This is a guest post by Elise, one half of Positive World Travel and an expert on traveling as a couple. She shares her advice on how to keep your relationship functioning on the road by dividing up responsibilities. NOTE: As of 2016, their blog is no longer active.
In a previous post, Anthony wrote about how compromise and communication are key factors in maintaining a successful travel relationship. I also wrote about how “me time” can do wonders for avoiding arguments and keeping the relationship fresh.
But there’s another important tip to keep in mind: making sure each partner has certain responsibilities on the road.
There are many tasks to perform when you travel. Questions constantly need to be answered: Where are you going to stay? What visas do you need? What currency is accepted? Who’s going to make transport inquiries? Who’s going to book flights?
Splitting up these tasks early on can make traveling with your partner far easier and much less stressful than a disorganized approach, giving you time to focus on the thrills and experiences rather than the mundane and nitty-gritty aspects of long-term travel.
Anthony and I learned from the get-go that it pays to know who’s doing what on the road. We both now have our own little roles we take on every day.
For example, I now am the official key bearer for our room, which means I’m responsible for making sure our room is locked and that I have the key safely tucked away and on me at all times. We spent far too many nights early on during our trip having the same conversation:
“Do you have the key?”
“No, I thought you took it.”
“Well, I didn’t take it. It was on your side of the table.”
“Where is it then? I don’t have it.”
It’s a small role, but it’s an important one nonetheless, and we save ourselves from getting into fights.
Splitting up the responsibilities of travel has other benefits. You can save a lot of time and frustration if you assign planning jobs when organizing your onward travel.
For example, instead of both looking for accommodation, one person can be finding accommodation while the other can be figuring out transport. This in turn can save time and reduce conflict and stress. By splitting up the workload, you each have a single focus rather than trying to cope with everything at once.
For instance, Anthony is in charge of booking and organizing all onward travel, whether overland or by plane, and I’m in charge or researching and finding accommodation at our next destination. We both decided on these roles fairly early on. A month or so into our trip we were finding ourselves being disorganized in terms of transport and accommodation. I remember specifically, in Borneo, we were traveling late at night into the town of Semporna. Ant had told me that he already had accommodation in mind. However, when we finally got off the bus, Ant didn’t have a clue where any of the hostels were or how to get to them (and, of course, there were no tuk-tuk drivers in sight!). The road was deserted except for a few stray dogs. A heated argument ensued, and it wasn’t until much later that we ended up in a hostel room. This only had to happen once for it to be decided that I would be in charge of finding accommodation on our trip.
When deciding who will take on what roles and responsibilities, it all comes down to knowing your partner. You must have an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. I’m in charge of finding and researching accommodation, because I’m good at it. While we try not to plan too far into our trip, I love to be organized. Anthony can’t stand spending time online looking for places to stay and reading reviews. But me? I love it! Anthony trusts that I will choose a good place to stay, and he’s happy that he doesn’t have to do it himself.
What I’m not good at is directions. Never have been. Getting from A to B has never been a strong suit of mine. In India a few years ago, Anthony bravely handed over the map for the day as I insisted that I was fine in directing us through small towns and villages high in the north. Four hours later (when we should have reached a town by then), we were still walking slowly uphill. Anthony then asked for the map, only to announce that I had been leading us in the total opposite direction! Tired and fed up, we hitchhiked our way back to the starting point, fuming silently in the car.
I also know that Ant is better with money. That is his strength. He sorts out exchange rates and conversions and knows when best to exchange our money.
Of course, when you’re out on the road, there may be times when these responsibilities change as your travels develop or things crop up, but at least having an idea of who will do what is a good start.
The key to making this work is being consistent. Don’t chop and change all the time or become lazy at what you’re both supposed to do. It may sound like being back at an old desk job, but being consistent with tasks — even when traveling — only makes things easier.
But while splitting up jobs and taking on different roles all helps make travel easier, there’s one job that you should still both do together: making decisions.
While compromising will come into play when making decisions, don’t take the idea of splitting up the jobs of travel to the extreme and only have one person make all the important choices during your trip. Remember, traveling as a couple is about working as a team and doing things together.
Balancing the workload, knowing your partner, and staying consistent will make your travels easier, happier, and more rewarding.
Elise is one-half of the dynamic duo at Positive World Travel. She and Ant 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 travel updates.