This is a guest post by Elise, one half of Positive World Travel. It’s a different type of format than I’ve done in the past but let’s see how it works.
It has almost been 2 years since Anthony and I started traveling together. In that time, I’ve learned more about Anthony and our relationship than I ever could have if we had stayed in Sydney. I certainly believe our travels have only strengthened our relationship. And so I began to wonder what have other couples learned from their trip. I’m sure they would have so much advice they could share so I decided to contact a few couples and hear their thoughts, tips and perspectives of life as two on the road.
Life After Kids: The Gypsy Nesters
I was interested to talk with a couple that are now traveling after they’ve raised their kids. David and Veronica from Gypsy Nesters have been together for 30 years. And, since their kids have flown the nest, they are enjoying life on the road and have been traveling full-time for the last 3 years.
David says traveling has been the couple’s best way to share experiences together as a newly-minted empty nest couple. “Our plan took on a life of its own – leading us to sell everything, including our house. Now every day is a new experience and our relationship is stronger than ever.”
Of their travels together, David says, “In some ways this is a bonus time for us since we spent a huge portion of our first twenty years of marriage separated because of my work… Now, we get to make up for some of that lost time.”
For Veronica, traveling has opened her up again and she feels free. She says, “Sometimes ‘holing up’ in one place can make you fearful of the world. As a mother, I turned into a protector. My main focus was keeping my children from harm. Though that’s a very commendable thing, it made me fearful.”
So, after 3 years of full-time travel, I had to ask them what they thought their most important piece of advice was for couples who want to travel. Their answer? “Dial back the day-to-day planning, embrace the unexpected and look for the unknown gems along the way.” They both agree that, initially, they were trying too hard to see everything in a minimum amount of time. “We had been known to vacation like that, but it’s [our travels now] not a vacation, it’s our lives.”
David and Veronica have really got their lifestyle, relationship and travel style down pat, and when I asked them to sum up their travels in one word they simply answered: “Discovery.”
A Decade Of Travel: Wanderlust Fever
Karen and Eric from Trans Americas Journey are no novices when it comes to long-term travel – or couples travel for that matter. In total, they have been traveling for just under a decade, and have been on the road constantly for the last 5 years.
Traveling together for Eric and Karen is what they describe as a “long-term endeavor — more [of a] lifestyle than anything else.” For them, the one to two week vacation just seems “foreign and impossible.”
Eric and Karen say that their biggest challenge on the road is spending all of their time together. (This is also one of the biggest challenges Ant and I face). However, to Eric and Karen, this challenge is also seen as their biggest gift. Many people say to them, “If you can travel together, you must have a perfect relationship.” No such thing, they say. Being with someone all the time means it is “important to find a way to give in to your partner’s needs on his or her deal-breaker issues, and vice versa,” they said.
For them, it is the popular relationship ‘buzz word’ – compromise – that is their single most important tip for traveling couples and for maintaining a great relationship on the road. They suggest to “compromise when making decisions (where to go next, budgets, this hotel or that hotel, etc), especially when it comes to the two or three core elements that are most important to your partner.”
On The Flip Side: The Beginning Travelers
With such great advice from two truly inspiring couples, I also thought it would be great to talk to one couple who have only just started out on their travels. Is their perspective any different? What have they learned in their short time on the road?
Skott and Shawna from Get Up And Globe have just started traveling together in June of 2010. Their plans of long-term travel stemmed from deciding where to go on their honeymoon. The wheels were set in motion when they realized they wanted to spend time in more than just one location.
Although they weren’t really nervous about traveling together for so long, they do think their travels have been a whole lot easier because, prior to this trip, they worked together. “Working together prepared us quite well. We got to know what makes the other person tick in challenging, high-tension situations,” they said. Skott and Shawna suggest that if you are worried about spending so much time with your partner, all day every day, try “getting yourselves involved in an activity where you are stuck with each other for at least a few days without escape. For example, a week-long canoe trip or camping.”
Whether you are a couple who has been traveling for 2 weeks or 2 years, there will always be lessons you can learn that can potentially strengthen your relationship. For Skott and Shawna, communication and trust were two major aspects of their relationship they focus on. “Communication is an area where we are absolutely continuing to grow. If one of us is getting annoyed, we are learning that it is better to explain why you are upset instead of keeping it bottled inside… We are learning we need to trust each other more. Whether it is planning a certain element of the trip, finding our way around a city, or even working on our blog, we need to recognize that the other person is just as competent, and that they need to be given a chance to show what they can do!”
While Skott and Shawna said it took them some time to find their ‘travel legs’, they absolutely love that they “have someone else to share every incredible experience and every challenging moment with. We will share these moments forever.”
While all three couples have such different relationships and travel experiences, I loved from the start there was no sugar-coating the fact that traveling together is hard and takes work. Yes, the times on the road will be tough, but each couple looked at their travels as time to spend with one another, share special moments and problem solve as a strengthened unit.
Traveling with your loved one really is a very unique and rewarding experience. I know I wouldn’t change my travels with Anthony for anything.
Elise is one half of the dynamic duo at Positive World Travel. Both are writing about their experiences and thoughts on what long-term travel is like as a couple. You can also follow them on Facebook for more of their travel updates.