This is a guest post by Elise, one half of Positive World Travel. It’s a different format than I’ve done in the past, but let’s see how it works.
It’s been almost two 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 other couples learned from their trips. I was sure they’d have advice to share, so I decided to contact a few couples and hear their thoughts, tips, and perspectives on life as two on the road.
Life After Kids: The Gypsy Nesters
I was interested in talking with a couple that are now traveling after having raised their kids. David and Veronica from Gypsy Nester have been together for 30 years. Since their kids have flown the nest, they’re enjoying life on the road and have been traveling full-time for the last three 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 three years of full-time travel, what advice do they have for couples who want to travel? “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 not a vacation [now] — 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 either long-term travel or couples travel. In total, they’ve been traveling for just under a decade and have been on the road constantly for the last five 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). But they also see this 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’s “important to find a way to give in to your partner’s needs on his or her deal-breaker issues, and vice versa.”
For them, it’s compromise that is their single most important tip for traveling couples and for maintaining a great relationship on the road. They suggest you “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 wanted 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 just started traveling together in June of 2010. Their long-term travel started with looking for a honeymoon destination, but 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’re 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’re a couple who’s been traveling for two weeks or two years, there will always be lessons you can learn to strengthen your relationship. Skott and Shawna focus on communication and trust. “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, none of them sugar-coated 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 trade 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.