It’s been awhile since I’ve posted an interview. In the past, I’ve interviewed guidebook writers, authors, movie producers, and other travel notables. But I thought to begin a new string of interviews, I’d focus more on regular travelers. My experience as a traveler is shaped by the fact I travel alone. My thoughts, my experiences, my interactions with people are different than other people’s because of that. People who travel with children travel differently. As do people who are married.
Dawn and Sean, the couple from WanderingWhy, have been on the road for over 18 months. I met them via the internet but had the fortune to travel with them in Thailand and Singapore. I was always interested in what their perception of travel was like. Traveling as a married couple is bound to be different than traveling as a single, young, male backpacker.
Nomadic Matt: Lots of married couples have conflict. It’s normal. How do you handle conflict while traveling?
Dawn: I think that we address conflict quicker on the road than we did at home. When you are traveling together like this, you cannot let things go on too long without dealing with them since you are always together. You have to work together as a team, so the conflict has to be resolved quickly.
Sean: A lesson learned for us on the road is the need to address problems faster. Life is more intense on the road and seemingly little things can cause disproportionate ill feelings. We’ve found the truth is the little things popping up are pointing to a larger issue below the surface. We’ve learned to dig up the problem and talk it out sooner.
Were you nervous about traveling as a married couple?
Dawn: No, not really. We were on the same page about this trip, and how we wanted to travel. I did worry that we may want to kill each other, but like I said you learn to resolve issues quickly and I think our communication is even better than when we left home.
Sean: Not so much. The idea of getting to spend more time together than we have since we started dating I thought was great. How many couples get to do that?
Do you ever get on each others nerves?
Dawn: I would be lying if I said we didn’t. Sean hates it when I talk to him when he is writing and I do that to him a lot. I can be grumpy when I am hungry or tired, and when I am, Sean gets on my nerves. But I think we have learned more about what drives each of us crazy on this trip, because it is magnified when it is just the two of you, and try to control it more.
Sean: Having traveled a little with us, is this a trick question Matt? Yes, of course. Your partner’s quirks, habits, pet peeves are amplified when traveling long term. You find a new rhythm to the dance you normally step to at home and things are fine.
What advice would you have for other married couples who want to travel long term?
Dawn: Recognize that traveling together is totally different than being at home. There is no work, no outside activities that you do not plan together. Make sure you have the same expectations of your trip, and plan for time alone, too. Reach out to other travelers as well for fun and conversation.
Sean: Plan, Plan, Plan and become highly organized if you are not. Most likely you are a bit older and don’t want to return home to move in with your parents. Long term travel is a bit different for a married couple then a fresh college graduate who can put a few boxes in the parents garage. Strip life down to the bare essentials. This helps to save for the big trip, get used to doing with less as you will when you travel, makes life at home easier to unplug from and plug back into when you return.
Did you find planning a trip as a married couple difficult?
Dawn: No. Again, we were on the same page with budget and places to see-we each made a list of our “must sees” separately and then came together to plan a route. That route changed a bunch of times, but did not sacrifice what was on our must see lists. Maybe the only planning problem that Sean would say is that I am Type A and over-planned at times before we left. I was still planning when we were supposed to be getting in the car for the airport! I think the trip itself has cured me a bit of that- the road can have its own plan for you.
Sean: Not at all. Long term travel is a dream come true. Dreaming of and listing the things we wanted to do and the places we wanted to go if there was more than 2 weeks vacation was not difficult. We are both fairly organized so the planning came relatively natural. The dream does become an obsession over time. If anything, it got to a point where I would say “Can we talk about something else besides the trip?” But, if not for this focus it may have remained just a dream.
Sometimes married couples need some space. How do you go about making some personal time when you are with someone all the time?
Dawn: We do most things together, but there are some times when we split apart for a day, an hour, etc. For example, Sean still dives and during that time I do my own thing. Or I will attend a yoga class while Sean is reading. We respect what the other person wants to do. Time alone really is refreshing, even if it is only an hour. At home, you are alone in the car driving to work, alone in your office, etc. On the road, you are always together with your spouse, sharing a bathroom in a hostel, sharing a bus seat with two other people. Taking that time to be alone is important, for my sanity anyway.
One of the things I like the most about solo travel is that you get to meet a lot of people. Do you find traveling as a couple hinders your ability to meet other travelers?
Dawn: I don’t think so, because we make an effort to meet other people. I am sure it is easier if you are in a dorm and not a double room but we hang out in the common areas versus always being locked in our room. We have traveled with single people as well as couples, but I would say as a married couple we most often end up hanging out with other couples.
Sean: No. We are fairly easy going and don’t care if we travel/converse with another couple or a single person. I think we’ve gone through phases where it seems we are always traveling with new friends and other times don’t have the energy to socialize and just carry on together.
What’s the greatest thing about traveling as a couple?
Dawn: The memories that you are making together, the things that we get to see for the first time together. You learn a lot about each other on a trip like this, and I think overall it makes you a stronger couple and team for every aspect of your life.
Sean: Living a life you may have never imagined possible and sharing it with your partner. Sharing an experience or seeing a sight—I call it a travel moment—and looking at each other with no need for words but having total communication. Creating memories together for the rocking chairs.
For more about Dawn, Sean and their travels, visit their website at Wandering Why.