship than it does at home. Think about it, though. At home if one of you doesn’t want to eat at the same restaurant or see the same movie, there are friends you can call or other things you can do. But when you travel it isn’t always that easy to stick to your guns and say “Tough Luck, Charlie” so compromising means a little more.
Lesson 4: The much hated selfie can become your BFF
We have all been there: wanting to take a picture but there is no one around to help you OR you don’t trust anyone to not run away with your camera. Enter THE SELFIE. I never thought I would be one of those people who took cheesy selfies in front of landmarks. And then I started to solo travel. And then I got married. Sometimes the selfie is your only way of getting a picture of the two of you together. Go ahead, embrace the selfie.
Lesson 5: No amount of planning can prepare you for everything
This was a hard one to learn. I am a fierce mix of “Lets just see what happens” and “Here are the next 3 days planned out in 15 min intervals” Monica Bing style. I constantly go from care free spirit to over planner, so learning that things would happen I wasn’t prepared for no matter much I planned wasn’t easy. But when I finally accepted it, our trips proved to be more enjoyable.
Lesson 6: Take pictures. ALL THE PICTURES.
You can never take too many pictures. Like, ever. There will come a point where all you have left are pictures of your travels so take them all. Eating pizza in a dive bar and your spouse looks good? Take the photo. Sitting on the subway? Take a picture. Sometimes the most unexpected photos end up being your favorite.
Lesson 7: You can still feel lonely even if you have a partner
Traveling with someone can still leave you with lonely moments. Have you ever had a fight on a trip with no where to go as you share a hotel room in a country you don’t know the language? Doesn’t sound to pleasant and while Tim and I have never had this issue, I know plenty of couples who have. Just like solo travel doesn’t mean loneliness, couple travel doesn’t mean guaranteed closeness.
Lesson 8: Travel is personal. Be prepared to get personal.
It is weird to think about travel being personal, especially when you have been in a long term relationship with someone. You think “how much more personal could we get?” and the answer is always just a little bit closer, just a little more personal. Everything about traveling is in one way or another opening oneself to vulnerability and how you feel about what you discover (about your destination AND yourself) is personal.
Lesson 9: Eating the street food makes your trip memorable
Tim and I are big fans of street food. I know some people wouldn’t dare think of trying some of the things you see street vendors selling, but I promise you it makes your trip more memorable. Some of the best meals I have ever had were eaten standing up and on street corners. It is certainly a leap of faith, but if you follow common sense (Never seafood, personally) you will have a great memory and story to tell.
Lesson 10: It is OK to buy souvenirs. It is also OK to not buy them.
As I get older and travel more the list of people who get souvenirs is getting shorter and the list of those who get post cards longer. And both are 100% okay. I’ve traveled more than Tim has, so for me, souvenirs are no longer as appealing. I would rather bring back rugs, teas, and spices as opposed to a shot glass. But sometimes the tourist-y Mickey Ears are what makes you happy, so get them! Who cares? Do what makes YOU happy.
Lesson 11: Learn when to be frugal and when to spend money
Budget travel doesn’t have to mean you are a cheapskate about everything. A once in a life time trip should be just as memorable as those you take on the weekend. But decide what warrants your spending. Convert local currencies into your own (for us US dollars) to help you decide is it work it or not. $30,000 Colombian pesos sounds like a lot but really $10 isn’t so scary. So when you have the option to spend the evening in Volcanic Hot Springs, do it!
Lesson 12: Take the time to appreciate each other
Taking the time to appreciate each other is always time well spent and will only make your trip more memorable and special. It is so easy to take for granted who you are traveling with as you get caught up in the moment. But take the time to tell them you love them, how much you appreciate them, and how thankful you are to be sharing the trip with them.
Lesson 13: It is easier to fight, so don’t
This goes back to #7 and #8. It is always easier to give in and “fight” than to swallow your pride and move on. But if fighting at home can ruin your day, just imagine what it will do to your trip if you are miles away? Talk it out and don’t let it ruin your trip. Move on, grab a drink, and enjoy your vacay!
Lesson 14: Have a date night
You are somewhere completely new, different town, people you’ve never seen before… take one night from your trip and make it about the two of you. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it can be hot dogs and a walk through a park but taking that time and setting it aside for the two of you is magical. Besides, it gives you the ability to say things like “Remember that date night we had in Paris?” who doesn’t want to say that?!
Lesson 15: It doesn’t all have to be torrid romance
A vacation as a married couple doesn’t have to feel like another honeymoon. It totally should, but there is no need to add that pressure to your trip. You don’t have to lock yourself in the hotel room with champagne and room service. It is okay to go out and be touristy. Don’t feel obligated to do what you think you should just because the kids are at home.